Posts Tagged ‘Criticism’

It began with a seal. Or maybe it was a sea lion. At the opening of the exhibition Placemakers: Contemporary Queensland Architects, as Anna Bligh, state premier, stood on the Gallery of Modern Art concourse delivering a rapturous opening speech, we latecomers hovered at the back beside Michael Parekowhai’s sculpture The Horn of Africa. Depicting a glossy black life-size seal, balancing an equally glossy black life-sized grand piano upended on its nose, it maintains an impossible feat of balance, defying gravity with a manner both effortless and insouciant. Craning unsuccessfully to see the speaker, I returned instead to contemplating this seal and idly wondered: who here was performing the most virtuoso trick? Was it the premier, producing a cheer from the crowd with her line that “art, architecture and design are just as important as scientific endeavour,” as she simultaneously and invisibly balanced the state’s mineral prosperity on one finger? Or was it the gallery, flush with the success of its new building and two blockbuster exhibitions, seemingly achieving the impossible balance of popular success and high art without dropping either? Or was it the exhibited architects, juggling all the disparate and desperate constraints of contemporary practice, and still managing to produce a series of fine architectural constructions, now rewarded with inclusion in this major exhibition? Well, they were all virtuoso, really. But perhaps there were also more tricks at play here than first met the eye. Continue Reading »


Abundant. The word has rich connotations: the diverse and fertile garden, the bountiful harvest, the cornucopia, the surfeit. We all know, after years of intoning the song, that our land abounds in nature’s gifts. But with the Australian pavilion at the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale, the creative directors – Neil Durbach, Vince Frost, Wendy Lewin, Kerstin Thompson and Gary Warner – propose that this beauty, rich and rare, also abounds in our architectural culture. Continue Reading »

CarriageWorks at the old Eveleigh Rail Yards, near Sydney’s Redfern Railway Station by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects (TZG), is a superb example of the adaptive reuse of a former industrial building. Recipient of the prestigious Greenway Award for Heritage at the recent Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter awards along with another award in the Public Architecture category, it is a major addition both to the architectural and performing arts landscapes of Sydney. Continue Reading »

The ICEHOTEL could be the most uncomfortable hotel in the world. Such are the curious vagaries of the “experience economy” that people will pay (handsomely) to spend the night in a freezer, albeit a very artfully decorated one. It is something like camping in a display home – you move in after six in the evening, when the daytime hordes have passed through to have a look, and you’re up early and out again before the next lot arrive. It also has the sense of adventure, transience and the enjoyably makeshift nature of camping – along with many of its more striking discomforts. Who would have thought people would clamour to stay in a room where the temperature is minus five degrees, you can’t store your luggage because it will freeze, the most comfortable thing you can slip into is a padded snowsuit and there is no bathroom or toilet? Regardless, a stay at the ICEHOTEL would have to be one of the most strange and beautiful experiences to be had anywhere.

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Lacoste and Stevenson have added to and refurbished the Jubilee Oval Pavilion at Sydney’s Blackwattle Bay Park, near Glebe. This is a small and modest project, but it nevertheless tries out several architectural ideas, in a charmingly lighthearted manner. The architects call the project ‘camouflage,’ and it is indeed self-effacing – the addition is not visible from the oval side at all, and from the rear approach effectively disguises itself by mirroring the grassy hillside at its back, the façade being de-materialised with a broken surface of stainless steel and glass, and the whole topped off with an Astroturf roof. Continue Reading »

They say that culture is what turns milk sour. The biological metaphor is apt – the germ of an idea falls into a fertile medium, and before you know it you have a thickening swampy yoghurt of new artefacts, new behaviours, new ideas. You would think that the RAIA national conference would be exactly the place where such germs would be swarming around in a fecund cloud, and where we, the architectural fraternity, would stand ready to catch them and cultivate new colonies of architectural culture. Is that what happened at this year’s conference? Well, yes and no.

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