[Ken Charlton, Bronwen Jones and Paola Favaro. Royal Australian Institute of Architects, ACT Chapter, 2007. 132pp. $55.
Ken Charlton, Bronwen Jones and Paola Favaro. Royal Australian Institute of Architects, ACT Chapter, 2007. 132pp. $55.
The RAIA ACT Chapter should be congratulated for publishing this monograph on the 2007 RAIA Gold Medal winner, Enrico Taglietti. Firstly because Taglietti’s work deserves greater recognition. Apart from Jennifer Taylor’s groundbreaking coverage in Australian architecture since 1960 (1986) and Taglietti’s own monograph, Enrico Taglietti: architect in Australia (1979), little has been written on Taglietti’s unique response to his time and place. Secondly, because, as with other accounts of émigré architects, the picture of Australian architecture is enriched and broadened by his inclusion.
With a multitude of photographs, plans and sections, this is a book many architects will enjoy. Collected together, Taglietti’s work cannot fail to impress with its consistency and surprising quantity, even if some will not admit its idiosyncrasies. Essays by Ken Charlton, Bronwen Jones and Paola Favaro provide an endearing picture of a man who has devoted his life to what many consider Australia’s spoilt architectural “orphan” – Canberra. Jones outlines the design themes found in Taglietti’s houses; Charlton provides a comprehensive overview of his life and work – the sculptural exuberance and programmatic invention of the motels, libraries and schools are a revelation; and Favaro traces the influences of Taglietti’s encounters with Italian architects Bruno Zevi and Carlo De Carli and the writings and ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is an altogether balanced and well-handled account.
Where the monograph falls short is in its perspective. The authors’ brief could have been expanded. Taglietti’s work needs to be placed against the work of others in the same period, locally and internationally. For example, his concern in the 1950s and 1960s for mass and sculptural form is unprecedented in Australian architecture. The only other architects who come near, such as Stan Symonds and Peter Burns, do not have the quantity of work or breadth of program to strut their stuff. Taglietti’s work is also different from the orthodox internationalism of Canberra brutalist works of the 1970s. Much is made of Zevi and Wright as clues to Taglietti’s work, but not enough is made of Taglietti’s own interpretation of the Griffins’ project for Canberra and Australian architecture, his reading of place and his implied critique of much of the contemporary architecture struggling upwards around him in the postwar capital. Taglietti was the only architect who continued the Griffins’ architectural visions for the national capital in the postwar decade. Little too is made of Taglietti’s love of earth and mass, his insistent deep, very deep, eaves and equally deep chamfered fascias, and the power of shadow, the intention to reduce glare in the unforgiving Australian sunlight. Taglietti’s complete acceptance of the visible roof also makes him stand out amongst his peers.
Taglietti has produced since 1955, against all bureaucratic odds, a body of work that proposes a valid example of an organic architecture, and a viable alternative to the persistent myths of lightweight construction and the unadorned.
VOLUME: John Wardle Architects