Powerhouse Museum collection object 2001/76/1. Gift of Kuranda Manufacturing, 2001.
The Powerhouse Discovery Centre will celebrate Science Week with lots of activities on the weekend of 16-17 August. Our example of the Super Sopper, an Australian innovation that has been removing excess water from sports fields for forty years, is one of many objects that will star in behind-the-scenes tours. Liquid nitrogen, fire and chocolate are a few themes explored in a bagful of spectacular science shows that all visitors can watch. There are plenty of hands-on science experiences and object talks that are open to all. But numbers are limited for behind-the-scenes tours and some workshops, so early booking is recommended. And don’t miss the bees, python, lizard and frogs and the chance to talk to their expert handlers.
Detail model, entry structure 2008. Powerhouse Museum collection, donated through the Cultural Gifts Program by Rachel Neeson in memory of Nicholas Murcutt.
A lot of people were pleased when Prince Alfred Park swimming pool starred at the recent 2014 NSW architecture awards. As well as the prize gong, the Sulman Medal for public architecture, the new pool received the Lloyd Rees Award for urban design.
I was among the pleased people as during 2013 I acquired a collection of 18 models made during the pool’s design and approval process. Rachel Neeson who designed the pool with her late partner Nicholas Murcutt suggested that I must have ‘sniffed’ an award win 12 months ago. I certainly loved the pool but also like anyone who visits architect studios I was often struck by the number of design models lying around apparently discarded. Despite the advent of 3D imaging and design software models are still a crucial part of the design process for most architects, hence my request to Rachel for the pool models.
Neville Wran announcing the Powerhouse Museum project, 1979.
During the late 1970s I was living in England researching a doctorate. I also enjoyed a lot of museums including during a visit to Paris the Centre Pompidou, which had only been open for a year or so. I remember being totally blown away by it, astonished by this new take on the idea of a museum, and especially the way it made you look at art afresh, and how it had become a social centre, encompassing activities a long way from artistic contemplation.
It didn’t occur to me that anything like the Pompidou would be possible in Australia. Little did I know that another Australian traveller had also been impressed. It’s urban legend that recently elected NSW premier Neville Wran said to his wife Jill after a visit to the Pompidou: ‘I want one of those’. The Powerhouse is Neville’s Pompidou.
Paul Mercurio at the Powerhouse in 1992. Photo by Powerhouse Museum.
Back in 1992, when Strictly Ballroom had just been released its producer Tristram Miall donated the movie costumes to the Powerhouse. Tristram was aware that this was not just any movie wardrobe. The costumes are the product of lengthy research – our collection also holds albums of snapshots taken at Dance Sport events while the costumes were being designed. They are not figments of film makers’ imaginations. As a pitch for the movie put it, ‘when the knock-off whistle blows they escape to a world of colour, discarding their overalls and clerical uniforms for satins and silks…’, a juxtaposition essential to Strictly Ballroom’s story.
‘Seaside Cottages’, Wunderlich Limited, 1937. Powerhouse Museum collection.
The Gold Coast City Gallery has been displaying the exhibition Fibro Coast; it will soon be at the University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery. Fibro Coast is about the holiday architecture that is still a feature of the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
When I was writing the Fibro frontier during the 90s I went on a research trip to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. I hadn’t been to any of these places since I was a child so it was a revelatory sort of trip, especially the amount of fibro on view which I eagerly recorded on film. So I was pleased to be asked by the Gold Coast gallery to write for the exhibition catalogue and give a gallery talk.
Poker machine (detail), Queen of the Nile, Mark 1, designed and made by Aristocrat Technologies, 1997-2006. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Aristocrat Technologies Australia, 2006.
I read some good news recently – the number of poker machines in NSW pubs has reduced by 2675 in the past two years. More pubs are giving pokies the flick.
I’m interested in this for a couple of reasons: The Powerhouse holds what is probably the only collection of poker machines in a major Australian museum. And we hold a huge collection of photos, architectural drawings and other artefacts relating to pubs. Perhaps more than that I’m fond of pubs, less so of pokies.
Photographic print, Junee Ex-Services Memorial Club, paper, photographed by Max Dupain for Max Dupain and Associates, New South Wales, Australia, 1961. Collection: Powerhouse Museum
Lawn bowls is one of Australia’s most popular sports, It has seen several transformations in its history. Beginning as an occasional public house sport, it was a leisure activity for the male elite in the nineteenth century, then a mass sport for men and women after the Second World War and now appeals to a much younger age group.
Opening day at Roselands, 1965. Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 October 1965, Powerhouse Museum Library.
A groovy shopping mall is a contradiction in terms for many people. Yet that is what has just opened at the Central Park development on Sydney’s Broadway. As malls go the new one is small but it’s illuminated from above by a Jean Nouvel-designed heliostat and according to the Herald, has the personality of ‘a well-dressed hipster with a short attention span’.
Screen by Steven Kalmar, Sydney, c1955. Coffee table by Douglas Snelling and made by Functional Products Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1955. Settee, ‘RS161’ designed by Grant Featherston, Melbourne, c1951.
If you’re a fan of mid-century modern furniture, the Powerhouse Museum’s current display is a must-see. 7 Australian Designers profiles a number of Australia’s celebrated modernists and includes iconic furniture by Grant Featherston, Gordon Andrews, Douglas Snelling, Clement Meadmore and Steven Kalmar.
Underpants worn by James Castrission and Justin Jones during the Crossing the Ice Antarctic expedition. Image courtesy of James Castrission and Justin Jones.
These two pairs of undies are part of a large collection of equipment and personal items used by Antarctic adventurers James Castrission (Cas) and Justin Jones (Jonsey) on their ‘Crossing the Ice’ Antarctic expedition to the South Pole, 2011-2012.
You may rightly notice that the pair on the left does not look like your average pair of underpants and it would not be remiss of you to ask what the unusual thing attached to them could possibly be…