Tag Archives: australia

Red Stair Amphitheatre

Red Stair Amphitheatre in Melbourne, Australia by Marcus O'Reilly Architects.

Rising from Queensbridge Square, a public space along the Southbank Promenade of the Yarra River in Melbourne, is a red stair that serves as a beacon, an amphitheater, and a place to sun, among many other purposes. Designed by Marcus O'Reilly Architects, the striking mass recalls numerous constructions, both ancient and contemporary: ziggurats with their steps and battered walls come to mind, as does the TKTS booth in Times Square in Manhattan. Whatever the associations, the color and form clearly indicate that the structure is meant to stand out in its location.

Strongly oriented to the northern sun (this is Australia, remember), one important purpose of the construction can actually be found on the south. There the caps Southbank Boulevard and frames an entrance to a below-grade parking garage. Therefore the red stair makes itself known to both pedestrians traversing the promenade and those driving within the Central Business District. The form transitions between these two sides by folding around towards the steps, as if to further embrace those sitting on the steps.

[The Red Stair] creates a sense of enclosure to the urban space effectively resulting in a modern Piazza. The iconic form and bold use of color helps signalize a truly successful urban space. -Marcus O'Reilly Architects

As an exclamation point in Queensbridge Square, it's easy to see the Red Stair as the place to meet people, like the red TKTS steps in Times Square or even the clock in Grand Central Terminal. This secondary function (secondary in that it is beyond eating, sitting, watching, or other activities that actually take place on the stairs) continues into the nighttime with the LED strip lights that are randomly inserted within the red plywood. The form of the amphitheater can be read with these lights. As well the depth of the mass is articulated through lights set into "carved" sections.

Marcus O'Reilly Architects also designed a vent sculpture (photo below right) for the other side of Queensbridge Square. Where the Red Stair is monumental, with joints that seem to mimic the blocks of old ziggurats, the vent sculpture resembles a garden folly. It is also built of wood, but it is left bare instead of being painted. As well the joints between boards are left open, so the construction glows from within. It serves to balance the space without competing for attention with the steps.

School of Botany

School of Botany in Melbourne, Australia by Lyons Architects, 2004.

The University of Melbourne School of Botany's recent expansion sits on the northern edge of campus, on Tin Alley overlooking Trinity College and facing the School's System Garden to the south. Lyons Architects responded to this context by treating the two long, main facades differently, the northern facade toward Trinity in patterned glazed brick and the southern, garden facade a composition of folded glass.

The north elevation attempts to relate to the School through the colors of the glazed brick (yellows and greens) and the naturalistic pattern of its composition. At the west end, metal panels predominate, brick relegated to the ground floor. Looking at the floor plan, it appears the architects grouped the smaller functions (offices, toilets, kitchen, etc) along the northern edge, so fewer windows are required. In turn, the building becomes introverted, focusing inward to the rest of the School of Botany and its garden.

While the courtyard facade has more glass, it also requires areas of solid, the architects opting for spandrel glass of various colors. The combination of folded planes and primary colors is reminiscent of the Heidi Weber Pavilion in Zurich, Switzerland by Le Corbusier, though I don't know if this was a point of reference for the architects. At the western tip of the extension, we see the two facades expressed as volumes, vertical circulation cantilevered in-between.

The color palette and angularity of the exterior is extended inside, a suitable contrast with the vegetation of the courtyard as one looks through the glazing.

The Botany North Extension at the University of Melbourne by Lyons Architects is the recipient of a 2004 Institutional Architecture Award from The Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

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Mawson Lakes School

Mawson Lakes School in Mawson Lakes, Australia by Russell & Yelland Architects, 2004.

The following images and text are courtesy Russell & Yelland Architects for their award-winning Mawson Lakes School, in association with Guida Moseley Brown Architects. Photographs are by John Gollings and Steve Rendoulis.

In its close proximity to the University of South Australia, Technology Park and new accommodation for the elderly, lifelong learning was considered in new and flexible ways in the design of Mawson Lakes School. Stage 1 of the school caters for ages 3-13 and was part of a much wider exploration of learning in the 21st century. The architects consulted over 40 individuals and groups before design commenced.

The site area is less than half of most comparable schools. The school shares open space with community facilities and creates an urban edge facing the town center, while fingers of landscaping connect the school’s courtyards to its open space and the Dry Creek reserve to the west. A north-south spine connects four ‘Family Units’ for 110 students, each opening directly to its own courtyard to the north and having distinct windows and bays to the Garden Terrace footpath.

The linear arrangement of the "Family Units" along the Garden Terrace frontage offers a sculpted form to the school. Two other buildings are positioned in counterpoint, establishing an urban entry at the north and formalising a plaza area within the landscape.

The building forms are purposefully simple and related, reacting to the functions of the family groups and to the use of natural daylight (with solar control), and to the use of natural ventilation. The single storey spaces are given additional presence through the height of their pitched roof on a street which has three-storey buildings opposite. Their identity is further developed by the dramatic character of the solar and thermal chimneys.

The variations of the planning alignment along the street edge, together with the varying courtyard screen materials and "Family Unit" window configurations create a unique experience for the pedestrian. One courtyard wall is punctured by a large fibreglass box, the "school greenhouse", at the terminus of the University axis, linking the otherwise free assembly of buildings to the formality of the town plan.

The administration building faces the plaza and is easily visible and accessible to parents and the community, as well as allowing observation of arrivals to the school. The Canteen and Activity Room are centrally located and open visually and physically to the spine, the courtyards and the school’s open space.

All of the buildings are designed to Ecologically Sustainable Design principles by incorporating natural ventilation, assisted by "thermal chimneys" to ensure a managed supply of fresh air with supplementary heating and cooling using ducted conditioned air. The design detailing exposes the structure and materials, where appropriate, as elements of the learning program, and students can monitor and alter the environment conditions as part of the curriculum.

[Google Earth link]

Deep Creek Cabins

Deep Creek Cabins in Delamere, Australia by Max Pritchard.

Being a sole practitioner, South Adelaide's Max Pritchard designs two to three houses a year, since the completion of his own house and office in 1989. Each house responds to its site and the client's desires by using structure as a means to deal with these issues in unique and creative ways. Therefore, the houses don't bear the stamp of architects like Tadao Ando or Richard Meier, but instead stand as singular testaments to the task at hand. The Deep Creek Cabins in Delamere, Australia, is an extension of this methodology, even though it is not a house for a single client.

Situated within the Deep Creek Conservation Park, about 60 miles south of Adelaide, the three cabins provide shelter for visitors in search of a "relaxed natural environment for sightseeing, bushwalking, fishing and bird watching", in the word's of the architect. These small cabins provide two bedrooms, a bathroom and an open living area in light structures with sliding doors, clerestories and corrugated metal cladding. The openness allows for a strong connection to the surroundings for the visitor, while also allowing for cross ventilation for summertime cooling.

While the shelters are reminiscent of fellow Australian architect Glenn Murcutt (also a sole practitioner), Pritchard's work lacks the formal and tectonic rigor of Murcutt, though this allows him a freedom in each job that creates refreshing results. In Deep Creek, Pritchard found a formal solution that limits intrusion upon the natural environment, while articulating the forms to take full advantage of the setting. As well, the cabins are totally self-sufficient in water (hot water provided by solar units on the roof) with a stone fireplace for winter heating, ideal in a remote, natural setting.

One of the most interesting aspects of the cabins is their unintentionally secondary purpose as advocates of a smaller, more compact living situation. The trend in house design in first world countries is for larger houses. Most of these houses do not utilize space efficiently, thereby requiring more space for what could be accomplished in less. Staying in a Deep Creek Cabin, visitors experience firsthand that smaller spaces work, that they don't need the larger houses that are popular today, which may benefit everybody, not just architects.

Federation Square

Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia by Lab Architecture Studio, 2002.

The following text and images (click for larger views) are courtesy Lab Architecture Studio for their design of Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia.

The result of an international design competition, Federation Square, which is Lab's first realized building, is a new civic precinct in the heart of Melbourne, Australia. The project, 3.6 ha (8.8 acres) in area and effectively the construction of an entire city block over railway tracks, consists of nine separate cultural and commercial buildings with a combined area of 45,000 sm (485,000 sf).

These facilities include two new cultural institutions, Australian art galleries for the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), SBS (Australia's multi-cultural broadcaster), Melbourne's Visitor Information Centre, retail spaces, a car park and numerous restaurants and cafes, all grouped around two new civic spaces. One is a civic plaza, while the other is a unique glazed and covered atrium, whose southern end includes a glass walled theater.

The civic plaza is a key for the entire project, establishing precise and varying relationships with the acknowledged diverse context of the city and landscape around the site. The design's geometry allows for a vast array of configuration and arrangements, from the largest scale public gathering of up to 25,000 people, to intimate sites of relaxation and contemplation. To distinguish it from the city's existing pavement, the plaza is surfaced in cobblestones of distinctly colored Kimberley sandstone, whose palette ranges from reds, oranges, yellows and pinks to purples, mauves and grays, which are arranged to form a subtly differentiating pattern across the entire plaza surface.

The building façades are constructed from three cladding materials; sandstone, zinc and glass, which have been used within a modular basis established by the triangular pinwheel grid. This fractally incremental system uses a single triangle, the proportions of which are maintained across the single tile shape, the panel composed of five tiles, and the mega-panel construction module composed of five panels. The atrium is a large, high volume public thoroughfare and covered meeting space. With an open interior volume almost 16 meters (52 feet) high and 16 meters across, this glass enclosed galleria provides a sheltered extension of the civic plaza. In the atrium a series of non-uniform frame shapes have been developed that form a continuous structure, utilizing a limited number of standard components.

The National Gallery of Victoria building includes a total of 7,250 sm (78,000 sf) of gallery space showcasing the institutions unique collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands' work on the ground floor, as well as housing the NGV's historic and modern Australian collections on level 2. The building's design suggests the means for visitors to inscribe their own experiences on the collection through a shifting matrix of gallery view lines and cross connections. The simple dual filament composition of the galleries is expressed through the building in the plans and volumes, as well as through the façade and roof. It allows a direct following of chronology through the building's inherent figure eight.

ACMI (the Australian Centre for the Moving Image) houses facilities including the state film cinemas, a 1,700 sm (18,000 sf) screen gallery, web-casting studio, production lab, electronic classroom, interactive media research library and exhibition and technology showcases. Two distinct arcades have been used to express both the buildings' internal circulation as well as forming the main foyer and circulation spaces which vertically connect all the functional components. At the ground level, both buildings are joined by the arcade foyer and its linkage of the ticketing, educational and retail areas. The east arcade serves as a connection to the plaza as well as providing an animation of the building through the temporal ebb and flow of people leaving the cinemas after each session.

[Google Earth link]

Bowral House

Bowral House

Bowral House in New South Wales, Australia by Glenn Murcutt, 2001.

Featured is the Bowral House in Southern Highlands, New South Wales, Australia by 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate Glenn Murcutt. The following text and images are from the Pritzker's award announcement.

The Australian architect, Glenn Murcutt, who works as a sole practitioner, primarily designing environmentally sensitive modernist houses that respond to their surroundings and climate, as well as being scrupulously energy conscious, has been named to receive the 2002 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The 66 year old Murcutt lives and has his office in Sydney, but travels the world teaching and lecturing to university students.

In announcing the jury’s choice, Thomas J. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, said, “Glenn Murcutt is a stark contrast to most of the highly visible architects of the day — his works are not large scale, the materials he works with, such as corrugated iron, are quite ordinary, certainly not luxurious; and he works alone. He acknowledges that his modernist inspiration has its roots in the work of Mies van der Rohe, but the Nordic tradition of Aalto, the Australian wool shed, and many other architects and designers such as Chareau, have been important to him as well. Add in the fact that all his designs are tempered by the land and climate of his native Australia, and you have the uniqueness that the jury has chosen to celebrate."

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, J. Carter Brown, commented, “Glenn Murcutt occupies a unique place in today’s architectural firmament. In an age obsessed with celebrity, the glitz of our ‘starchitects,’ backed by large staffs and copious public relations support, dominate the headlines. As a total contrast, our laureate works in a one-person office on the other side of the world from much of the architectural attention, yet has a waiting list of clients, so intent is he to give each project his personal best. He is an innovative architectural technician who is capable of turning his sensitivity to the environment and to locality into forthright, totally honest, non-showy works of art. Bravo!”

The formal presentation of what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture's highest honor will be made at a ceremony on May 29, 2002 at Michelangelo’s Campidoglio in the heart of Rome. At that time, Murcutt will be presented with a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion. Murcutt is the first Australian to become a Pritzker Laureate, and the 26th honoree since the prize was established in 1979. His selection continues what has become a ten-year trend of laureates from the international community. In fact, architects from other countries chosen for the prize now far outnumber the U.S. recipients, nineteen to seven.

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

Future Shack

Future Shack

Future Shack by Sean Godsell, 2001.

Seeing one of the roles of first-world, democratic countries as humanitarian, Sean Godsell designed emergency and relief housing that utilize recycled shipping containers. Mass-produced, inexpensive, and easy to ship and stockpile, the containers are approximately 8 feet wide by 8 feet high by 20 feet long, and adequate size for temporary housing. The Future Shack, through its use of a prefabricated, universal unit and a roof capable of site-specific material manipulation, embodies the contradictions of contemporary life.

At the entrance to the container (top image) a ramp lowers to allow access to the raised floor as the wall raises to provide shade and create a makeshift verandah. This subtle maneuver is one of the few changes to the module - which also includes adding small openings for the roof structure and ventilation - and, along with the roof canopy, helps to create a sense of home. It is with the roof and verandah, among other design features, that the Future Shack does not merely provide necessities in response to emergency; it also symbolizes the idea of home, an idea needed to reach beyond the repetitive and modular character of the shipping container.

Inside the shack is lined with plywood and features built-in furniture - a table and bed that fold down from the wall - and a separating wall that contains plumbing fixtures for the kitchen and the bathroom beyond. By allowing the furniture to be either "open" or "closed" the single room container can be relatively spacious but also intimate, depending on the articulation of elements at any give time.

Given the Future Shack's simple, yet ambitious, goal - to provide temporary emergency and relief housing - the means and the end are both admirable, recognizing the contradictions inherent in contemporary life. Whereas the means utilizes technology and the exchange of goods among world countries, the end becomes ultimately site-specific as the occupant is able to manipulate the roof canopy and certain interior elements. The global vs. local and macro vs. micro readings allow the Future Shack to be both a reliable solution and something to be called home, albeit for a short period of time.

National Wine Centre of Australia

National Wine Centre of Australia

National Wine Centre of Australia in Adelaide, Australia by Grieve Gillett and Cox Architects.

Located in Adelaide, Australia, the National Wine Centre of Australia is a design by the firm Grieve Gillette and Cox Architects (now Cox Architects). Featured are images (click on each for larger format) by photographer Steve Rendoulis, also based in Adelaide. Text is courtesy of the photographer, with all images copyright Steve Rendoulis.

The design brief for the National Wine Centre called for a world class interpretive and educational centre representing the whole of the Australian wine industry. The building was to house wine industry offices, an interpretive exhibition, education areas, function hall, restaurant, cellaring and tasting facilities.

Just as wine carries the characteristics of the soil from which it is grown, key features of the site were used to guide the design. Adjacent to a major thoroughfare, offering limited access, the design had to connect a remote car park across a significant rise in level while respecting the adjoining botanic gardens. A number of elements, First Creek, the remnants of the Adelaide Lunatic Asylum (stone wall and stables), a line of jacarandas to the Botanic Gardens suggested a radial geometry originating from the South African acacia which is now the focus of the Centre's northern forecourt.

One arc of this geometry has been used to define the path on which the visitor travels, other arcs stretch into the landscape as the basis for the layout of the vineyard. The generosity of the site allowed ramps to be used to interconnect the varying levels. Buildings are arranged on this path allowing controlled views in and out of the centre.

The entry ramp is contained within an arcing timber screen, while suggesting seclusion from the city and a hint of the mystery of the wine making process, provides discreet openings towards historic Yarrabee and its gardens. Alongside a grand scale rammed earth wall, the positive, solid component of the arc on which the building is hung just as the Earth is the springing point of the vine.

As the ramp sweeps the focus is reversed with a solid boundary of buildings giving protection from the now nearby busy road and opening towards the Botanic Gardens and the vineyards that will dominate the view out for the remainder of the visit.

The main building was designed to evoke spaces found within a winery. The vaulted concourse brings filtered light and overlooks the open but subterranean cellar. In turn, it is overshadowed by the vat-like shapes of the Exhibition Halls deliberately enclosed to invite inquiry. Bridges and ramps cross through the space to give a factory/production quality.

With progression through the building it becomes more refined, like the process of making wine or the appreciation in learning about wine. The relatively coarse materials found at the beginning evolve into finer proportions and smoother textures. The scale of the spaces similarly progresses from the public to the personal, from the scale of production to the intimate the level of wine appreciation. This culminates in the tasting room. Elevated above the immediate surrounds to give privacy and a sense of detachment, with broad vistas of the Botanic Gardens and the vineyards it is an ideal environment in which to savour wine.

The type of construction took direction from the materials and textures that can be found at any vineyard such as rammed earth, stone, timber, glass, steel and stainless steel.

It takes its lead from the Australian Wine Industry in using a wide range of technologies from the traditional to the state of art, scientific approach. Rammed earth, an ancient building technique, is reinvigorated using steel that permits grand scale yet slender walls. The diagrid roof to the Busby Hall with domestic scale timber elements is precisely engineered to form a shell structure pre-stressed with stainless steel cables.

The design uses the innate quality of the materials to provide scale, texture and colour to the building. As a good wine is pared back to its essentials but layered to give richness, the materials are presented in their natural condition clearly displaying their function uncluttered by applied decoration.

[Google Earth link]

Melbourne City Link

Melbourne City Link

Melbourne City Link in Melbourne, Australia by Denton Corker Marshall.

The following text and images are by Aussie architects Denton Corker Marshall for their Melbourne City Link.

Denton Corker Marshall has designed an international gateway to Melbourne and a bridge across the Yarra River for the Melbourne City Link Project.

The Gateway, a modern urban architectural sculpture, will create a strong sense of arrival for Melbourne visitors. Elements include a yellow column cantilevering 70 metres over the freeway, 39 red sticks, each 30 metres high, forming an angled wall and a long sinuous orange sound wall.

In November 1999 Denton Corker Marshall were awarded the Special Jury Award by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects for the Melbourne Gateway and Henry Bolte Bridge.

[Google Earth link]