Australia Offshore

This is an article from the Architecture Australia archives and may use outdated formatting

For the first decade in our history, a large number of Australians are building architecture and practices around the world.
Here’s an incomplete survey of recent work by expatriates and trans-nationals.

Amiens, the home town of futurist Jules Verne, commissioned Sydney artist Warren Langley to commemorate the millennium, and specifically Verne’s story "Amiens in the Year 2000" with glass and light installation across the facade of the city’s Maison de la Culture. With fibre optics firms Supervision (USA) and Digilin (Australia), he created a 400 metre-long "drawing in light", with mutating colour effects, named "Ode to Pianowski".
The centrepiece of Thailand?s recent Asian Games and current Olympic bid is a stadium designed by Sydney?s Cox Richardson, along with an aquatic centre, for a site on the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University in Bangkok. The
stadium seats 20,000 in a podium-based bowl with an undulating rim. The roof is supported by a coronet of masts and cables. On ground level, a colonnade of brightly painted concrete columns leads to a dramatic entry.
A new city is being built by the Cox Group on a 44,000 sq m site surrounded by 10 universities and a digital technologies zone near Beijing. The Zhong Guan Cun development includes a 28,000 sq m office building as the technology hub, a 20,000 sq m apartment hotel, 825 apartments and numerous recreation facilities, set in gardens. The apartments are sited on a hillside which minimises overshadowing and 85% of them are oriented south for solar efficiencies.
Headquarters for the Bank Slaski in Kratowice, Poland, are being built to a design by the Melbourne office of Denton Corker Marshall. Sited on a major city corner, it will comprise a four-storey northern building (pictured), with a 130 metre-long atrium containing reception, a restaurant, a café and an exhibition space. Other architectural elements – an auditorium, the Treasury and a nine-floor executive block, intrude in this space.
M+N Architects of Sydney (Kooi-Ying Mah and Berlin Ng) are designing, with KL-based dmp, a seven-storey office building for stockbrokers in the district of Kajang. Set in lush tropical gardens, the building has a granite-clad podium interrupted by arrays of slit windows provided for the trading floor. Levels 2 to 6 have egg-crate facades of projecting floor slabs and aluminium fins and louvres (all sunscreens), along with tinted glass windows to reduce heat penetration.
As part of a consortium, Sydney-based SJPH DesignInc is working on China’s first under-river pedestrian entertainment tunnel, intended to attract more tourists to Shanghai. The 647 metre-long conduit will be laid under the Huangpu River to link Shanghai’s old town, Puxi, with the new economic zone of Pudong. On both sides of the waterway, visitors can navigate three storeys of shops, entertainment facilities and virtual experiences before or after buying tickets to take a shuttle service across to the other side.
More than twice as large as the Cox Group’s exhibition centres in Sydney and Brisbane, the Singapore Mega Exhibition and Convention Centre, also known as Singapore Expo, was planned in Brisbane and Singapore and constructed in China by a Korean company. Six 10,000 sq m halls arc around the city’s mass rapid transit line, which awkwardly rims the site, and their fulcrum is a metal-clad drum containing the convention centre. An armature (intended to be a symbolic bridge) carries signage on a micro-lattice frame between the main registration foyer and a second foyer beside a rail station.
Sydney’s Ed Lippmann has added stone and timber to his usual palette of steel and glass for a house at Wolf Ridge, near San Francisco. The residence is a series of low pavilions sprawling over a steep and rugged site. Lippmann’s normal preference for extensive glazing has been curbed in response to energy efficiency issues and the harsh local climate.

University of Queensland graduate Dougal Sheridan and Irish architect Antoin MacGabhan are near completion on their Letterkenny Area Offices (council chambers) in County Donegal, Ireland. The grass-roofed, chasm-split building is sited near a motorway in a valley of sporting fields, with the historic town above. The design is intended to provide a new horizon line and topography for the town.
Sydney-based Lacoste-Stevenson and landscape architect Anton James worked with Parisian Vincent Hubert on a competition-winning scheme for new headquarters for the Vilac toy factory at Moirans et Montaigne, France. The sawtooth-roofed, timber factory has a playful car park ornamented with toparies, a childlike cottage and a paving pattern reminiscent of a children’s game-board. The visibility of the main building is held back from visitors until they reach an opening in the car park which leads to upstairs reception, offices, a restaurant and a bridge over the factory floor.
Nil is a glamorous bar and nightclub in Rome, designed by former Sydney architect Carl Pickering and his Italian partner, Claudio Lazzarini. Their scheme begins with an architectural structure of mirrored bars and benches along the walls, which can switch function during the evening from dining banquettes to catwalks.The halogen-lit spaces are defined by sliding panels of softly draped, diaphanous fabrics, which form the screens for continuously looping video artworks. Loose seating is a combination of travertine benches and chrome dining chairs by Harry Bertoia.

Five project houses in the French district of Reze are being built to a radical twin-skin design by a Sydney office, Lacoste-Stevenson, working with Parisian Vincent Hubert. The houses have waterproof membrane walls and roofs cladding timber frames, with overlays of screen-printed, translucent, PVC sheet stretched across openable steel frames to again form the roof and walls. The idea is to create ‘a total camouflage’ to replace the common building materials of brick and title, and with potential to light up like a decorated lantern at night. Lacoste-Stevenson has produced 15 proposed patterns for the PVC wrapping sheets.

Architect-designed refurbishments of London terrace houses now typically include a gestural stack of staircases with open treads that allow daylight from a roof window to illuminate all floors. In this double-storey apartment in a Victorian building at Notting Hill, Melbourne expatriates Robert Grace and Charles Salter have combined various step styles and materials to resolve awkward floor level differences. In place of a balustrade, they have suspended a two-storey panel of toughened glass from the roof structure.
One of Melbourne expatriate Robert Grace’s first European projects, widely published in decorating magazines, is the complete plywood fitout of two top floors of an old farmhouse in Champagne (east of Paris) as the atelier of an artist. Grace describes this semi-rural project, named Maison d’être, as a ‘cityscape’ of bookshelves, robes, seats and stairs, arranged to allow views, define spaces and screen places of personal activity from open areas (below left).

One of the world’s classiest cruising yachts – with sails of black carbon cloth and a high-tech sandwich hull – is the 33 metre sloop Wally B, designed by Italians Luca Brenta and Lorenzo Laurenti Argento. Its glamorous interior, designed by University of Sydney graduate Carl Pickering and his Rome partner, Claudio Lazzarini, includes finishes of cherrywood and stainless steel, 80%-scale Edra chaises and immaculate clothes storage chests made of moulded leather by a saddler in Rome (above right).

UTS medallist Jeremy Edmiston and his New York partner, Douglas Gauthier, were recently shortlisted in a competition for the parish shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in rural Indiana. Their office, System Architects, proposed a narrative along a berm-lined road and path uphill to a cantilevered pavilion providing a main hall, roof terrace and four chapels veiled with translucent materials.

New Zealand-born Mark Burry, now Professor of Architecture at Deakin in Victoria, has a spare-time role advising the team completing construction of Antoní Gaudí’s Sagrada Família church in Barcelona. Using parametric design software developed for aircraft engineers, he has been sculpting part of the roof in accord with Gaudí’s drawings, with special care about the complexities of drainage.

Professor Mark Burry, Grant Dunlop and Andrew Maher worked with Paris architects dECOI and London engineers Ove Arup to produce this shortlisted competition scheme for a ‘Paramorph’ Gateway to London’s South Bank cultural centre. The extruded form is a sequence of curved and distorted aluminium planes, produced with Burry’s aeronautical CADD 5 parametric modelling software. The finished structure would incorporate a sound sculpture of urban noise.

UK-registered architect Arthur Collin (who graduated from Canberra and then worked in Sydney) recently worked with Büro Happold on a scheme for a high-density town replacing the Bishopsgate railyard in London. They were among 12 practices involved in the recent ‘Living in the City’ exhibition at the Design Museum. The Collin-Happold concept retains most of an existing brick viaduct to include new commercial and community activities in its arches. Low timber courtyard houses and apartment towers provide a dense but textured urban fabric. On the south sides of the towers, public squares provide green space. This development would be connected by rail to a ‘rural twin’ in East Anglia, which would recycle its waste products and supply fresh vegetables.
For his apartment in London, the current world capital of white minimalism, Australian architect Arthur Collin blended three different tints of white to produce subtly decorative patterns, and conceived cabinets with irregular facades interrupted by eccentrically arranged slots instead of handles. The stairs are faced by a stack of mis-matched storage boxes; also in three shades of white.
Perth architect Patrick Keane is remaining in New York after his masters at Princeton and has completed several experimental projects. At downtown Goldbar, a retail space was transformed into a district bar which is never-quite-defined by the ethereal images projected on its walls. Keane’s idea was to combine the ephemeral qualities of digital space with the traditional archiectural boundaries of scale, gravity and enclosure.

For the low-budget refit of a rented Manhattan loft, Perth-educated architect Patrick Keane divided the private and working areas with two self-supporting tilted walls of corrugated fibreglass; a material chosen to create privacy and reduce noise while allowing transmission of daylight through the interior. His client was John Scagis.
With Paris architects dECOI, Deakin University’s Professor Mark Burry and Gregory More have produced an ‘elastic’ design for a complex conservatory for the roof of a London townhouse with views along the Thames. The irregularly faceted glass object would sit upon the existing sun terrrace off a top floor bedroom and would be sheathed with retractable blinds.

Peddle Thorp offices in Sydney and New Zealand have collaborated on the tallest office tower in Auckland, the Royal and Sun Alliance Building, nearing completion. The tower is clad with panels of metal and glass which change in pattern around the building. Granite walls and bay windows characterise the podium. The foyer, produced with Auckland’s Noel Lane, is like a hotel lobby, with landscaping, artworks, lounges and restaurants.

Sydney design scholar Craig Bremner (University of Western Sydney) recently directed a research study and exhibition in Glasgow on perceptions of difference between a house and home. Around 300 Glaswegians returned questionnaires and pictures of their homes to Bremner’s ‘Picture This: Design That’ program as part of Deyan Sudjic’s Glasgow 99 festival of architecture and design. Most households sought privacy, space and light in their ideal home. For the exhibition, artists created 10 ‘prototype’ home interiors; the illustrated example by Konstantin Grcic of Munich (photo David Churchill). Bremner is now developing another survey, ‘Picture This, Design That’ for the Glasgow City Council and hopes to extend his studies to analyse Australian cities.
New Zealand’s first modern stadium, which opened late last year in Wellington, was designed by Bligh Lobb (now split as Bligh Voller Nield in Australia and HOK Lobb in the US) with NZ firm Warren & Mahoney. The Westpac Trust Stadium is sited on the edge of the city centre and harbour and seats up to 40,000 spectators for international one-day cricket matches or winter rugby games. More than 70% of seats in the circular grandstand are roofed.

Woodhead International is building a new office tower for the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, located in the capital’s expanding ‘Silicon Valley’ precinct north-west of the city centre. The design has a basic rectangular plan with a central elevator core rising to offices leased by high-tech companies. The east and west ends of the tower are interrupted by sky gardens which will provide break out opportunities for workers and allow warm air to circulate through the building
One of Adelaide’s big three transnational practices, Woodhead International, has submitted a scheme for a post-graduate university of accountancy studies to an international design competition invited by the Finance Bureau of Shanghai. Woodhead proposed an ‘integrated’ campus providing high-tech educational, recreational, social and living facilities in a series of extensively glazed buildings to be linked by walkways and interspersed by courtyards and ventilated atriums.

The Buchan Group in Melbourne has designed the retail and entertainment components of a new city block development in Tainan, southern Taiwan. Eight retail levels, including two basements, accommodate two department stores and 250 shops and cafés. Three more levels provide cinemas, a food court, restaurants, a carnival, a disco and other entertainments. Both the interior and exterior design were themed concepts.

The world’s longest newspaper production hall has been built in Rio de Janiero to a design by Ken Sowerby, an Australian specialist in this type of building who is based in Italy and operates internationally. The split-level steel and glass shed has a sweeping roof (likened to a sombrero) with wide overhangs shading its windows and an autonomous power supply which feeds electricity back to the city grid. The client was O Globo Empresa Jornalistica, the largest media group in Latin America.

Expatriate Sydney architect Russell Jones has renovated a 200 sq m, four-level corner house in Holland Park, London, with minimalist treatments using limestone, pine, birch, teak and white paint. The ground floor and basement were opened up to create a five metre-high living space with a mezzanine dining area; illuminated by a pavement light and ground-level window. A new staircase, walled with plywood veneered with Latvian birch, connects all four floors and a roof terrace (below left).

In London’s Notting Hill, a top-floor apartment has been refurbished by expatriate Australian Russell Jones. Existing perimeter walls were replastered and new partitions were installed as furniture elements beneath a new vaulted ceiling. Services are marshalled along one side of the apartment, leaving an open space partitioned into living and sleeping zones. Roof terraces extend the living space on two sides and a close leafy outlook lends the sense of a tree house (above right).

In the mid-western American state of Iowa, Gannett Corporation has built a new printing hall for The Des Moines Register, incorporating 3000 sq metres of offices. The building, locally known as ‘the super shed’ was designed by Ken Sowerby, a globetrotting Australian architect, with process planners Eurografica and Des Moines architects Shive-Hattery. It is a concrete and steel structure clad with fibre cement panels to a ‘destroy the box’ concept involving walls inclined off-vertical. Although the building is subject to extreme weather shifts, displacement air principles maintain perfect operating temperatures inside. HASSELL IN HONG KONG
As part of a continuing upgrade to Hong Kong’s mass transit rail system, Hassell’s Hong Kong office is creating 15 new entrances for six stations on the Central Line. The existing stations, built in the mid-1980s, are being refurbished to relate to a corporate image recently developed for the Airport Line, and are being given improved lighting, signage and facilities for disabled access. Construction began in late 1999 on a roll-out expected to last several years.



Published online: 1 May 2000


Architecture Australia, May 2000

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