Two black-clad figures stretch bright green masking tape across a white wall banded with shadow. Green tape “bangles” adorn the wrists of the figures, one of whom stands on a yellow stepladder. The image on the cover of this issue of Architecture Australia is a striking shot, well composed and intriguing, but it is not a typical photograph of architecture as normally seen on the cover of a professional architectural publication. It is a shot taken during the making of a work of architecture, not in that idealized moment between the completion of a project and the beginning of the life of the building. It is a soft image, taken with a hand-held camera in low light; as such it has a documentary quality rather than the crisp, idealized perfection of the staged “architectural” shot.
The image is part of an extensive series of photographs shot by Dianna Snape to document the making of the Lyon Housemuseum (commissioned by Corbett Lyon). Other images show the construction process, artwork installation, discussions among the architect, builders and artists, portraits of the builders with their tools, and finally the building opening. This set of images provides a striking and unusual record of the making of a project – an aspect of architecture which is not normally recorded in such a comprehensive manner. The shots are more knowing than the usual images taken of building-in-progress – architects’ snaps made to record progress or defects. Shot with a photographer’s skill and eye, and for another purpose, they show quite different aspects of the process. Of course Dianna has also made an extensive photographic record of the building as completed. These are also compelling images, capturing the unusual conjunction of the domestic and the art museum at the heart of this project. (A personal favourite, which we were unable to fit into our coverage, has the viewer looking through the kitchen, past gleaming pots and a toaster, to Callum Morton’s Habitat.)
These more formal “architectural” images accompany our review of the project within the pages of the magazine. However, for the cover we were fascinated by the “under construction” shots. We enjoyed the dynamic quality and the evocation of active making, something that is integral to architecture, but that rarely makes it into the representational conventions of the discipline. But the shot has a further complexity. The “making” it shows is the installation of Brook Andrew’s YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE BLACK (white friend), one of three artworks permanently installed in the housemuseum. As such, it points to the complexity of this particular project, while also acting as a catalyst for broader contemplation of possible relationships between art and architecture. All in all it had the potential to be a great cover – graphically striking, immediately intriguing, challenging to architectural conventions and rich enough to sustain ongoing consideration.
This issue of the magazine also includes coverage of two of Architecture Australia’s most significant “extension activities”. We present the outcomes of the 2009 AA Prize for Unbuilt Work. This is the third year the prize has run in its recent incarnation, and we are delighted with the way it continues to build and develop. We also include the edited transcript of AA Roundtable 02, held in Brisbane last year. The new AA Roundtable public discussions have been very successful events, and we look forward to bringing you further events around Australia this year.
Enjoy your summer reading!
Justine Clark, editor Architecture Australia.