Monday, 19 October 2009

fully sick

Image: my project for a remotely located research station, UNSW, 2007 – pdf here.

As I lay in bed Saturday morning, feeling ill and self-piteous, my thoughts turned away from the bleak landscape of 1970's social housing outside my window to my home in Australia. If I had to describe autumnal London in a word it would be 'grim'. I made a cup of tea and turned on Australian Radio National. By Design was on, a discussion between architect Glenn Murcutt (under whose tuition the above project was completed) and writer David Malouf – held in Utzon's Opera House.

It was an interesting talk for a number of reasons, not least for Glenn's comments about the Opera House shifting the city's focus to the harbour side (whereas previously it had been centred on Sydney's commercial district). He also mentioned Utzon's proposals to unite Sydney's laneways. It was the first time I've heard Glenn talk about the city this way. He is known to irritate a lot of Australian architects for his refusal to wholeheartedly engage with the metropolitan condition, which is after all the condition of the 21st century. His expensive homes in beautiful scenery are seen as marginal to the discussion of contemporary architecture.

But if you dig architecture and want to gain a window into a very particular type of Australian thinking, this is for you. The undertone of the talk is a criticism of Australia's litigious and restrictive architectural thinking (which I believe stems from its origins as an imperial penal colony). This type of self-deprecation is common to Australia, with everyone complaining about the situation and yet nothing changing. It makes me sick. Or, sicker, rather.

I passed out to Sunset Rubdown, which always reminds me of driving in the sun.


  1. I am not sure if it is actually Murcutt who has shunned the city or the other way around. His earlier project for Customs House was a rather clear urban / metropolitan statement about wanting to free up Circular Quay's public space from the looming presence of the Cahill Expressway.

    Im impressed you managed to get to sleep with sunset rubdown playing, seems to have the opposite affect on me!

  2. didn't fall sleep, passed out. Sunset Rubdown is perfect for that, inducing strange and saga-like dreams.