Archive 2011

President's Letter


As I write this, Sydney is gearing up for a visit by Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs (UK). If I've been asked once, I've been asked a few hundred times if I know him and if so, can I introduce him! I know that Kevin is known and loved by so many people, not just in Australia, for his fantastic contribution to architecture and making it more accessible to the public, and I'm as excited by his visit as you probably are.

I don't know Kevin but I will have the opportunity to meet him when he arrives in Sydney for Grand Designs Australia Live, to be held at Darling Harbour on 21, 22, 23 October. I recently learned that Kevin is an architectural historian from Cambridge University, as well as a designer and I've followed the UK series since its inception. But we mustn't forget that we have our own Grand Designs Australia host, award-winning Melbourne architect, Peter Maddison who is doing an equally sterling job of bringing architecture to our screens and thus, creating an awareness of the role that good architecture plays in our society.

Grand Designs Australia is just one of the many events being held during October in Sydney. The Sydney Architecture Festival also kicks off on 20th and the AAA has a number of events planned. The return of the Short Black Talks sees us visiting a building that everyone is talking about; No 1 Bligh Street - the next generation in high performing, sustainable buildings designed by Ingenhoven Architects and Architectus. And Unseen Dupain, a AAA exhibition curated by AAA member, Dr Zeny Edwards of one of Australia's foremost photographers, Max Dupain's wonderful black and white photographs, which come from a collection of over 1,000 photographs that Dupain gave to the Australian Institute of Architects in 1989, some of which will be exhibited for the very first time.

You can also join our Sydney City Bar Tour, Twilight Sydney City Architecture Walk and Sydney City Architecture Walk. To celebrate the festival we are offering special rates for all our tours of $20 and $10 for students. As in all our other walking tours, AAA members can book online anytime and join these Festival tours for free to enjoy the architecture atmosphere.

We have re-launched our newsletter into an e-news format, one which we believe reflects the way in which information is delivered directly to your inbox in today's fast-paced world. Each month we will bring you news, profiles, projects and events. We hope that you enjoy this information and that you take the opportunity to participate in the many wonderful opportunities that the AAA provides for you to appreciate architecture.

Kate St James, FDIA



Brutal, Beautiful or Brutally Beautiful?


High on a rocky outcrop in Northern Sydney is situated UTS' Kuring-gai Campus. It is probably one of Sydney's least known architectural wonders, a selfcontained
campus with a variety of undergraduate, postgraduate and short courses.

Commencing life as the new home of the William Balmain Teacher's College in 1971 it became Kuringgai College of Advanced Education in 1974 and following the Dawkin's reforms to higher education merged with UTS in 1990. The NSW Government Architect is responsible for its design, specifically David Turner and Peter Stronege of Allen Jack + Cottier.

The design concept was for the building to be at one with its landscape, the plan follows the rocky ridge and the primary circulation follows the worn routes of native animals. The building terraces down the site following the existing topography, and has numerous terraces and planters supporting native gums shrubs and grasses. When viewed from certain aspects the building is almost lost in the bush - as intended.  It's Sydney School Architecture on a grand scale. The landscape architect responsible was Bruce
Mackenzie, Arriving at the front entrance in Eton Road, Lindfield is something of a surprise - the building is completely hidden in the bush - you suddenly come across the
main doors. Inside the building consists of a long twisting light filled spine with common rooms, lecture halls, faculties etc as stops along this "internal street".  Students sit along the street in the same way that people enjoy park like spaces, or at cafes people watching.

The building itself is of off-form concrete with a distinct wood grain. A white waffle slab ceiling, bright pink handrails, mid-brown quarry tiles and green carpet complete the ensemble. It is brutal but very sculptural, perhaps reminiscent of a castle - parts of the building are quite foreboding and other parts are quite fun - there are many ramps, bridges, outdoor courtyards, modern artwork and extremely heavy concrete window shades, of varying designs. It's a bunker, a castle and a sculpture rolled into one, yet
filled with light.

If you haven't visited, take the short detour off Pacific Highway at Lindfield via Grosvenor Road, or come up from Lady Game Drive in the Lane Cove River Park. Park you car and explore - it's well worth the trip - the building was awarded the Sulman Award for Architecture in 1978.

City Living on the Park

Park Lane is named for its proximity to Central Park's expansive 6,400sqm new public park - a wide expanse of lawn and shade trees, water features and public artwork.

Park Lane by Frasers Property Australia, comprises two buildings designed by Johnson Pilton Walker Architects, separated by an attractive mews-style laneway, called Park Lane.

The facades of Park Lane will be unique and theatrical, featuring irregular panels of textured glass, concealing flexible loggias within. A diverse range of apartment styles will be offered, including one bedroom suites and dual key apartments.

Park Lane will allow residents to experience the ultimate in park-side living - the only other CBD park-frontage option.

Based in Sydney, award-winning architectural practice Johnson Pilton Walker is behind the refurbishment of Sydney Opera House with Jørn Utzon, the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, the New Asian Wing at the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Sydney.

The multi-disciplinary practice is also designing Park Lane's apartment interiors and landscaping, with a high standard finish and four colour palettes for apartment interiors named after each season: Spring, Summer, Winter and Autumn.

Park Lane will enjoy all the same amenities and facilities of Central Park's successful first stage, One Central Park - notably an extensive fitness centre and swimming pool. It also features facilities designed to extend the park into the fabric of the buildings: two outdoor spas on an expansive sundeck carved out of the park-front building, rooftop gardens and indoor/outdoor lobby lounges overlooking the park..

Central Park offers world-class architecture, vertical gardens, a 6,400sqm public park and abundant recreational, retail, dining and entertainment options for residents, workers and visitors.

Park Lane will offer 385 apartments and terraces, with completion expected in 2013.

Two new display apartments at Park Lane are now open to the public daily at the Central Park Display Pavilion, 80 Broadway Chippendale, from 10am - 6pm. Visit Park Lane online at or call 1300 857 057.

What have our volunteer tour leaders been up to?


Tour leaders got together on Wednesday evening 25 July to visit the inspiring 'Workshops 1' studio of Dunn + Hillam architects at Botany and then dine with Koichi Takada at his wonderful Sushi Train "Cave" restaurant in Maroubra. Terence Yong, volunteer tour leader of the AAA's Surry Hills Walking Tour organised the event.

We were offered an introduction to the Dunn + Hillam practice, including a tour of their studio and the opportunity to mingle over some wine. The practice's
aim is to provide sustainable architecture, lead by design principal Ashley Dunn and Lee Hillam. The studio space is quite wonderful in its simplicity - the use of plywood
sheeting for the interior walls, ceiling and furniture give a warmth. The 2nd floor provides additional space and an abundance of northerly light through polycarbonate wall
material. Manually lifted doors allow the studio space to flow to the garden outside.

The Sushi Train in Maroubra provided a great contrast to the simplicity of the studio, yet it used the same material - plywood. Pywood ribbing provides a great curiosity on Anzac Parade - and it appears to be well patronised. The plywood ribbing extends from the base of the side walls across the ceiling space creating a 'cave' effect. Lighting a various points in the 'ribbing' provides for further curiosity. Koichi Takada talked through his brief and some of his other projects, including the Ocean Room restaurant at Circular Quay West, in the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

Tour leaders lingered over sushi and a few drops for the rest of the night.

Thanks to Terrence for organising and of course to Dunn + Hillam and Koichi Takada!

The Real Story Behind Sim City’s Arcologies


Despite the fact they only appeared in one game (Sim City 2000), arcologies remain an iconic symbol of the Sim City series. But just what the hell are they?

While appearing in the game as projects from the future, arcologies are very much real, the name deriving from "architecture" and "ecology".

An arcology is, in simple terms, a superstructure, a single entity that exists to not only house a large number of people in "hyperdense" living conditions, but enable them to be almost entirely self-sufficient at the same time.

While the idea of an arcology has existed for some time, the concept did not become popular until Paolo Soleri did two things: devote his life's work to actually building one, and coming up with the name "arcology".

Born in Italy in 1919, Soleri later moved to the United States in 1956, where he established the Cosanti Foundation, whose primary goal is the continued construction of Arcosanti, an actual arcology located just outside Phoenix.

First begun in 1970, work continues on the site to this day, with the eventual goal being the housing of 5000 people (though it presently is home only to around 100 students and volunteers) in a space of only 25 acres.

Arcosanti, true to the self-sufficient goal of arcologies, uses natural building materials for both heating and cooling, and in addition to housing contains facilities for casting bronze and ceramics.

Sadly, while work continues slowly on the project, the last building to be completed was finished off in 1989.

More ambitious projects could be on the way soon, though. In both China (Dongtan) and the United Arab Emirates (Masdar City), there are plans to build large self-contained cities based on the principles of arcology, with hard limits on settlement size and an emphasis on renewable waste and energy.

Both of those are still traditional cities, however, in that they are sprawling networks of buildings laid across large expanses of land. Russia's Crystal Island (pictured up top), on the other hand, is more in line with what a Sim City 2000 player would expect when they hear the word "arcology".

Designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster, Crystal Island is a massive construction project planned to occupy a 27 million square-foot area of the Russian capital Moscow. Reaching nearly 1500 feet into the air, when (or if) completed it would easily be the single largest structure on the planet.

In almost every way, it's identical to the hulking giants of Will Wright's classic PC strategy game. Designed to house tens of thousands of people, its beautiful and intricate outer facade is designed for the extremes of Russian weather, able to "breathe" through its porous surface, keeping people warm in winter and cool in summer.

In keeping with the self-sufficient brief of arcologies, Crystal Island was designed with residential, office and public spaces, and would be powered through a combination of wind turbines and a network of solar panels arrayed across its surface.

In other words, it would be a city within a city.

All of which is very impressive, but as of 2011, Crystal Island remains stuck on the drawing board. While the Russian government was initially keen on building the structure, and architectural firm Foster and Partners serious about designing it, the continued global financial downturn experienced since 2008 has put construction plans on hold.
So there you go! The next time you feel like reticulating some splines and playing Sim City 2000, know that those wacky robot cities of the future aren't as fantastical as you may have thought. (Luke Plunkett)
Reprinted with thanks to Luke Plunkett's Total Recall - a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

Ed's note: In 2012 I am planning an architecture tour to the West Coast of America including a visit to Arcosanti. Email me if you are interested in more information.