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Noting new books at Architext

Philip Drew, Hardie Grant , $60.Edited by Patrick Bingham-Hall, The Watermark Press, $85 (standard), $150 (boxed).
Certainly a milestone. Even the standard hardback is the most sumptuous book ever produced about Australian architecture. Yet the non-boxed price represents very good value for 280 large pages of varnished photographs on eggshell, crisp drawings and concise texts (by Philip Goad, Harry Margalit, Paul McGillick, Chris Johnson and Bridget Smyth) on every Olympics 2000 facility. Just as the Barcelona Games were ‘sold’ to the architectural world via judiciously framed photos and smart documents – highlighting the small projects and artworks – Bingham-Hall is packaging the Sydney Olympics as a seductive array of waterside Meccano structures, sparkling as high-tech ornaments set in fabulous tracts of green and liquid Nature. The scene on the ground is not quite like this, of course, but how can a camera lie? Using a big perspective-correcting Cambo 5 x 4, Bingham-Hall meticulously chooses lenses, sunlight quality and coloured filters to draw elegance and charisma from buildings which often appear rough and plain to the human eye. These images are already generating enormous publicity and global good-vibes for the Games (in a very good deal for the Olympic Co-ordination Authority) – and this book confirms the success of Australia’s biggest D&C exercise since the Snowy Mountains scheme

Garry Stevens, The MIT Press, $70.
THE FAVORED Behind its groovy neo-sixties cover, this book offers convincing international evidence that the architectural profession is dominated by men from cultured, affluent, middle class families – who promote sophisticated values of quality and refinement which are not appropriate for the practical situations of most people they claim to want to serve. In the universities and professional culture, women and less articulate or artistic men are suppressed by peer review hurdles which confine them to lower salaries and unrecognised team tasks, such as, these days, CAD jockeying. Garry Stevens, a research associate with USydney’s Department of Architectural and Design Science, borrows analytical methods from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to deny many of the cherished beliefs which nurture the ‘Great Men’ who bestride the profession’s pinnacles of respectability. He also confirms the oft-denied war between USyd’s architectural rationalists and the artistic humanitarians who run the design side. (Current Dean Gary Moore hopes to bring the foes together.) There’s an intriguing anecdote about an unnamed Sydney architect-professor who bought to the faculty his firm’s 18-foot skiff as the focus of design talks and exercises: a gesture which Stevens believes mystified students from non-elite backgrounds. He also offers strong views about educating the profession in future. It’s all healthy food for thought, but cooked to stick in the throat

Barrie Shelton, E & FN Spon (John Wiley & Sons Australia), $115.
Japanese urbanism: frenzied, fragmented, rhizomic, centreless and constantly reconfiguring. Western urbanism: axial, hierarchical, centre-dominant and ordered. Author Barrie Shelton is a fan of the Oriental approach, and his book explains why it’s the way to go for future development of Western cities. His writing (miraculously accessible from an architect-academic) illuminates a wide range of issues relevant to this subject – including traditional Japanese painting and post modern French literary theory – and more than a dozen developments are illustrated and reviewed as case studies. In his final chapter, Shelton notes that the West has appropriated Japanese design themes several times before: its landscapes were a source of inspiration for European Romantic gardeners of the 19th century and its traditional buildings have inspired many 20th century modernists. Now, he suggests, “it may be the [Western] city’s turn” to adopt Japanese ways of expression. If you’re interested in this idea – and progressive architects will be – this book provides a wonderful collection of insights
Chris Johnson, Hale & Iremonger, $50.

Chris Johnson’s book assembles diverse works and schemes prepared by the Government Architect’s office from Greenway through to the author. These are tied together by a thesis of civic decorum: a notion of architecture which contributes to legibility of the public realm and enhances the city, rather than being the simplistic outcomes of development pressure or idiosyncratic form-making. The book demonstrates how fortunate New South Wales has been to have a Government Architect: particularly when backed by a strong Premier and Minister with intentions to enhance the civic realm. Over almost two centuries, the office has set the State’s design agendas, with works that have provided a benchmark of architectural merit against which private and speculative projects can be assessed. The illustrations, both drawn and photographic, are excellent (except for the cover image, which is of the chocolate box genre). The text is comprehensive and informative, paticularly on the works of Barnet and Vernon, but understandably tends towards corporate monograph when describing recent projects. However, it is encouraging to see the current Government Architect revitalising the design leadership traditionally associated with the office, but also critically analysing the influence and achievements of his predecessors. This offers hope for the future of the office and its impact on the civic realm— Paul Berkemeiern

Noting new books at Architext

Edited by Peter Zellner, Thames & Hudson, $75.
In our current editorial policy, foreign books are not examined by Architecture Australia. But the American editor of this volume, Peter Zellner, recently lived in Melbourne, studying for his M.Arch at RMIT and contributing to AA. The writer of the Foreword, Bart Lootsma, is a prominent Netherlands critic who visited Australia late last year and is keen to bring back friends like Rem. And half of Zellner’s highlighted architects – Greg Lynn, Winka Dubbeldam, Morphosis, Ben van Berkel and Stephen Perrella – have a feeling’s-mutal attraction to Australia after giving lectures here and associating with Australians back home. Given these connections, and our energetic scene at the moment, it’s astonishing that Zellner has ignored the digital architecture being conceived by Lab, Lyons and ARM, the Melbourne offices which are most out-there in contorted imagineering. Despite that grevious oversight, ‘Hybrid Space’ does contain some amazing stuff from the likes of Marcos Novak, Decoi, Ocean and Oosterhuis. The book’s wacky graphics lay a superfluous and slightly irritating extra layer of confusion on the already chaotic illustrations, but if you take the time to navigate the project explanations, you’ll have an inteligent grasp of the range of ideas inspiring emerging candidates for the mantle of Le Corbusier. Another good thing is Zellner’s introductory essay – where he lucidly puts readers in the picture about current architectural theories, buzzwords like ‘topology’, economic stimuli and the dangers of violent social upheavals

William J. Mitchell, MIT Press, $40.
Everyone’s an author these days, but how many are brilliant writers? Few architects take words dancing – but exceptions include Bill Mitchell, the UMelbourne alumnus who is both the Dean of Architecture and Planning at MIT and a popular futurist. Following his 1980s volumes on The Logic of Architecture and (with the late Charles Moore) The Poetics of Gardens, Mitchell has been speculating during the nineties on life in the digital future. In this follow-up to City of Bits (published in 1994; just before the Netscape explosion), Mitchell has you flying around the planet to clarify the human implications of the next agendas: including all-pervasive asynchronicity, miniaturisation and metanets. If you caught City of Bits, you’ll notice that he now is less optimistic about the wonders of digitality. He is acknowledging the loss of privacy in telecommunications, promoting the need for regular face-to-face contacts and even resuscitating an alarming prospect: the death of the city. If that prospect worries you, an antidote is offered by The Economist’s Millennium Special Edition, which discusses 1000 years of tumultuous urbanism and asks: “If pollution, traffic and the suburban shopping mall cannot kill the city, will teleworking and the Net? … Futurologists love to tell us so. Let them tell the birds.” There’s a conversation, then

Robert Powell, Thames & Hudson, $75.
During the seventies and eighties, London’s Architectural Association was a pressure cooker of imaginative and futuristic urban concepts – and its graduates from that period are among the world’s best-equipped to redesign physical environments. In Asia, an outstanding example is Ken Yeang, principal of T.R. Hamzah & Yeang in Selangor, Malaysia (and an RAIA member) who has spent the nineties designing some of the planet’s most advanced and ecology-responsive skyscrapers. This monograph, assembled by former Singapore Architect editor Robert Powell, updates an earlier Powell text – and looks like becoming the crucial volume on this practice. Yeang is firing at the moment, as his ‘bioclimatic’ skycrapers, relying on cylindrical forms during the earlier nineties, now develop into ‘green’ towers which are far more sophisticated and visually dissonant organisms. They breathe in extraordinary ways: via central voids rising to glazed roofs with air gaps, or through tubes thrust across the cross section at different heights, or with wing-walls channelling prevailing winds through transitional ventilation zones: with abundantly planted sky gardens helping to clean tropical smog. Yeang’s sunscreens, too, are becoming much more expressive – he sees them now as clothing floating around the body of the building; not as the usual clip-on appendages. This new approach offers him much potential for symbolic plays – check the models of the Shanghai Armoury Tower, draped with mesh screens moulded like the chestplates of medieval Chinese warriors

Peter Spearritt, UNSW Press, $35.
Is there room for another book on Sydney? It’s a question trepidaciously asked in the publisher’s press release for this history, written by the director of Monash’s Key Centre for Australian Studies, because it closely follows at least four other substantial tomes: the heaviest being those by Lucy Hughes Turnbull ( Sydney: Biography of a City) and John Birmingham ( Leviathan). This paperback offers a few key differences: it sticks to the 20th century, so it doesn’t get bogged down with Phillip and Macquarie, and it’s generously illustrated with fascinating memorabilia: cartoons, maps, real estate ads, charts and historical photos. These offer instant points of entry into Spearritt’s chronology from the 1900 plague and 1901 Federation, when Sydney’s population was only 900 more than Melbourne’s, to the multi-cultural ‘world city’ of today. His book also has a great deal of content of particular interest to architects: quotes from Leslie Wilkinson, records of architectural and conservation debates and bias towards land development issues

Noting new books at Architext


Joe Rollo, UNSW Press, $35.
Former Sun-Herald crime reporter Joe Rollo turned his nose for news to architecture during the late 1990s – and wrote for The Age a host of splendidly lucid reports on new works and events in Melbourne. Gathered in this smart paperback format (designed by Garry Emery with Gothic body type), Rollo’s articles form a fascinating saga of diverse ideas and activities in a city which is leading the world (with Rotterdam, Berlin and London) for the production (not merely conception) of futuristic architecture. Like most journalists, Rollo tends to reflect the mindset prevailing among the elite architects he regularly interviews – he is translating the profession’s opinions to the public rather than critiquing the profession’s performance from the perspective of the audience. This style of sympathetic analysis does much to promote architecture to increasingly receptive and sophisticated citizens. And his essays will be useful to scholars of tomorrow

Harry Margalit and Philip Goad, Pesaro Architectural Monograph No. 1, $50.
It’s been a long wait for monographs to continue the RAIA’s 1980s profiles of Cox, Woolley, DCM and the Queenslanders. But Patrick and Katrina Bingham-Hall are on the case with studies of the next generation: beginning with South African imports, Neil Durbach and Camilla Block. Durbach and Block, who often work with Nick Murcutt, are convincing advocates of the monumental wall (punctured with eccentric arrangements of openings), the dramatically ascending staircase, the ‘narrative’ promenade winding up to a roof court, and Aalto-meets-Gehry kinks of geometry. Some of their projects are crisply, coolly white, relieved only by tinted glass and pale timber floors; others have external crusts of weathered materials. Durbach’s precocious winning of the 1983 Tusculum competition seemed to fore-shadow a luminous career. (He and his then partner, Harry Levine, were under-30 newcomers at the time, but their scheme was more up-to-date and immaculately drawn than many produced by the local talents.) Regrettably, Durbach Block’s only contribution to the Olympics has been a batch of toilet blocks – but they are feats of great imagination and wit. This monograph begins with Tusculum and finishes with the amenities sheds (showing strong works in between) to sign off the first 15 years of their Australian practice

Philip Goad, Pesaro Architectural Monograph No. 2, $50.
Racing off the shelves after its launch in Darwin, this long-overdue homage to Troppo provides fans with the first decent collection of photos of the office’s main projects. Directors Adrian Welke and Phil Harris have never courted publicity and their fungal amateur slides of thick greenery draped around gabled tin roofs have often dismayed the editors who’ve hoped to publish them. Fortunately, intrepid publisher Patrick Bingham-Hall has inserted his camera lens through the vines to capture Troppo’s superlatively economical, regional tectonics. This book, like other Pesaro publications, is designed by Sydney’s Simon Palmer and Leonie Kirk – who have overcome the elegant ‘dummy’ format with messy ‘photo album’ layouts which reflect the informality of the lads. In the text, Troppo’s first inspirations are dated back to housing research by their University of Adelaide lecturer Stefan Pikusa, and a late 1970s Architecture Australia article, by Paul Pholeros and friends in Sydney, about their research tour around Australia in a double-decker bus. This sparked Phil and Adrian’s now-famous ACME ANYWHERE Kombi journey up to the Top End, the long way

Jenna Reed Burns, Landsdowne, $50.
Former Vogue Living feature writer Jenna Reed Burns has put together a seductive pictorial display of beach houses, many architect-designed. Although the layout is not top-notch, and the general style is more soft-edge than is usually appreciated by architects, the quality of the photography is excellent and the choice of houses is impressively diverse – including boathouses, fishermen’s shacks, fibro cottages and contemporary beach mansions. There are two interesting back sections on unusual architectural details (like sun control, fencing and paving) and landscaping

Terra #[zero] 1999: student architectures, Shannon Bufton/RAIA/ SONA Australia, $35 (standard), $10 (students).
The RAIA’s national student network continues to generate excitement with undergraduate work and culture; a brilliant campaign by now-graduated founding president Bufton and his colleagues around the country. This is SONA’s latest production: a fascinating anthology of radical proposals chosen from 329 submissions
Tropical Garden Design, Made Wijaya, Thames & Hudson, $80.
Sydney architecture dropout Michael White (now called Made Wijaya) has become a legendary, globetrotting garden designer living in Bali. This is a record of gardens he has designed and appreciated. It’s lusciously seductive and inspiring
Stadium: The Project Manager’s Diary, Alan Patching, Allen & Unwin, $50.
With his own photographs – not bad – Patching records the construction of Stadium Australia at Homebush
Notices by Davina Jackson unless otherwise credited. Architext bookshops are at Tusculum, 3 Manning Street, Potts Point, NSW, ph 02 9356 2022 and 41 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, ph 03 9650 3474



Published online: 1 Jan 2000


Architecture Australia, January 2000

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