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Noting new books at Architext

10 x 10
Vivian Constantinopoulos, Commissioning Editor. Phaidon, $95.
10 critics, 100 architects, 100 references, 10 readings - this is a heavy doorstopper of a book with a very groovy cover. Phaidon asked 10 international critics to each select 10 architects producing the "most exceptional and innovative work today", and to provide 10 key references. Each architect gets four photograph-jammed pages, each critic elucidates their choice in an essay, and one reading from each reference list is reprinted. Haig Beck + Jackie Cooper combine as Australia’s critic. Their selection includes Ashton Raggatt McDougall, Denton Corker Marshall, Donovan Hill, Engelen Moore, Stutchbury Pape and Wood/Marsh. Andresen O’Gorman, Lab Architecture Studio and expats Koning Eizenberg are represented in other critics selections. The architects’ work is organised alphabetically, leading to odd, interesting conjunctions. But, this is a book for flicking, not for perusing from cover to cover. And, despite the essays, its not a book for reading - the critic’s essays are printed on a lurid orange background, and the readings are without their original, useful illustrations. Nonetheless, its worth a flick

Haig Beck/Jackie Cooper, Peter G. Rowe and Deyan Sudjic. Birkhäuser, $137.50.
This beautifully produced, crisply designed monograph opens with "Flying In", Deyan Sudjic’s replay of the story of exotic, distant Australia. It takes forever to get here, and when one arrives it is uncannily like and unlike the place recently left - the stars are in the wrong place, palms wave over cathedral closes and there is some very strange architecture in the familiar urban grid. This is the required hook for a large international audience, but it’s a bit tiresome for the reader from this part of the world. The title comes from Peter Rowe’s essay. Rowe describes DCM as "rule makers and rule followers" who make their rules apparent through "a little gamesmanship and jest". Rowe suggests they "deliberately allow ratbag elements to enter precisely in order to reinforce their other formal ambitions". Haig blades". The body of the book presents a series of projects in detail. Beck and Cooper have organised this according to eight themes. Texts introducing the projects are grouped at the beginning of each section, followed by a generous number of cool photographs and looser, smudgier drawings. This is highly accomplished work, beautifully presented - the book left this reader wanting to know more. The various texts locate the work within conventional architectural contexts - tectonic, formal, urban and so on. But what, for example, of the political context? The strong graphic quality of the work has led to the too-easy identification of some buildings as signature pieces. And it is not only DCM’s signature that is at stake. How, for example, did the Melbourne Exhibition Centre come to be known as ‘Jeff’s Shed’. How does the architecture negotiate and exceed this particular context? What of patronage? Our understanding of this intriguing work would be further enhanced by a discussion of these complex issues

Chris Johnson and Patrick Bingham-Hall, Pesaro Publishing, $19.80.
Chris Johnson has selected 100 "legacies" of Sydney’s recent development boom. He revives the earlier idea of ‘improvement’, reminding us of commitment to civic good inherent in the term. But ‘improvement’ is a trickier term these days. Johnson’s " legacy’" retains the sense of public commitment, while also referring to the ongoing urban effects of temporary events. A wide array of projects is brought to the reader’s attention from paving patterns, and public art to Olympic buildings. Various legacies also chart shifting ideas of improvement. For example the Millennium Parklands aim to return an "industrial estate and dumping ground" to its "appropriate environmental condition". The book is both guidebook and souvenir. Projects are not fully documented, but sites are suggested and tips proffered. The lush photographs suggest ways of looking and remembering. It is as if Johnson’s and Bingham-Hall’s own snapshot album is now available to the many visitors descending on Sydney, and to the residents who lived through the physical upheavals that created these legacies

Notices by Justine Clark.

Noting new books at Architext

Justine Clark and Paul Walker. Victoria University Press, $56.
Using as its starting point and primary evidence a box of architectural photographs in a Wellington library, this book from New Zealand sets out to reconstruct the milieu that brought about the collection. We learn that the photographs were initially compiled in the late 1950s as the basis of a book on contemporary New Zealand architecture. The collection remained incomplete and the book unwritten. The new book is divided into two parts: the text deftly unearths the histories and diversity of modern architecture in New Zealand, while the second part is dedicated to a reproduction of the photographs in the box. The authors explore local responses to international architectural preoccupations of the period - new empiricism, monumentality, brutalism, the embrace of technology, "good-life modernism", and numerous other variants of the modern. But the issue which particularly concerns the authors is the exchange between local and international. This is encapsulated in an amusing incident reported between Nikolaus Pevsner, on a New Zealand visit, and a local architect, William Toomath, in which they disagree over the merits of a carport column detail. The straightforwardness promoted by Toomath, and claimed as some kind of national virtue, is dismissed by Pevsner as crude and ill-considered. The book exposes the richness of architectural thought and practice of the period in New Zealand and, for Australian readers, the parallel interests are clear. The authors observe that "modern architecture and photography were closely connected, with the propaganda successes of the former dependent on the latter". However, the photographs reproduced in the book vary in quality and some may frustrate the reader as may the lack of plans: there are some buildings about which we would like to know more. But this handsome book, with its pages cut to a rakish wedge shape in emulation of a number of the buildings within, is not attempting a close scrutiny of individual buildings. Instead, it is arguing for attention to be given to the varying conditions of their production and the debates contributing to the pursuit, through architecture, of a national identity. It does this with considerable detail and success

Notice by Geoffrey London.

Architext bookshops are at Tusculum, Sydney, ph 02 9356 2022 and 41 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, ph 03 9650 3474



Published online: 1 Sep 2000


Architecture Australia, September 2000

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