Category Archives: Architecture and Urban Design

The Opera House industry

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MDAA

Photo by Max Dupain 1966, Powerhouse Museum collection. Courtesy Max Dupain & Associates.

We’ve just installed a small exhibition to mark the fortieth anniversary of Sydney Opera House on 20 October. The anniversary, by the way, is of the official 1973 opening by the Queen, not the first public performance there on the 28 September 1973, an interesting choice of dates.

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Learning from Denise Scott Brown

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Denise

Denise Scott Brown outside Las Vegas, 1966. Copyright VenturiScottBrown.

You might have been following the controversy about Denise Scott Brown and the Pritzker Prize. In 1991 Scott Brown’s husband and professional partner Robert Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Prize (often described as architecture’s Nobel Prize). Scott Brown was not, although it was widely recognised that she was Venturi’s equal creative partner.  She did not attend her husband’s award ceremony while Venturi appealed to the Pritzker jury to co-award his wife. No deal, on the grounds that Pritzkers are only awarded to individuals, not partnerships. Continue reading

Condom architecture

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Tin Men

Danny De Vito, Richard Dreyfus and Cadillacs in Tin Men, 1987. Copyright Allmovies.com

Re-skinning of buildings takes several forms, not all of them particularly reputable. During the 60s and 70s salesmen prowled the suburbs, seeking out fibro and weatherboard cottages that could be re-clad with aluminium or vinyl. The hard sell would then begin, with promises of capital gains, improved appearance and insulation. I’m not sure that many houses were actually improved, especially as the new cladding was usually screwed on over the existing one.

This business was immortalized in a popular US movie of the 1980s: Tin Men was both satirical and nostalgic about two competing aluminium cladding (‘siding’ in US lingo) salesmen, played by Danny De Vito and Richard Dreyfus.
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Museums and modernism in Marseille

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Villa Mediterranean

Marseille: Museum of European and Mediterranean civilisations (left) and Villa Mediterranean. Photo by Charles Pickett, 2013.

I’ve been holidaying in Europe recently; mainly Italy and Greece, but we also managed a day in Marseille.

France’s oldest and second-largest city is European City of Culture for 2013 so there is even more to see than usual. Focusing on Marseille as a cultural address is partly an attempt to stop the city being bracketed with the likes of Naples and Chicago: capitals of crime, corruption, poverty and drug gangs. There’s reality behind the negative image but it also reflects the long-standing rivalry between Paris and Marseille and resulting urban caricatures.

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Gatsby-style

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The Home

Cover, The Home, 1 November 1933, artwork by Eileen Gray. Powerhouse Museum collection.

A couple of month’s back I was contacted by a Daily Telegraph journo, doing a story about Sydney’s ‘Gatsby-style’ mansions. Baz Luhrmann’s take on The Great Gatsby had just hit the screens and the media was searching for evidence that 1920s Sydney had glamour to match that of New York.

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Suburbia, apartmentia, adapturbia

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Nelsons Ridge

Nelsons Ridge housing estate, photo by Marinco Kojdanovski 2012

Are baby-boomers responsible for Sydney’s unaffordable housing? It’s becoming a common theme of the property media with story headings like ‘Boomers put super squeeze on first home buyers’. And similar arguments are being made in the planning and architecture world.

Former NSW Government Architect Chris Johnson: ‘The big issue right now for Sydney is the pendulum swing from low density detached housing to more urban apartment living.…With a growing army of ageing baby boomers wanting to protect suburbia, Sydney needs a new swat squad of younger urban dwellers to support the new apartmentia’.
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The Big Trousers has a new friend

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CCTV model

Powerhouse Museum collection: Architectural model, China Central TV Headquarters, designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of OMA, ECADI, Arup, England, made by Micromodel, Beijing, China, 2004-2008. Gift of Arup Sydney.

Thanks to Arup Sydney we acquired a model of the China Central TV headquarters in Beijing. Designed by Rem Koolhaas and OMA, its a sophisticated and controversial attempt to reinvent the office tower. Architects, journos and others have debated its pros and cons at length.

But in Beijing they can’t be fussed with that. To taxi-drivers, commuters and all manner of smarty-pants, Rem’s masterpiece is just the Big Trousers.

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Lost paintings from the pub wall

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pub painting

Pub painting, photo by Jim Brown 1968-1972.

Jim Brown was a former US serviceman who lived in Sydney from 1968 to 1972. Like a lot of people back then he was struck by the oil-on-glass pub advertising paintings which adorned most of Sydney’s pubs. During the first half of the twentieth century a lot of advertising graphics and signs were the work of artists like those at the Rousel Studio. A painterly touch was common.
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Sirius on the Rocks

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Sirius

Sirius apartments, watercolour and ink on board. PHM collection 2013/36/1 Gift of the family of Jack and Jean Nagle.

We have just acquired this watercolour elevation of the Sirius public housing apartments in the Rocks.  Most architects’ elevations use a street level viewpoint – this bird’s eye view is different and striking.

Sirius was built to rehouse public tenants displaced during the controversial redevelopment of the Rocks during the 1960s and 1970s. Eventually building work in the Rocks was halted by union Green Bans and resident opposition. In 1975 the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority agreed to suspend most of its development plans and rehouse displaced public housing tenants in new public housing.
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Nouvel and Gehry in the Hood.

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Photo by Charles Pickett 2013.

Photo by Charles Pickett 2013.

The first new building at the Central Park development on Broadway is making progress. Watching it is a bit different from following the progress of most new buildings – it’s literally growing, not just figuratively so. French botanist Patrick Blanc is creating what’s claimed to be the tallest vertical garden in the world.
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