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New books at Architext: noted by Davina Jackson

Surface City: Sydney at the Millennium

Surface CityBy Peter Murphy and Sophie Watson, Pluto Press, $25.

Does the title Surface City infer that Sydney is shallow? That there’s much hidden beneath her veneer? Or that this book explores only the upper layer of the city? All the above are valid.

This slim paperback skims across diverse realities about a metropolis which (like most) cherishes myths. Social planners Peter Murphy (UNSW) and Sophie Watson (formerly USydney and now in Britain) base their text on Sydney Morning Herald articles, census statistics and comments from focus group interviews with residents of five Sydney suburbs. There’s also a chapter by Iain Bruce on social problems for gays. Any scholar of contemporary Sydney will find the volume useful, but it ignores urban politics (where the action is) and suffers from low-grade editing, typography and (apart from the cover) illustrations.

Daryl Jackson: Selected and Current Works

From the ‘Master Architects’ series, Images Publishing, $85.

Reasons may be arguable but the fact is not: Daryl Jackson has not won so many A-grade Melbourne projects since the Kennett Liberal government came to power. So what’s the previously ubiquitous maestro doing now? This 250- page retrospective reveals more than a dozen recent Australian and European university and commercial buildings which suggest the practice retains its capabilities, despite recent overshadowing by a new generation of icon-deliverers. None of the projects here are exemplars of kamikaze daring in a current-wave sense, but that is of fleeting relevance … most works will always stack up as elegant, intelligent and of their time. Also, read Dazza’s foreword: the man gives good communiqué.

Inside: Australian Interiors

By Janne Faulkner with photography by Earl Carter; a Sue Hines book published by Allen & Unwin, $50.

Inside: Australian InteriorsPublishing beautiful books is a delicate economic feat beginning with the question: who’s going to fund superior photography and styling in diverse locales? Here, Janne Faulkner, a director of the Melbourne design firm Nexus, has teamed with noted photographer Earl Carter to promote seven Nexus-furnished houses in styles describable as subtle, classic, charming and timeless-but definitely more polite than the London homes dressed by Tricia Guild for books promoting her painterly fabrics. While foreword-writer Philip Cox is wrong to claim that Faulkner’s "is the first book on interiors to identify an Australian approach" (Babette Hayes did that in the seventies), this volume is an alluring asset to any coffee table.

Seaport Sydney: The Making of the City Landscape

By Peter Proudfoot, UNSW Press, $40.

Dogged sifting through fusty archives has produced this comprehensive record of how Sydney developed from the neglected perspective of its land-based maritime infrastructure. Stuffed with maps and charts that beg for intense comparisons, the volume reveals how the needs of the port have influenced CBD development since 1788. The author (an Aspro at UNSW) suggests (with evidence) that when maritime facilities have been expanded, the city has also grown significantly after a decade’s lag. However, Proudfoot’s thesis is not backed by acknowledgement of new trends relevant to maritime cargo industries: air freight, the Internet and ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing policies.

Building 8: Edmond & Corrigan at RMIT

Three volume set edited by Leon van Schaik with Nigel Bertram and Winsome Callister, Schwartz Transition Monographs, $120.

Building 8What more is there to say about the most-published Oz university building of the last 20 years? Plenty is offered in this trio of documents, of which the most valuable is Volume 1: 10 Essays: with discursive texts contributed by Peter Kohane (two chapters on the building’s place in the Romantic tradition), Jennifer Hocking (comparing Building 8 with the John Andrews Union Building it squashed), Philip Goad (recalling the design phase as an employee of the architects), plus others. Volume 2 thoroughly documents the design and Volume 3 compiles published texts by Peter and Maggie.

Will this boxed set sell? Irrelevant. The documents were primarily conceived to record for posterity and promote internationally a bold exploit of patronage and design in a paradoxical phase of Australian architectural history.

Specialist Volumes

NATSPEC Atlas of Building Standards and Product Quality 1997Construction Information Systems Australia, $85.
Useful, unprecedented maps of environmental conditions around Australia; detailed charts and information on materials and standards.
The Salon (1912-1917): Studies and Indexesby Desley Luscombe and Stanislaus Fung, RAIA Professional Development Unit, $30.
Definitive guide to Australia’s first architectural journal.
Designs on the Conservation Plan edited by Anna Roache, The University of Sydney Department of Architecture, $13.
Edited/enhanced papers from a 1995 forum on heritage planning.



Published online: 1 May 1997


Architecture Australia, May 1997

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