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Howie
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#article : A Billion-Dollar View of our City

#1 Post by Howie » Fri Mar 31, 2006 7:43 am

A Billion-Dollar View of our City
By LOUISE TRECCASI
31mar06
THE $1 billion building boom transforming the city skyline and lifting standards in building and design has led to a record number of entries in this year's Royal Australian Institute of Architects SA Awards.

The $60 million new home of Advertiser Newspapers and the Commonwealth Law Courts - once dubbed Adelaide's ugliest building - are among the entries.

Other projects under consideration are Air Apartments at Eastwood, and the $260 million new Adelaide Airport terminal.

Industry experts say social and environmental trends have played an important role in design projects in the past few years.

Awards director Ken Milne said the 70 entries this year were a record for SA.

"We have seen improvement in the quality of architectural design year after year and the bar keeps raising to another level," he said.

The awards are divided into the categories of commercial, new buildings, residential, interior, urban design, heritage, sustainable, collaborative and Archicentre (renovation).

Advertiser Newspapers moved into its new home - Keith Murdoch House - at 31 Waymouth St last October.

The glass structure was designed by EGO Fender Katsalidis. The energy-efficient building is in the commercial category and features a 30m-high atrium, a roof top function centre, a cafe and gymnasium.

The $96 million Roma Mitchell Commonwealth Law Courts building has divided public opinion over its design. The external coloured panels, which have attracted the most criticism, were designed to reflect the Adelaide Hills and plains.

The courts building was designed by Adelaide-based Hassell and features murals, water features and illuminated art work.

The former ETSA building on Greenhill Rd, Eastwood, has been transformed into the 12-storey Air Apartments complex. Designed by Tectvs it features 140 apartments, with views over the city, Victoria Park racecourse, the parklands and the Hills. There are three swimming pools, a tennis court, barbecue area, private cinema, gymnasium, spa, sauna and an in-house restaurant.

The Adelaide Airport new terminal, also designed by Hassell, integrates domestic, regional and international operations into a single multi-user terminal.

Features include 16 gate lounges, aerobridges and retail space. Judging panels will visit each site and interview the architects before the awards are announced on Friday, June 30.

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#2 Post by Will » Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:44 pm

I agree with the article, architectural standards have been very impressive lately. And with the construction boom we are currently experiencing I am sure this trend will continue.

I cannot wait to see whether the Commonwealth Law Courts gets a prize.

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Car Showrooms in the City??

#3 Post by cruel_world00 » Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:41 pm

Not sure if this has previously been brought up, but what the hell is the point of having car showrooms in the CBD? There are a few of these in prime locations that could easily be developed into retail/commercial space. Surely places like Main North Road and South Road are better options for these kinds of places because I don't really know anyone who would consider browsing for a car in the middle of the city. There may be an abundance of car yards in the places I mentioned but generally, when looking for a car, people want it to be easy.

I just don't understand why the place next to the old exchange, pulteney street and west terrace are under utilised with car show rooms.

/end rant

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Re: Car Showrooms in the City??

#4 Post by bmw boy » Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:47 pm

CMI used toyota etc yes i kinda agree...

but BMW is a different matter and deserves its spot, with such a faboulous showroom (and cars) lol 8)

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Re: Car Showrooms in the City??

#5 Post by Howie » Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:53 pm

hehe.. no bias there hey beemer boy?

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Re: Car Showrooms in the City??

#6 Post by Norman » Mon Aug 13, 2007 1:08 am

Yes, I do agree. The space on West Terrace (South) are very much underused and could be developed into something more suitable and nicer looking than car yards. Some of the older residentail buildings near the market could also use a good replacement... some of them look shocking.

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Re: Car Showrooms in the City??

#7 Post by Ho Really » Mon Aug 13, 2007 12:01 pm

Car showrooms, get rid of them. There's better things to build in the city, even on West Terrace.

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Re: Car Showrooms in the City??

#8 Post by Cruise » Mon Aug 13, 2007 12:09 pm

Ho Really wrote:Car showrooms, get rid of them. There's better things to build in the city, even on West Terrace.

Cheers
couldnt agree more they should all move onto port and main north road so there just on the city fringe but not in it.

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Re: Car Showrooms in the City??

#9 Post by bmw boy » Mon Aug 13, 2007 1:37 pm

Howie wrote:hehe.. no bias there hey beemer boy?
lol... well it is easily the best showroom in the CBD .... does any1 have a problem with that one itself?

cant imagine it at port rd welland lol....

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Re: Car Showrooms in the City??

#10 Post by Ho Really » Mon Aug 13, 2007 2:28 pm

bmw boy wrote:lol... well it is easily the best showroom in the CBD .... does any1 have a problem with that one itself?

cant imagine it at port rd welland lol....
Nothing wrong with the showroom, it looks great, but why have it (them) in the city square mile?

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Re: Car Showrooms in the City??

#11 Post by bmw boy » Mon Aug 13, 2007 2:43 pm

well basically coz they can afford it ... and they get good traffic passing by.

I personally dont have a problem with having a car showroom on West Tce if it looks good. The Majority of West Tce, doesnt have anything better to offer at this stage.

The same arguement could be applied to many showrooms throughout the city.

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Architecture in Australia: Food for Thought

#12 Post by AG » Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:09 pm

Here's a bit of an interesting read that provokes some thoughts about how we go about designing and planning buildings and public spaces in Australia. This one comes from The Australian (23/7/07).
How we stack up
Great public buildings define a society. So why - with a few notable exceptions - are there so few in Australia?
Story by Robert Bevan.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| June 23, 2007
A civilisation can be measured by its ruins. It's how we think of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, or Cambodia's Khmers. In anticipation of this, writer H.G. Wells said admiringly of New York: "What a ruin it would make!" Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, was instructed to build with monumental ruins thousands of years hence in mind.

Imagine, then, an abandoned Australia, reclaimed by nature a thousand years from now. What would be left behind to indicate past glories? In our once major cities, the broken shell of an opera house on a wooded promontory, lengths of sandstone wall or stone cenotaphs amid the gums, and, stretching out in vast drifts, the detritus of the vanished civilisation: granulated brick, fibro dust and a mosaic of shattered glass.

Australia does not have a legacy of epic public or commercial buildings, of mighty edifices – certainly little from the postwar period. A few great galleries, such as the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, but few great libraries, pleasure domes devoted to film or music, or cathedral-like railway stations. There are few office towers with ambitions beyond immediate commercial imperatives. Set-piece public spaces, the urban square or piazza, are rare; our gathering place is the beach. Australia seems reluctant to direct its resources to creating a civic environment to match the beauty of its natural assets.

At a recent national architecture conference in Melbourne, Mark Dytham, an architect working among Tokyo’s futuristic cityscapes, talked of cities or nations having a “tipping point”: a threshold at which there is sufficient awareness of architecture and design so that its government and citizens are interested in ideas and debates about architecture. It’s the point where “architecture has an effect on culture at large”, he explained. Dytham’s opinion was that Australia was still two decades from this point.

ARCHITECTURE IS A big, global business. International stars such as Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind create signature public and commercial buildings all over the world, and hundreds of US, European and Japanese architecture practices work from far-flung office outposts chasing the largesse of global capital.

Australia has been curiously immune to this trend. The large Melbourne architecture practice Denton Corker Marshall was in Britain last month to open its $384 million Manchester court complex, and has been working on a visitors’ centre for Stonehenge, but otherwise, outside the construction vortex of China, Australian architects are relatively absent from the international scene.

Likewise, few overseas architects have built in Australia since Utzon. Among the exceptions are Italian Renzo Piano’s Aurora Place tower and Sir Norman Foster’s Deutsche Bank Place in Sydney, and Grimshaw Architects’ undulating canopy for Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.

John Denton of Denton Corker Marshall says only five to 10 per cent of Australian architects are interested in the international scene. “Eighty per cent of all architecture practices (here) are of one to five people working in the suburbs,” he says. “They don’t have an international perspective.” On the rarity of foreign architects here, he jokes: “Each country tries to shirtfront visitors as best they can to stop them getting work.”

For many overseas practices, though, building in Australia is just not worthwhile. Fees are low and Australia directs significantly less of its GDP towards architecture than comparable countries, so the generous building budgets that attract the “starchitects” are rare.

The resulting parochialism would not matter if what was being built here was of a comparable standard. It might even be an advantage to think local rather than global on our increasingly homogenised planet. But international perceptions of a country are informed, in part, by how that country represents itself. The consequences go way beyond design and architecture. You don’t have to buy in wholesale to Richard Florida’s “creative class” theory (which says, essentially, that modern businesses are attracted to creative places) to understand the importance of whether Australia is seen as a producer rather than just a consumer of ideas.

DESPITE ITS MANY badlyplanned suburbs and a lack of adventurous public buildings, Australia does very well in some aspects of its architecture – especially houses.

“If you went back 30 years, we were not very significant on the world stage,” says Alec Tzannes, national president of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Now Australia’s architectural image is very different. “People see us in a more complex, sophisticated way,” he says, “not just as an idealised landscape with a fine home on it.”

Recognition has come in the way of prizes: Engelen Moore’s Altair apartments in Sydney won the world’s best multi-family housing scheme in 2001 and Glenn Murcutt received the Pritzker Prize – architecture’s global gong – in 2002. In Melbourne, RMIT’s architecture school has an international reputation.

Tzannes says that in many ways, Australia is looked on as a leader “or exemplary”. That’s a big claim, but certainly the country’s architect-designed private houses are its greatest contribution to contemporary world architecture. Architects such as Durbach Block, John Wardle, Kirsten Thompson, Stutchbury & Pape and countless others are producing homes that are a staple of style magazines worldwide. Australia also has, for the moment, the world’s two tallest residential towers: Melbourne’s Eureka Tower and Q1 on the Gold Coast.

The country’s excellence in domestic architecture (leaving aside tract homes for the moment) is due to many factors: the confluence of 20th century influences from Europe, North America and Asia; the sublime setting in which to build; and, perhaps crucially, a climate that lends itself to aesthetic drivers such as open-plan living and the blurring of the indoor-outdoor threshold.

Problems arise, however, when you move beyond the private to the public realm – to civic and commercial buildings, to the planning and urban design of the nation’s towns and cities. Australia’s architects aren’t happy.

Timothy Hill is a partner in Donovan Hill, a Brisbane-based practice that has built a reputation for the quality of its houses and has recently completed the remodelling of Queensland’s State Library. He complains that the drive by the construction industry to reduce risk and fix costs means that architects are marginalised and innovation doesn’t happen. He says “the age of the architect hero is dead”, crowded out of the construction process by project management consultants, sclerotic, under-resourced planning departments and pile-’em-high, sell-’em-cheap developers.

Referring to ways of procuring buildings such as “design and construct” and “public-private partnership” arrangements – where the architect draws up a concept that is then carried out by others, and all too often diluted along the way – Hill suggests: “I don’t think the majority of Australians know that (in these projects) the architect is directed by the builder and not the client; and because no one is actually the client, there is no one to love the outcome.” The result? Unsustainable McMansions, identikit shopping malls and endless, bland apartment blocks.

“Comparatively, Australians care very little about buildings – the GDP spend is very low,” says Hill. “There’s a lot of bravado about it but Australia’s building skills aren’t high.” Things are cobbled together, he says. “‘I’ll just put up something out the back, mate’ – it’s just the Australian way.”

Hill might be a polemicist, but he’s not alone. Says Glenn Murcutt: “The quality of the built environment is a true measure of the value-system of the period. I don’t think we are that skilled in our public places any longer. If we are dissatisfied, we’ve got to ask ourselves why.” Great architecture happens, Murcutt argues, because of great clients who want more than buildings as “merchandise”. Some developers produce quality work, he says, singling out Lend Lease for praise, “but a hell of a lot of merchandise is constructed; nobody is prepared to pay the fees an architect needs to do it properly; to demand quality.”

Tzannes points to an “immaturity” in Australia in failing to recognise the design dividend – the returns that good architecture can give back to a society financially, culturally and to its quality of life.

But Peter Verwer, CEO of the peak developer body, the Property Council of Australia, has had a gutful of the bleating of architects. He says, “We are living in a world where the design of objects is one of the key features of the brand – from iPods to cars. It is the same for buildings. It is up to designers to start making that case. Good architects don’t complain about being left out of the process because they are able to persuade the client that there is an investment dividend in good design that has been proved time and time again.”

It’s not always as easy as that, though. Tristram Carfrae, in the Sydney office of the world’s leading structural engineers, Arup (the company that engineered the Sydney Opera House), once said that an Australian developer’s typical response to an idea is: “Have we done it before? How much will it cost? Can we build it cheaper?” He calls it “lean and mean Australian pragmatism”.

Renzo Piano’s Aurora Place may command some of the highest commercial rents in the southern hemisphere, but there are still those who question its cost.

Carfrae is more optimistic these days, despite feeling that Australian construction is still over-managed. “The design and construct (companies) and the private project managers are essentially conservative and risk averse and have a divide-and-conquer mentality,” he says.
“The architecture-savvy private project manager doesn’t really exist,” Carfrae says. “My perception is that, worldwide, more value is being placed on design and a bit of that is rubbing off on Australia. The process is acting against us but despite (this) the players are lifting the game.”

Carfrae had just come back from presenting a scheme to the big developer Mirvac when he spoke to The Weekend Australian Magazine. “It is a complex, sophisticated design. They didn’t say, ‘This isn’t suitable for Australia’ – and they would have done a few years ago.” He mentions a similar conversation with “lean and mean” Multiplex.

Peter Cotton, architect and group manager at Mirvac (which, as well as having 300 of its own architects, increasingly works with big-name designers), agrees, particularly when it comes to mass housing. He says there are definite signs of improvement, “but it had a long way to come from. Housing on a mass-scale is still very mediocre. TV programs and magazines mean that more and more people are becoming design-aware, but cost-driven design is an issue when the design is dumbed-down and the architect has not got control over the end project.”

Certainly, the complex forms, the digital blobs, the folded and fractured façades that increasingly characterise avant-garde public buildings overseas are rare here. Australian architects PTW (with the help of Carfrae’s team) may have designed the extraordinary bubble-wrapped National Swimming Centre for the Beijing Olympics, but such an adventurous, publicly funded project would be unthinkable in their own country. Federation Square in Melbourne is an exception, but its architects are designing projects for China and Dubai (where adventurous architecture is encouraged) rather than on home soil.

All parties agree that government at state and federal level must do more to promote good architecture. This begins with the architecture that government itself purchases. Alec Tzannes says government is “the worst client in Australia, with the greatest responsibility”. He describes their architectural procurement methods as “naïve” and “diabolical” and sees “the demise of appropriate stewardship of public buildings. Government has to lift its game and reinvest in a public domain that’s designed to last,” he says.

Says Timothy Hill: “We’ve had plenty of opportunities to make marvellous buildings but there is no interest at federal or state level. Architecture has never been part of the political program.”

Peter Cotton says he “can’t think of anything positive to say” about federal governments’ record in this area, while John Denton complains that “the federal Government is appalling, by and large. It is not structured to value what is produced. It doesn’t take design seriously.”

Mark Dytham’s opinion that architecture in this country will have to wait 20 years for a tipping point is not one that Australia’s architecture community would generally endorse. Alec Tzannes thinks that threshold has been reached – in parts of Australia at least – but points out that in countries such as Denmark, Finland and Italy, design and architecture are a “fundamental part of the economic equation and a central cultural export”.

Hill, who is less sanguine about Australia’s achievements, also holds up the Danes as an example. “Denmark has a confident, well-educated society regarding anything to do with design,” he says. “If you took all Australia’s local councils, real estate agents, politicians and bankers, only about seven of them would know about the built environment; in Denmark, thousands would know.” Our idea of architecture, he maintains, “is associated with builders and real estate agents. In other democracies it is associated with culture – poets and, a word never used in Australia, the intelligentsia.”

The Australia Council’s remit does not include architecture but executive director Karilyn Brown acknowledges “there has been a significant concern about the international profile of Australian architecture”.

Architecture’s global shopfront is the Venice Architecture Biennale. It is here that developed nations show off their excellence in national pavilions. But Australia has only had an official presence on three occasions since the event began in 1980. After prolonged lobbying, the Australia Council gave support in kind for an exhibition in 2006 and is committed to supporting the next two Biennales. Without a remit from government, however, its funding for architecture can only be limited.

Brown thinks architecture should come under the council’s umbrella: “It is part of Australian art and culture and who we are as a nation. This will only be emphasised with global issues like climate change.”

At least one Australian city – Melbourne – has made a conscious effort to encourage contemporary architecture and design. Timothy Hill says the city has achieved its good looks thanks to constant, gradual “custodianship”.

Among those custodians is Rob Adams, the city’s design director. He says Melbourne’s architectural appeal is the result of two decades of careful interventions in the physical grain of the city. Poor planning and architectural decisions in the ’60s and ’70s eroded the city but interventions such as revitalising laneways and investing in big cultural set-pieces have reversed the trend.

In the early ’80s there was an outpouring of community emotion, recalls Adams. “This led to politicians rising on a platform of ‘We’ve got to save Melbourne’.” Architectural policies demanding that new buildings sat firmly on street frontages and had “active” ground floors – shops and cafés rather than blank walls – were part of it. Architectural icons weren’t a priority. Buildings such as Federation Square or Southern Cross Station, he maintains, are not icons but “highlights within the overall fabric. Not like the Bilbao Guggenheim (museum) saying, ‘Look at me!’” Adams says he’s had to fight off lots of “ridiculous” icon suggestions.

“There is not one golden bullet,” he says. “People understand it is more complex than that. If you design a good street, you design a good city.”

Fellow Melburnian John Denton (who is also Victoria’s Government Architect) says: “Melbourne sees itself as a city that values design. You’ve got to excite, you’ve got to offend. You need that useful irritant, that ratbag element in the process.” He cites Howard Raggatt of architecture firm Ashton Raggatt McDougall as a “leading ratbag”. That firm, with projects such as the Melbourne Recital Centre (due to open in 2009) with its honeycomb façade “goes out of its way to stimulate people and make them think about the way they live”, according to Denton.

He argues there is a more edgy scene in Melbourne than the other capitals: the city “feeds on itself and keeps challenging the rest of Australia”. Sydney seems still in the thrall of the fast-built buck and, like Brisbane, is hamstrung by conflict between city and state. Adelaide is dozing.

Perth’s boom has yet to produce gold-rush-scale architectural ambitions, but Geoffrey London, the Western Australian Government Architect, says it is only a matter of time. “There is a growing recognition in Perth of the need to invest (in) architectural quality with, for example, design-based procedures used for selecting architects on major government projects,” he says. “The quality has lifted. Unfortunately the built evidence is still some time away.”

Rob Adams believes Melbourne has reached Dytham’s crucial tipping point so that “architecture is very much part of the debate”. But he is anxious about the fragility of the city’s achievements. “There is always the threat that you start to take it for granted. The memory of where it all started becomes dim. It has been a 20-year battle – nothing just happens; you’ve got to keep supporting it and plan for it.”

The rest of Australia needs to follow Melbourne’s example if our cities are going to stand up to international competition from places as diverse as Milwaukee, Manchester or Valencia – places that are reinventing themselves using forward-looking architecture as evidence of forward thinking.

Australia needs to decide if it is willing to invest in quality architecture that will last, or make do with the quick and cheap for short-term convenience. A sustainable approach to architecture is to build with eternity rather than disposability in mind. In millennia to come, will Australia’s cities, in ruins or not, be marvelled over, or will it be left to the bleached bones of splendid cliff-top villas to ignite the imagination of future civilisations?

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Re: Architecture in Australia: Food for Thought

#13 Post by Shuz » Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:42 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with every single word of that article. It has hit the nail precisely on the head, and I think every bloody Aussie should just about read this and actually say for themselves, architecture is a lot more than just "putting something out the back, and she'll be right mate". One really needs to look to Europe to understand how architecture has formed a part of theier cultural fabric, and Melbourne is the only city that has attempted to do so, but is yet to determine its sucess or failure. Adelaide is in a prime position now, particularly with our 2030 submission to reverse the trend reflected nationwide, and significantly lift its game. Our beginnings are culturally rich, so it should be justified that our continuance should be as culturally rich, if not better, for the sake of leaving a legacy to our ending, whenever that may be.

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Re: Architecture in Australia: Food for Thought

#14 Post by Omicron » Mon Mar 31, 2008 1:27 am

A good article.

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Re: Architecture in Australia: Food for Thought

#15 Post by Wayno » Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:46 am

There's 2 new weekly TV shows (The Perfect Home - 8:30pm ABC1, Stone Upon Stone - 9:15pm ABC1). Both are based in Europe and look into the subject of what buildings mean to humans and humanity.

* The Perfect Home: Alain de Botton tackles architecture, asking 'what makes the perfect home'?
The basic premise in last nights show was this ==> people choose architecture based on what's missing in their lives. It went into detail about why housing estates using architectural principles from past ages - the reason presumably being to link our modern rush-rush world with bygone simpler times. Next week is focused on colour in architecture, and the pyschological impact is has on people - even to the point of changing beliefs!

* Stone Upon Stone: A series looking at important medieval buildings in Europe.
Examined some pretty funky raw concrete buildings around london that have a minority cult following, but are generally disliked by the wider public

You can probably catch a repeat on ABC2 if you missed them last night.
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