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AAA Residential Bus Tour To Take Place in August

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Don't miss out on our Winter residential tour which is an all day event where you will be visiting some of the most interesting new and renovated contemporary architecture in the inner west and northern suburbs of Sydney.

Inside the houses you will hear about the design process from the architects and see firsthand the value of good design.

Projects by the following architects: David Boyle Architects; Sam Crawford Architects;Carter Williamson Architects and Mark Szczerbicki Design Studio.

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The day includes a delicious sit down lunch, itinerary, commentary by architects at the houses and coach travel. There will also be the opportunity to talk to some of the architects at the luncheon.


Location: Meet Loftus Street, beside Customs House, Circular Quay NSW 2000
Date: Saturday 11 August 2018
Time: 9.30am - 5.30pm
Tickets: $205 (public) / $190 (AAA Members)

Hurry tickets will sell out fast, so book now!

Click here to secure your place on the tour.

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The Tapestry Of An Inner City Social and Built Environment

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AAA Volunteer - Deborah Singerman shares her recent experience of the AAA's newest inner city tour - the Ultimo Walk.


The AAA’s first-ever Ultimo Walk started on a blustery June morning outside the Powerhouse Museum. It was also tour leader Michael McMullan’s first AAA venture. Probably sensibly, he did not dwell on the NSW State Government’s wish to relocate the museum west to Parramatta and rejig the existing site into a commercial, residential and creative mix.

After all, this part of town is used to mutability, its gritty history covering industry, education, cultural and community buildings. McMullen’s snapshot of the inner-city took in a formerly grand residence, a still popular technical college, an Olympian’s swimming pool, a modernist building, an urban design and landscaped transformation, and an educational institution that has spawned many nicknames and a few benefactor controversies of its own.

“History has been a hobby of mine since I was five would you believe. Not just dates or events but the whole social history context.”

This approach fed into his commentary as we walked briskly (gee, it was cold) through this varied part of town.

Ultimo House was built by convict labour in 1804 for surgeon John Harris on his estate at Ultimo and extended in 1814 by the convict architect Francis Greenway. It was Greenway's first colonial commission. In its now nondescript inner-city location it is hard to imagine it as a country seat with a park grazed by deer. Yet, as one of Sydney's grand residences, Ultimo House, had a renowned history with Harris leasing it out to prominent tenants. At the time of its demolition, in 1932, it was said to be the oldest standing house in Sydney.

On what was the largest site for technical education in NSW, in 1891 Sydney technical college, museum and two high schools, one for boys, the other for girls, were constructed. The intricacy of the façade detailing of Australian flora and fauna particularly impressed us.

The roof’s undulating grandeur marks the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre, Harry Seidler’s last public building, the clean, steel and glass structure such a contrast to area’s older brickwork. By the by, McMullan also pointed out the nearby Jessie Street (named after women’s rights advocate, 1889-1970) National Women’s Library and further along, the Durbach Block Jaggers-designed Le Corbusier Building, which shows his five principles of windows. It houses University of Technology Sydney Science and the Graduate School of Health.

Behind Central station we walked the Goods Line, the disused rail corridor that Aspect Studios in collaboration with design partners CHROFI transformed into a vibrant civic corridor for events, recreation and relaxing in an unexpectedly open space.

We ended up at the UTS business school, better known as the “paper bag” building or Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, within the complex. After admiring the hours and hours of brickwork involved and the 14 different types of brick used, we went inside and wound down the mirrored “crumpled” staircase of this Frank Gehry showpiece.

McMullan is a former forester, IT manager, contract manager of business change projects, and holder of an economics degree, which included Australian history. “My interests are the natural environment, the built environment, and the forces that drive change and progress. I have a sense of history, so I can stand in an environment and ‘feel’ the flow of what led to where we are.”

He is also long-time secretary of the AAA.


Experience the Ultimo Walk this month. 

Meeting Point: Powerhouse Museum Forecourt, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo NSW 2007
Date: 10.00am - 12.00pm
Time: Saturday 21 July 2018
Tickets: $30 (public) / $25 (Seniors & Students) / AAA Members Free
Please note - concession ticket holders should present their ID on the tour day.

Click here to secure your place on the tour. Numbers are limited so book your ticket now!


Deborah is a professional writer and editor. She offers services to small business, industry and professional associations and creatives looking for crisp, credible copy showcasing business, products and services in a professional light.

If you are looking for assistance delivering content for print and digital media you can contact Debra through her website:

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  • Article: Deborah Singerman
  • Image 1: Tour leader Michael McMullan talks about the Powerhouse Museum (Photographer: Annette Dearing)
  • Image 2: Dr Chau Chak Wing Building - UTS Business School, designed by Frank Gehry. (Photographer: Vanessa Couzens)

Get Your Copy Of Grand Designs Australia

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Grand Designs Australia showcases exciting houses from the Australian and UK TV shows along with projects by Australian homeowners, architects, builders, renovators, owner-builders and designers.

Hosted by Peter Maddison, Grand Designs Australia TV Series tells the stories of new home and the people who are building them. The popular series charts the process of elaborate design projects undertaken by self builders.

Grand Designs Australia is an information-packed magazine reaching consumers who are looking for a publication to provide them with advice and information when researching their home project. 

The perfect inspiration for home builders, renovators and decorators, subscribe to the bi-montly magazine by clicking here.

June's At Home With The Architect Visits Castlecrag

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This month 'At Home With The Architect' invites you to explore a residence in the garden suburb Castlecrag, designed by AAA Vice President and architect - Ben Gerstel.

Located in the Griffin Conservation Area of Castlecrag, the modest 1940's brick and tile residence was in need of an update. The clients wanted additional living space to accommodate their family and a garage.

An existing badly built extension at the rear of their house was demolished and replaced by a new light weight timber framed, fibre cement clad extension, that kept the original footprint of the home. A dramatic colour scheme selected by the clients highlights the demarcation between the original home and it's new spaces.

Ben Gerstel describes this type of alteration and addition as 'Jekyll and Hyde' - in that the new spaces are concealed from the street face and create a striking experience when entering the interior.


Established in 1997, Ben Gerstel Architecture is a small design studio located in Castlecrag, that specialises in residential design.

Before beginning his own practice, Ben worked for 15 years in a variety of small, medium and large architectural practices. 

Ben's ethos is to create residential spaces that integrate sustainable design principles, provide clients with planning solutions to suit their lifestyle and maintain a sensitivity to realistic budgets.


Location: Castlecrag, NSW
Please note that the address and meeting point will only be forwarded to ticket holders in the days immediately before the tour.
Time: 11.00am - 12.00pm
Date: Sunday 24 June 2018
Tickets: $35 (Early Bird) / $45 (Public) / $30 (AAA Members)

Don't miss your opportunity to experience this private residence, numbers are limited.

Book your place on the tour, click here.

  • Article: Vanessa Couzens
  • Image: Castlecrag Residence designed by Ben Gerstel Architecture (image courtesy of Ben Gerstel)



The Breathtaking Power of Vernacular Cultural Architecture

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Sometimes it works. A place you have wanted to see for years does live up to your expectation.

Ever since the late 1990s when I edited Timber in Context – a guide to sustainable use by Anne-Marie Willis and Tony Fry, then of the EcoDesign Foundation, one image has transfixed me: three imposing yet remarkably delicate-for-their-height curved timber structures. It is as if they are emerging from the undergrowth and in John Gollings’ photograph, the burnished gold adding to what already was a contemporary, pharaonic presence. 

This May I finally visited Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia, to see the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre. It was a public holiday. It was raining. There was no sign of a bus, but my partner and I had to get there. It was today or never. Luckily, we did not have to do anything intrepid, just catch a taxi from the tourist office. We caught the same taxi back as well, and judging by the stream of calls the driver got while on the road, he was one of the very few working that day. 

The centre is on a narrow peninsular between two bays, and we zig zagged at startling speed along the eight kilometres of lushly vegetated coastal road. Jean-Marie Tjibaou was an independence fighter. He was assassinated in 1989, but not before proclaiming his vision of establishing a cultural centre to celebrate Kanak languages and artistry.

The centre is both enveloped by its surroundings while also overseeing them. It opened in June 1998 and just as architect Renzo Piano’s Centre Pompidou was a modern miracle in Paris, this series of 10 massive but slender pavilions pinpoints how architecture can embrace and yet transform a place. 

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The timber (combined with steel in a composite structure) is Iroko, a hardwood tree from Ghana. Timber in Context explained it was chosen to withstand Pacific earthquake and cyclone belts, was termite resistant and priced competitively. 

The pavilions are based on traditional Kanak domestic structures and Kanak Grand Hut design. They are glimpsed at every angle, often soaring above the treetops. What is known as the Kanak path is a stepped walk leading further in to the core, and the discovery of the pavilions as they spread out across the terrain in the distance interspersed with traditional huts with variegated roofs conical to flatter, wooden statues and patterned welcome ribbons. 

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A full sweep of the pavilions as far as the eye can see is gained from the lush ridge (breezes help cool the air), before a return to the pathway, winding along mangrove areas and then quiet gardens with native essences and plants, and further on to ponds with black goldfish, vibrant bougainvillea and a trickling waterfall.

Inside, there is an art centre, a museum, performance, event and conference spaces and a multi-media library, closed on the Sunday we were there but in the informal meeting area, three tables of students were poring over their books – and sandwiches. It is all managed by the Kanak Culture Development Agency, with a plethora of tribal art and colonial style photographs from English photographer Allan Hughan (1834-1883), who had his own business in Nouméa, and was government photographer. 

Yes, the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre is a centre that inspires at all levels.

  • Article: Deborah Singerman -
  • Images: The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre (Photographer: Deborah Singerman)