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MAP: Marking Territory ‘96

Exhibition of a decade of furnishing products by Christopher Connell and Raoul C. Hogg (Merchants of Australian Products); at the Arts + Industry Gallery, 51 Little Latrobe Street, Melbourne, from March 15, 1996.
Review by Lindsay Holland

This exhibition, organised by A+I’s director, Valerie Austin, offers a unique opportunity to critically survey the 10-year output of one of Australia’s most important contemporary furniture and product design teams.

As MAP, Christopher Connell and Raoul Hogg are one of the few independent design and production teams which have successfully bridged the gap (many would say gulf) between the creation of somewhat isolated prototypes and fully developed production furniture—without losing either the intent or integrity of the original designs. Their success is based on a design approach and philosophy that is rooted in understanding, questioning, then exploiting the limits of the most up-to-date commercially available and viable production technologies and materials.

To Australians, their designs may appear unashamedly international in influence, yet their regular participation in Milan Furniture Fairs and coverage by prestigious European magazines suggests that the rest of the world sees them more as fellow travellers in the global realm of contemporary design.

Left: Pepe chairs from Arts + Industry’s Marking Territory exhibition.

Desire for understatement and abstraction consistently underlies the work. The most recent pieces, though, express a more tactile, sensual, sometimes humorous quality as Christopher and Raoul gain a greater understanding of the potential relationships between the materials and technologies at their disposal and a stronger recognition of human utility and sensibility. There is now a quirkish, sometimes street-wise, ‘Australianess’ in the work: (is there anything that cannot be fashioned from a piece of bent wire?)

Mastery and confidence are self-evident in their latest designs. The apprenticeship is now over and we should look forward to a future output of increasing innovation and maturity.

If Philippe Starck was right in suggesting that the aim of design at the end of an increasingly alienating 20th century is to make the world of the objects that surround us more animate, then MAP’s products will make good company.

Lindsay Holland is an architect in Melbourne.

Left: Various small tables from Arts + Industry’s Marking Territory exhibition. Photo by Trevor Mein.

Glenn Murcutt

Exhibition of drawings of Glenn Murcutt’s Marika/Aldert Yirrkala, Northern Territory. At Curve, Fitzroy, Victoria, O 1995-April 1996.
Review by Tony Styant-Browne

Like the sanctuary of an Egyptian temple or the cella of Greek temple, the tiny Curve gallery lies concentrically within the larger space of the Tolarno Gallery in Fitzroy. Inverting the conventional architecture/art relationship, this is a room for the display of architecture within rooms for the display of art. Towards the end of 1995, the gallery introduced Glenn Murcutt’s developmental drawings for the Marika-Alderton House at Yirrkala, Northern Territory. Also displayed were the architect’s black and white photographs and copies of his sketch book. For part of the exhibit period, the Peter Hyatt videotape Touch The Earth Lightly was playing but it had to be removed as the constant repetition drove the gallery owner, Jan Minchin, quite crazy.

Elegantly mounted by Michael Jan between narrow strips of clear plastic pinned to the wall, the drawings consisted of pencil and ink studies on trace and pencil on film with the photographs forming a frieze above. The evolution of the design is revealed in the chronological arrangement of the work from the first analyses of the site and summary of brief to the sophisticated refinement of mechanisms for hinging the walls of the building; and it is this which makes the show so fascinating, particularly to architects. Here the delicate dialogue between the mind and hand of a masterful designer is evident as the building emerges, direct and raw, free from the mask of more formal manual or computer generated representations. The design is studied in plan, perspective and section. The spare perspective drawings eloquently evoke the relationship between the building and its site and the 10 or so 1:20 scale sections graphically demonstrate the linear, extruded nature of Murcutt’s work. In her recent monograph on Murcutt, Françoise Fromonot asserts that he "makes his buildings… the reason for the landscape". This show gave us some insights into how that is achieved.

Tolarno Gallery is to be commended for the contribution that Curve makes to architecture in Melbourne. The show and a handsome, limited-edition catalogue of reproductions of 20 of the drawings (available from the Arts Bookshop, Armadale) were sponsored by conservation architects Allom Lovell and Associates. They are also to be congratulated.

Tony Styant-Browne is a Melbourne architect and urban designer.



Published online: 1 May 1996


Architecture Australia, May 1996

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