Those readers who expected the July issue of Architecture Australia to be a special issue on Indigenous housing, drawing on the Which Way? conference of last year, may be slightly bemused by the magazine now in their hands. The special issue announced some time ago is still coming, but it has been postponed until September.
In its place for July we have prepared a rather eclectic general issue, with projects of diverse types and scales. What holds it together is the sense of joy and wit evident, in different ways, in each project. The issue is rather like a bag of mixed lollies – a colourful assortment of works, each delicious and full of delight. And so we have a tower in the Victorian countryside, designed to evoke multiple associations – Ned Kelly’s armour, tobacco drying sheds, the towers of San Gimignano and so on. A house described by the reviewer as being like a small, slightly wayward child in her best frock: “At any moment she might forget herself and go running off down the street and into the sea.” A house extension that appears to morph out of a fence and presents its carport as a public thoroughfare. A mirrored addition to a pavilion, which camouflages itself in its verdant surrounds as it “reclines on one elbow in the grass”. A highly coloured office building, which responds to the Kakadu escarpment and is woven through with external spaces that offer many opportunities for interaction. A town-centre-cum-retail-precinct that generates engaging and diverse spaces for everyday social encounters. Adding further to the mix, this issue also presents another array of outstanding work. The first instalment of the Australian Institute of Architects State Awards shows ninety-two projects awarded across six states, demonstrating the wealth of excellent work being produced around the country.
The sparks of joy in each of the projects under review will bring a smile to the face of the reader, visitor or inhabitant. But this delight is not frivolous – all are intelligent, highly accomplished works of architecture, with serious intent.
I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity in this issue to publish two houses, which, quite differently, explore connections between domestic and public realms. Each takes a private project as an opportunity to develop broader ideas about housing, urban/suburban context and the complexity of contemporary domestic configurations. In doing so, they move beyond the well-worn paradigm of house-as-experiment (which tends to limit “innovation” to formal and material concerns). They show that by engaging with the social – both inside and outside the dwelling – the finely crafted bespoke individual house might still make productive and relevant contributions to the public realm.
Justine Clark, editor Architecture Australia.