Surviving the Design Studio: Making architecture dangerous in the swamplands of design mediocrity.

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Daphnes Spanos Autonomous Waypoint project (above) from Independent Thesis MSD 2016. Rehabilitaing and old modernist resort hotel, this project grappled with the flow of refugees to Greece and Europe from Syria. Numerous critics were aghast that she was even trying to do this. One critic thought she was doing a Manus island detention camp, another couldn’t believe she was doing it at all. I was aghast at the emotional reactions to this admirable and well thought through project that sought to tackle a seemingly dangerous issue. 

Memories of the old school 

Recently, I returned to my architecture school of my architectural birth to look at the final year projects. It reminded me that my architectural education was largely a mix of being self-taught and learning a few things in the actual classes, being bullied by tutors, and stumbling from one design studio disaster to the next. Ironically, even though I now teach it, professional practice was not my best subject, whereas architectural theory was.

I should also add at the time the principal mode of studio criticism seemed to be good-cop bad-cop combined with a large measure of passive aggression. I didn’t talk, but I did observe. Luckily for me one of my design tutors had a, seemingly dangerous, passion for Christ. It was great education to see over the years how that dangerous and unconventional passion manifested itself in a subsequent career and built works.

It’s also best, if I skip over and dont mention, my not so fabulous design marks. Needless to say, I have always been suspicious of people who got the top marks in design. Unless, of course they were in my studio or my own thesis students. Two of which are featured here to illustrate my points.

Autonomous Waypoint_ViewDaphnes Spanos Autonomous Waypoint project from Independent Thesis MSD 2016

 Danger Danger Will Robinson

I think one of the most important things I learnt at architecture school was that architecture needs to be dangerous. I remembered this when I saw the final year projects on the walls of my old architecture school. Not all of these projects were vapidly pragmatic or useful. In almost every one there was a sense of danger, a sense that architecture itself mattered more than logical design thought and functional solutions and techniques. More than a sense of concise, orthodox and well expressed arguments. It reminded me that architecture can still provoke ideas through spatial experience, the way we make sense of the world, questioning aesthetic norms, as well as allowing us to pursue techniques to there most extreme, and often surreal, conclusion. A sense that architecture was about estrangement, evoking worlds, states of being, and memory that exists outside of and in parallel with our everyday lives. Of course, to complicate matters further, and this may come as a shock to some readers, architecture doesn’t always need to be about anything all the time anyway.

Once you get past the naïve swamplands of thinking that architectural design is all about designing solutions to problems it gets more interesting and paradoxically, I think, architecture also becomes more effective. Last year in a design crit I heard a jury member say: I don’t like those materials and the way the project has been drawn it looks “hard and impersonal and repetitive” and hence the implication was that the project itself was hard and maybe should it have been soft? I wonder, what it is with the hard-soft dichotomy anyway, the more I think about that the weirder it gets. Our level of critical discourse and criticism needs to rise above this kind of simplistic determinism and crap dichotomies.

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Above and Below: Priscilla Kwok’s Independent Thesis MSD 2016 drew on the polemic of Superstudio and critiqued the all male culture of innovation spaces. The project was a poetic and thorough critique of current fashions and exclusion in workplace design. 

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Architectural Design needs to be a little polemical and dangerous to be of any use

What should be of concern is that the problem solving ethic, often ignores aesthetics and does little to produce architecture that either provokes our thought or speculates about the future. Even the smallest and most budget restrained project can speculate and provoke us to think.  Being self-satisfied with the baby pap mix of concepts based on simplistic functionality, constructional CNC logic or another “bespoke” policy issue, or social enterprise do-gooding is not enough.

The “urban happiness” push is fine but is it just about making the already privileged comfortable in consciousness and urban lifestyle?  Is it just about trying to organise and mitigate the horrors of neoliberal capitalism: sustainability, green innovation (another apartment building covered in green) and clients with that “awesome” lifestyle. Making the deterministic and causal link between material aesthetics and how a building feels only diminishes our design practice.

So along these lines what follows are no less than six talking points, to help you think about how to make architecture a little more dangerous, and even fun. Plus, I have included a few images of “dangerous” final year projects.

1. Architectural design should create problems

Yes, there are times architects are so caught up in solving immediate design problems for the instantaneous moment that they disregard forget how to create problems. Have architects become too risk averse? Of course, I don’t mean deliberately creating problems related to some technical lack. Like the roof leaks or bits of the building fall down. Creating speculative problems is about the long game; the real game after the project is delivered. For example, architects can choose to design to disrupt. To disturb or distort prevailing urban aesthetic, sustainable or material patterns and orthodoxies. Just doing sustainability isn’t really enough. I hate it when developers get their green on.

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Jing Yi How, Bridging the Edge, RMIT Major Project 2017 Mark Raggatt and Tim Pyke Tutors. 

2. Create architectural images that burn a hole in your brain

Create dangerous architectural images (and I don’t mean pornography). I dislike images that are full of sanitised clarity or have been over saturated with “realistic” colours or filled with bright happy Google people. Create, fuzzy and blurry images, ambiguous images, images that play with perception, images that obscure and confuse us and play with existing regimes of power and media distribution. I am sick of seeing that archetypal housey thing covered in black zinc in my social media feeds.

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Kayden Khoon Yaw Lau, Game-On, RMIT Major Project 2017 Ian Nazareth Tutor. (Above and below).

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3. Make architectural design subversive

In what way does the design subvert or counter a client context, prevailing typology, or economic situation. We need more projects that speak to refugees, migrant labour, gender inequality and LGBTQIA and indigenous people. We need more projects that reference the political contexts that confront us and it is architects who have the spatial, form-making and material tactics to do this. I am not sure the community pop-up barista café design market urban garden is really that political. Sorry.

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Jan See Oi, Abyss in Luxury, RMIT Major Project 2017 John Doyle Tutor. 

4. Foster alternative futures

Architects can really foster debates about the future of our cities and architecture and I don’t just mean debates around making those cites nice, or “great”, or high density or more liveable. Or another thought leader convention full of urban densifiers and city exciters. Architects can also propose experimental futures. Architects can and should have a real discourse around utopia and dystopian outcomes for our cities. I am not sure those renders of endlessy flooded cites, or cities full of windturbines, will do that either.

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Imogen Fry, Regenerated Farms Regenerated Towns Regenerated Nature, RMIT Major Project 2017,  Mauro Baracco Tutor.

5. Architecture should be kind of annoying

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Austynn Machado Hi-Fi Lo-Fi RMIT Major Project 2017,  Paul Minifie Tutor.

Is architecture just about giving the everyday users, or punters, what they want? Maybe people need to bump into architecture more, maybe it needs to be in their faces more, maybe it needs to make them walk through a labyrinth or see different aspects of light than the monochromatic fluorescent and halogen wash we are all living in. Architects should avoid, like the plague, that happy little bright and sunny sustainable community focused apartment development with all the big floor to ceiling windows looking onto the garden.

6. We need more ugly 

In decrying these things I am not wanting to evoke a sentiment of cynicism or bitterness. The tone is probably meant to express a kind of desperation in order to save the discipline of architecture. The images of the final year projects reproduced here suggest a little about my position. I am not suggesting that architects should escape the world and outcast themselves into a zone of isolated hypocrisy or pernury. I am not forgetting architects need to get the fees in. But, intellectual appeasement to the prevailing norms, fashions or about to happen policy problems is not architecture. Nice and safe is not architecture. It only leads to an architecture easily swallowed up by the mass produced business as usual landscape.

We need more ugliness and danger in our aesthetic and critical practice. Maybe naïve art and kitsch is pretty good after all and thankfully the architecture schools are still places where we can experiment. Architecture needs to take us, and be, somewhere else from where we are now. Playing it safe is not going to do that.

Architects & Badass Clients: The perennial moral question?

There has always been a debate in architecture about patronage and politics. The central question of this debate, which I am sure many architects are familiar with, is should architects work for those with no morals? This becomes a dilemma and does it really matter who architects work for as long as they make good, or even great, architecture?

The bad and sometimes evil clients.

All architects have had clients we don’t like, or we don’t particularly want to work for, or we are worried that they will rip us off by not paying. We refused a client once because he looked like Catweazle. But what happens when the client is a demagogue or a war criminal?

Usually, when this debate gets going, the old hero icons of modern architecture get trotted out: Gropius and Mies and the Nazi and the Reichsbank competition. Le Corbusier and Vichy, and the break up with his Marxist cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. Phillip Johnson, that most subversive of architects and the actual Nazis. For a brief moment, in the late 20s the constructivist worker architects and artists had the same problem, should they work for Stalin? However, by 1932 it was too late for them and most were killed in the Terror or went to the Gulag’s.

Tessenow and Speer and Krier 

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Inevitably this argument cycles around to Hitler’s architect Albert Speer, the gargantuan and ham fisted classicist and pioneer of modern managerialism. Speer was no Plecnik or Lutyens. As an architecture student Speer was reputedly thrown out of Poelzig’s studio and then ended up in Heinrich Tessenow’s studio. What would have happened to Speer if he had stayed with the early expressionistic Poelzig who later embraced New Objectivity rather than the classically orientated Tessenow.  As most know, Speer was later to be admired so much by Leon Krier, who published the monograph on Speer, once Krier himself escaped the clutches of James Stirling. In the 1980s as students we once interviewed Tadao Ando through a Japanese translator and asked him what he thought of Krier, the response in Japanese, was opaque, long winded and incomprehensible and surprisingly animated. However, in this perplexing outburst there was one word that we could discern through the rush of Japanese: Fascist. Yes, Ando thought Leon Krier was a fascist. As Paul Davies has noted Giorgio Grassi would rehabilitate Tessenow; and Leon Krier, Speer.

 Patrik Comes to Town

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Hot on the heels of Rem Koolhaas, all of this history, came back to me when we had a new star architect visitor these weeks past. Yes, in my small city on the architectural periphery, it was none other than Patrik Schumacher. Suddenly, my Archienemy Instagram social media feeds were full of people I know doing selfies with Patrik. Rather than going all out I chose to get a photo of his ear. He even spoke at Rem and David G’s MPavilion, which I am yet to visit, with the Victorian State Government Architect.

Perhaps I was a little jealous, I asked myself, I was not invited to the Pavilion, nor was I invited to the jury sessions where Patrik appeared. Had I through some character flaw and self-sabotage avoided the great man and celebrity. Had they read all the bad stuff I had written in the obscure conference papers about Parametricism. I had already avoided the Remmy Koolhaas festival when he came. Should I have lurched into Patrik’s field of vision to get a selfie? I did at least manage to get a picture of his ear.

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Patrik and the Mayfair Development

Regular readers of the blog will recall Patrik’s statements about Aravena winning the big Pritzker prize in an earlier blog.

“I respect was Alejandro Aravena is doing and his ‘half a good house’ developments are an intelligent response. However, this is not the frontier where architecture and urban design participate in advancing the next stage of our global high density urban civilisation.”

ZHA architecture, in  which Patrik is a partner leads, has also designed a “vase” shaped tower in my city intended to be housed by the Mandarin Oriental hotel. In Brisbane ZHA has also designed a  “champagne flute” tower development. Nothing like a metaphor to motivate the sales team.

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Chin-chin in Brisvegas.

The Mayfair 

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More interestingly, there is also the Mayfair sited on a prominent corner on St Kilda Road, for those not familiar with Melbourne this is the boulevard leading into the cities central grid. The developers UEM Sunrise are employing the ZHA brand to sell the apartments off. This one has the soft flowing curvy butterfly metaphor attached to it. Apparently, the design is based on the “Lorenz attractor – a mathematical set of equations that, when plotted, resemble a figure eight or butterfly.”

There is also great Zaha Hadid exhibition associated with the sale of units in the development and the website is pretty slick. All the apartments look great on the inside and are full of well designed and exquisitely fabricated ZHA designed wall finishes, furniture and fittings.

Bris-Vegas?

Amongst all the signature suite excitement of the interior there is the exterior. In contrast to the interior, the exterior does seem a bit, how shall I say it, Bris Vegas with its predominant horizontal blades and glazed balconies. Perhaps, the Mayfair, and other luxury apartment types in general, are more about the exquisite luxury interiors and less  to do with the exterior. I am not sure how the facade might contribute to a high density urban civilisation?

Perhaps this is the danger the architectural fascination with CNC fabrication and digitally enabled supply chains. Perhaps, all we will get to do as architects in the future, are the luxury interiors: the product marketing types and planners will design the exteriors.

Maybe we are already at the point where we are no longer architects but in fact strategic product designers and marketers. Architecture is a key element in the marketing material for Mayfair:

“Mayfair is unmistakably Zaha Hadid. A mastery of scientific precision and artistic integrity, its soft, organic form pays tribute to St Kilda Road’s leafy streetscape, and the context within which it exists.”

I don’t really know what to say about the “soft organic form” line.

The local connections

With such international collaborations there is always a local architectural connection.  With the apartments on St Kilda road, branded as the Mayfair, it is that notable firm of high rise apartment architects Elenberg Fraser.With the ZHA Mandarin Oriental tower it is Plus Architecture. On face value across the liveable city of Melbourne these two firms, Plus and Elenberg Fraser, seem to have cornered the market for apartments design. Interestingly Plus’s 4248 scheme looks a bit like the ZHA Mayfair. These are architects who seem happy to surf the real estate free market. No doubt  in doing so they are ensuring their fee for service regimes are commensurate with the excellent plan-façade combos they are producing.

Follow the money

Of course, in the modern age all architects immersed in the free market no longer need worry about the Nazis or Stalinists to work for or fight against. Arguably, it is the kleptocrats and big sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds and Panama Paper style investors who provide the juice for the luxury housing fragmenting our cities.

The Mayfair development is being developed by UEM Sunrise. UEM Sunrise is wholly-owned by Khazanah, an investment holding arm of the Malaysian Government. A few years back the sovereign wealth find of the Malaysian government was the subject of a financial investigation. You can follow this here and even search for Khazanah and UEM Sunrise at the Panama Papers. You can also read about some the advanced urban civilisation stuff Malaysia has done for Palm Oil and Penan people.

It would be monstrous to suggest that the architects, or anyone else associated with these current projects, are in any way implicated in illicit financial flows of capital. But the point is that we are all connected in this new digital age via 6 virtual degrees of separation. The landscape in this new global system no longer resembles the past.  The old empires and their classical icons have gone and it is the oscillations of distributed capital propelled through conduits of digital finance that now shape the monumental vistas.

Subversion 

Spare a thought for the other architects, more distant from luxury housing and the celebrity system of architetcure. The local architects who ponder the vicissitudes of the NDIS roll out, informal settlements and the possibilties of producing new housing types driving by financial structures that enable a range of demographics, typologies and ownership.

Perhaps it will always be a perennial question for architects: Does it matter who we work for and who our patrons are? Does it matter where the money comes from? But, maybe the even greater sin for architects is not so much where the money comes from, or the issues around patronage, but whether or not the project is simply trash for cash.

Lets hope that there is a subversive sentiment somewhere in that approach.

The Failure to Fail Fast: The parametric and BIM fail in architecture.

I recently came across two quite disparate fragments of knowledge in my travels across the so called interwebs. The first was an article at e-flux, one of those curiously named architecture websites, by the eminent American architectural academic Joan Ockman. Ockman’s article, which can be found here, details the trajectories of history and theory in architectural discourse since the 90s.

Elon is really Iron Man 

The second fragment was more fleeting. This was a glimpse, as one tends to get these days when scanning and cramming your brain with your social media feeds. I saw a post in my Facebook feed about Space X.  Space X is Elon Musk’s, the Iron Man like entrepreneur, attempt to develop cheap low earth orbit rockets. In the process a few of Elon’s rockets have crashed.

As Elon says, “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” This led me to a few other interweb mantras and business school type aphorisms such as: “Innovators today are told to run loose and think lean in order to fail fast and succeed sooner” and of course there is all the Lean Start-up and Lean Design thinking encapsulated in the “Fail Fast, Learn Faster, Deliver Fastest”

It was then easy to worry if I had missed something in the past few years. To worry if I missed the whole lean design movement. Had I missed another potentially career propelling and thought leading bandwagon?

The managerial ethos. 

Thankfully, Ockman’s article had a few choice quotes that helped me to think a bit more deeply. The article helped me to join the dots, in my mind, between the proponents of the lean design, fail faster, movement and the unfolding catastrophe that is the digital “revolution” in our profession of architecture. A “revolution” disguised in futuristic rhetoric that is diminishing the domain and agency of architectural practice and knowledge. Ockman writes:

“Now that capitalism is the most revolutionary force in the world, a triumphant managerial ethos has given rise to a host of new specializations laser-focused on issues of optimization, performance, and delivery.”

Citing the last issue of Assemblage, the influential (and oh-so-pedigreed) architectural journal, as a point at which political and critical theory departed from architecture, she argues that:

“Instead of history/theory today, what we now have is research. Research is the holy grail of contemporary architecture education, and the “laboratories” in which it is carried out–by white-coated architectural technicians, figuratively speaking–are its shrines. As for criticism: arguably, we now have something like “curation.” History/theory has turned into research/curation.”

In the current climate of neoliberal universities we, myself included, all prey to the idea that curation is research (but that’s probably the topic of another blog).

Productive creatives

But then, just before I got diverted into a curation-is-research reverie, there was this little gem:

“Yet in an increasingly commodified system in which architecture students are in training to become future members of a productive (and debt-ridden) class of “creatives” and, at the same time, are not shy about exercising their rights as educational consumers, the tradition of scepticism and negativity associated with critical thinking holds less and less allure.”

The need to fail

My thought linking all these interweb fragments is that the education, research and digital practices now inscribed in the global system of architecture does not allow architects to fail. It doesn’t allow us to fail quickly enough.

I don’t think Parametric design has failure built in to its processes. In the studio, once the designer is committed to a particular digital model it becomes a kind of juggernaut. Once the model’s relational geometries are loose, design is then just addition and refinement; addition and refinement in the service of optimisation.

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As architects we are not teaching our architecture students to fail. In the neoliberal university it is easier to teach the architecture students that everything is ok.  Consequently, design teaching has become focused on serial techniques and technical problem solving disguised as “productive” and waste minimising techniques. A lather of doing good for the world.

The rhetoric of techno-future 

What also bound my own disparate thoughts together is the thought that the rise of the digital in architecture and its associated rhetoric of the future has, by and large, escaped critical scrutiny. The abandonment of theory in the 90s, in the name of a post-critical position, in architecture has led to the erasure of politics in our discourse. It is worth reading through Ockman’s article to see the outline of this history.

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Both BIM and Parametric design seek to optimise and configure patterns rather than socio-material systems. In both of these architectural methods, the everyday experience of the user has been replaced by the gaze of the operator, design iteration has become the spinning of the model in the shimmering screen, experimentation has become additive rather than truly generative, collaboration is reduced to the efficient exchange of data and there is no sense that architects should learn how to fail and fast in the design process.

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Let’s face it, Parametric architects don’t care much for history and theory. Who needs it when you need a job in an office after you graduate. Who needs the politics of the everyday when you can play in the spectral sphere of the digital. As a result parametrics as a movement in architecture has done little to free architectural discourse from a global system that perpetuates: entrenched privileges of professional strata, a culture of design optimisation and design research that is techno-utilitarian rather than thought provoking.

As noted here Architects need to think more about digital disobedience.

MSD Architectural Practice 2018: Seeking Tutors, Practices and Architects to be involved.

We are looking for architects with a commitment to architectural education to tutor, guest lecture or join our weekly discussion panels, in Architectural Practice at MSD in Semester 1 of 2018.
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Subject aims and syllabus
The subject aims to develop a strong connection between MSD MArch students and architectural practice. The tutors are a key part of helping us to make this connection. For many of the students in the class this will be their first introduction to practice.
Using a traditional practice syllabus as a platform (e.g. fees, tenders and contracts), the subject covers strategic thinking, emerging forms of collaboration, scenario and business planning, negotiations, gender issues and work rights in the profession, as well as knowledge futures.
The subject covers just about anything architects need for survival in the current age. In 2018 the lecture content will again be delivered online and via lecture based panel discussions as well as structured tutorial case studies.
Social media 
We will be using social media more this year through our Instagram account amongst other things. To give students a sense of the reality of practice each tutor will also be responsible for posting “a week in the life of the architect” content to the Instagram account for one week of the semester.
Wanted: Tutors with passion 
We are not looking for star-architects but architects with a passion for architectural practice, business and design. The tutorial team is diverse and I welcome applications from architects with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. The  guiding philosophy of the class is that professional practice is actually about maximising design outcomes.
Ideally, tutors in this subject will be registered architects or practitioners, with post-graduation or post-registration experience, who are currently working in their own practices, or as project architects in medium to large firms.
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Time commitment
Time commitment for tutors is significant: 11 x 90 minute tutorials plus 4-6  x 1 hour moderation sessions during the semester. As well as attendance at 2 x 1 hour lecture panel presentations. This is an opportunity to make a direct contribution to current debates about architectural practice. Tutors will also need to view the online lectures. There is approximately 32 hours of marking during the semester. Tutorials and lectures are Tuesday evenings.
It is expected that tutors will meet the challenge of teaching in a cross-cultural and diverse context. Tutors are expected to abide by the universities teaching policies.
We also welcome architects currently in leadership positions in practice, no matter where you are based as we can easily Skype,  who wish to contribute to the subject either as a tutor or as a guest lecturer and discussion panel member.
Host practices  
This semester we are hoping to have one tutorial in an architectural office or practice. This will probably take place in May on a Tuesday afternoon. If you are willing to host let me know. That would be fantastic. We are also hoping to run some employment ready sessions through the class.  Contact me here if you are interested.
Interested? 
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I am happy to talk with you further if you have any further questions about your contribution as tutor to the subject. I look forward to your application as a tutor via the MSD’s Session Staff Recruitment System at the following link.

Architects versus the barbarians: Saving Sirius in the housing policy dead zone.

In Australia most architects design housing. In some ways, it is the last bastion of architectural control. But only just. Since the 70s housing has increasingly come under the control of developers, project managers and builders. Single interest groups, none of whom have the slightest interest in design, who see policy as being about their own profits, have dominated housing policy and as a result government’s have done little to develop housing policies.

Since abandoning the Public Work Departments in the 1980s state and bureaucratic actors have left it up to the market. The last gasp of the Victorian Public Works Department can be seen in my own suburb which is littered with small well-designed houses by architects. You can read about it here. These buildings still stand, fit into their streetscapes, and despite impoverished State Government maintenance regimes they still look great.

The Privatisation Experiment 

So where has housing privatisation  actually got us? There answer is this: homelessness for the vulnerable, a casino type mentality in our property markets, inner cities turning into swamps of unsustainable cheap curtain wall ugliness and intergenerational inequity. The Australian dream of home ownership has gone.

Let me repeat that: The Australian dream of home ownership has gone. It no longer exists, but Australians still cling to it. Because we are still clinging to the dream, this is exploited by a consortium and class of people who do not give a shit. The real dream is that Australia has always been a property developers paradise. Let’s hear it for the beautiful tower products of  Central Equity.

So now our cities are a ticking time bomb as climate change and two degree warming, or more, kicks in. Alongside this failure of policy,  housing in our cities, has lapsed into a miasma of deteriorating public assets, a new ageing and impoverished demographic, and a generation of young home buyers locked out of housing markets. Capital flows have led to the housing being valued more as an asset class, and hence subject to speculation, rather than as a right. Is it too little to ask for a actual policy: given the newly minted crap towers in our inner cities and the “cheap as chips” suburbs, where builders are too mean to build houses with no eaves, because a bit of extra framing is expensive?

London 

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This situation is, not just an Australian problem but  a global problem. Arguably, London is a city where we can begin to see what will happen to Australian cities, and suburbs, if we persist with our current dead zone policies. In London the Grenfell tower fire has perhaps focused the debate around these issues and what some call the colonial politics of space. Three new books on housing suggest the range of approaches, and type of research advocacy, that is missing here in Australia.

Saving Sirius 

In Sydney the battle over the Sirius building is a case in point. For architects the brutalist aesthetic in architecture came at a time when architects still had control over projects. Sirius exemplifies this, housing containing, and allowing for a range of family demographics along with the inclusion of collective functions. Housing made through  participation. A building designed to engender a sense of, wait for it, community. A housing development that was actually designed and its delivery controlled by an actual architect instead of few corporate marketing types aligned with the UDIA. 

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“A drab relic of union power” 

Meet the Barbarian 

Sadly for Sirius, this last week, the Land and Environment Court in NSW denied it heritage status. This was probably helped along by  NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet who unleashed a vitriolic diatribe via the Daily Telegraph on 28 July, dismissing the Sirius building as “a boxy blight on The Rocks,” made from “towering slabs of grimy concrete,” that stands as a “drab relic of union power.” He went on to say:

“Sirius represents the destructive, dehumanizing vandalism of the modernist movement; the legacy of the likes of architect Le Corbusier, high priest of the cult of ugliness, who was determined to demolish the stunning heritage of downtown Paris in favour of utilitarian concrete skyscrapers,” he proclaimed. “You might say it’s brutal: the epitome of the out of touch left, putting ideology before people.”

Oh yeah Paris in 1925 is so so so like the Rocks in Sydney. Maybe Dominic should tell the late President Nehru or the proud Punjabis that the pride they take in Chandigarh is misplaced because Corbusier designed it. Not sure Sirius is actually a skyscraper  and maybe Dominic P should look out the window and notice the “utilitarian concrete skyscrapers” mostly apartments, now emerging on our skylines, but I guess they are ok, because whilst being made of concrete, they are covered in shiny shiny glass. Lets shout it out. Dominic: they too are made of concrete. Is he proposing that Sirius should be chopped down a few stories and covered in glass to make it all ok? He definitely needs a Bex.

There is not a lot more I can say about his diatribe. It’s just plain wrong and completely ignorant of 20th Century architectural history. Maybe a staffer wrote it. How do people like this get into our parliaments?

All this says to me that Dominic is a true Barbarian. Mate, FFS dont take take the name of Corbu in vain. Calling , long dead architects names, only coarsens our political culture.  Yet, Dominc is not alone, another of the political class, another lawyer who has had no architectural training in either architectural history or visual arts training. I am not sure if he, or others like him, are then qualified to talk about aesthetic ugliness and I don’t see why, as architects, we have to put up with these ignorant barbarians who want to inflict their own personal tastes onto the public. The Korean guy does that as well. Remember when Joe Hockey said wind turbines were ugly?

You can read Dominic’s maiden speech here especially the bit where he says:

My second ideal is generosity”, but there is nothing generous in his comments about Sirius with their tinge of vindictiveness towards Corbusier (WTF?). Also, there is nothing like holding a grudge against the unions after a few thousand years since the BLF green bans. He is a really generous guy.

As he also stated in his maiden speech:

I strongly support the principles of free markets–we are the party of small business, of enterprise and of wealth creation. And I agree with Churchill when he calls the socialist model the equal distribution of poverty, not wealth. I oppose plans for more social engineering, more welfare handouts and the continual obsession with our rights at the expense of our responsibilities. These toxic ideas signal the death of the opportunity society.

Oh yeah, that’s right let’s not put out of touch ideology before people.  This guy really hates architects now, and maybe any educated so-called elite, for that matter. Just like Trump. Only problem is, with a Law and Commerce degrees he is an elite as well, not to mention his Tom Ford City of London Chambers style glasses, or the fact that he is the Treasurer of NSW.

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Calling out the Barbarians

When this happens architects need to call out this kind of talk out, draw a line in the sand, and assert our knowledge and expertise in the public domain. Thankfully,  it appears they have indeed done this. 

All I want for Christmas is for the political a class to craft some decent housing policies. Is it too much to ask? Is that too socialist and ideological?

At the MSD this semester there are about 9 different design studios exploring different aspects of housing all across the spectrum of  housing. Architects have always been involved in and actively exploring housing, and housing policies, for other Australians. You can come and visit at our annual exhibition and see for yourself.

Maybe the political class types need to come see what architects actually do before they mouth off about Corbusier. Until then there is no reason why architects shouldn’t name and shame our politicians as the cultural and policy barbarians that some of them seem intent on being.

Phillip Room, photo by Barton Taylor. You can also help the Save our Sirius Campaign here. I might  even go to the book launch which I would urge you to attend.