[Paco Asensio (ed). teNeues Publishing, 2003. $49.95.
Paco Asensio (ed). teNeues Publishing, 2003. $49.95.
Few people would argue that Sydney is dominated and defined by its harbour. Like Paris and the Eiffel Tower, there are few places in the heart of the city where there is not a sense of the relationship with the water. Perhaps that is what makes it so refreshing to find few glimpses of the harbour in Sydney Houses. The harbour cannot be avoided completely – the introduction opens with a passing mention of both the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge – but water is not the focal point of the book, merely a jumping off point and contextual note for an international audience.
The selection process has led to the presentation of a wide variety of houses. They have been chosen more by virtue of being designed within a few years either side of the Sydney Olympic Games – the impact of which is compared to that of the Great Depression – than because of proximity to the harbour. The book itself is organized geographically, divided into the centre, northern suburbs, and south-eastern suburbs, a break-up that interestingly excludes the western suburbs, home of the Olympic Games. Those unfamiliar with Sydney are offered a simple explanation of the elements at work within the regions, before being introduced to the houses.
The work of a selection of architects throughout Sydney has been carefully chosen. The scope is wide, with a variety of design styles present. It is interesting to see the works of lesser-known practices presented alongside the usual suspects of Sydney architecture like Engelen Moore or Harry Seidler. A wider selection of practices might have been possible, but without giving a sense of the design philosophies of each practice.
The descriptions of the projects are brief and to the point. Often only the constrictions of the site or its dominant features are outlined. There is room for little more and it is not required. The combination of drawings and photographs tell the story of each house, providing a remarkably clear sense of the project.
Sydney Houses proves that it is possible to build a picture of Sydney and the lives of its residents, without directly referencing the harbour.Water might be at the centre of the city, but there is more to Sydney, and its houses, than that.