Hair Wars: Hair and Australian Architects or why I never made the grade as a star architect.

One of my most popular posts in 2016 was the one about Bjarke Ingels being evil because he had hair. But then I thought what about Australian architects. How much hair do they have? What about their hair? How is Australian Architectural hair portrayed in the media and across social media? As a result, I decided to conduct a few Google experiments. With the research aim to explore how the hair of Australian architects is portrayed on the web. Like all good researchers I needed a hypothesis a methodology and a few methods. My hypothesis is that architects with hair get more hits on social media. My  broad methodology is to focus on notions of identity and how these are constructed within architectural discourse. As for methods a bit of Google Image search combined with a visual analysis. In doing this I referred to some diagrams about male pattern baldness (myself being a prime example).

pattern-hair-loss

Google Search: Australian Architects (searched 170217 1.31pm

  1. Glenn Murcutt
  2. Jorn Utzon
  3. Robin Boyd
  4. Harry Seidler
  5. Roy Grounds
  6. Nonda Katsalidis
  7. Walter Burley Griffin
  8. Francis Greenaway
  9. Philip Cox

It was a relief to me as they pretty much all had hair undergoing various stages of Male Pattern Baldness. Numbers 5 and Numbers 6 seemed to have the most hair. It goes without saying that its shockingly amazing that even Google doesnt include female Australian architects when you do this kind of search.

Google search: Top 10 Australian Architects (searched 170217 1.40pm)

  1. Glenn Murcutt
  2. Sean Godsell
  3. Philip Cox
  4. Robin Boyd
  5. Harry Seidler
  6. Jorn Utzon
  7. Nick Murcutt
  8. frederik Romberg
  9. Roy Grounds
  10. Edmund Blacket

and with this search something weird  happened. Suddenly an insurgent with lots of hair jumped up to second place on the list.

I then decided to search just in Google Images  (searched 170217 2.30pm) rather than Google.

Google Image search: Best Australian Architects (searched 170217 3.00pm)

In this search you get a lot of buildings but of course only one Australian architect features and that is Peter Stutchbury who admittedly has a pretty good ahead of hair (as does his comrade Richard Leplastrier)

leplastrier-and-stutchbury

These are of course Sydney architects. Before I write any more I need to make a disclaimer which is this: At my tribal architecture school in the 80s one of the first things we learnt was to hate, and I mean really HATE, Sydney architects. Despite my biases a kind of Roland Barthes semiotic analysis seems appropriate here. There is certainly no sign of Brylcreem or Hair  Dye in this image. These architects are in some ways proto-hipsters. These men appear to be the very negative of the urbane, metropolitan, Don Draper suited 50s and 60s architect like Gary Cooper in the Fountainhead or indeed some of the architects in the above lists like Robin Boyd, Harry Seidler or the seemingly avuncular Roy Grounds.

Nup these guys are wild architects with all that hair: Raw, mountain men, lumberjack architects, with natural poetic instincts and urges, the very antithesis of the cosmopolitan architect; they appear to be flaunting an organic and seemingly natural sexuality and masculinity. Satyrs in the woodland with set squares. Its all a bit too Norsca Soap like for me, and even the work of these architects is kind of entwined with the myths of Scandanavia and the scarves, for some unknown reason, start to remind me of the columns in Alvar Aalto’s Villa Maireia. 

498072

When he was younger Stutchbury, who was born in 1954, looked like this (what is he looking at?). I  was surprised to find this image so easily on the web.

imgres-1

Stutchbury 

Untitled.jpg

Raisbeck 

I had hair as well when I was young as you can see from the above comparative photo of me in the 70s at my outer suburban high school. So its interesting to wonder why our own practice never got up and running. I mean I had long hair as well. But actually the reason is probably very obvious. Firstly, I lost my hair and I was also confused about the semiotic identity I wanted to portray as an architect. This is fairly obvious in this picture of me below from architecture school in the mid to late 80s. Little wonder I never made the top 10 Google list.

raisbeck_2

I was already loosing my hair then. Plus, I had obvious aligned my self with the cosmopolitan urban intellectual types rather than the organic FLW loving mountain men. But the tie was all wrong. No wonder I never got into the club. At night I wonder if our practice had done better if I had retained my hair and somehow gone the long hair silver mountain man foxy route. Or worn a straighter tie.

As my friends will now I have kind of re-invented myself a few times now. And as I noted last time our wrote about this kind of stuff in the Bjarke blog: The construction of the architectural identity should be regarded as being problematic and contested rather than being seen as a singular, holistic and a stable domain. As architects in this age of, oh so awful, celebrity we need to foster debates around the real laws, and dilemmas of architectural design our cities.

It perhaps goes without saying, but it keeps needing to be said, that the identities that we privilege in architectural discourse need to be more inclusive of difference. The recognition of collaborative practice is one way forward. But in the swamplands of social media a constant critique and dismantling of the rhetorical images that are presented to us is essential and necessary. Otherwise, the rhetorical idealisation of the architectural identity will continue to corrupt our discipline and architectural education. It’s time for the the cult of architectural celebrity to die. The mountain men architects like to think they are poets but they are really just celebrities.

Its been crazy here as I prepare for the students and substantially revamp my Architectural Practice course which starts in two weeks. Notably, I have prerecorded 9 lectures and have another 9 to do. It will be an interesting experiment in online teaching models. This will give me more time to run an actual tutorial in the subject and organise the guest lectures. This year we will also have a number of Q&A style panel sessions which we will advertise here and elsewhere. 



Categories: architectural practice, Australian Architecture, Branding

Tags: , ,

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