Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Victorian State Offices by night, from the corner of Spring and Macquarie Streets.
1 Macarthur Street and 1 Treasury Place.
Designed by Yuncken Freeman.
Modern style?
From Treasury Place.

I can't decide what I think of these buildings. I definitely prefer the old treasury, but there is something alluring about them, no one else seems to agree. In fact people seem to think my newly discovered fascination in this architecture of the 1960s is a bit loopy.
Maybe it is the contrast to my study area of Baroque gardens.
Maybe it is the regularity, always satisfying. In the case of the Victorian State Offices and Premier's Office above the windows were actually designed to reflect the proportions of the neighbouring 19th century buildings.
I think it is also the fact that 1960s architecture photographs well, the designs themselves are all about light and shadow and repetitive pattern. My interest developed in a round about way. I read about a competition in Vogue magazine for fashion snaps. I'm not really particularly interested in fashion photography, but after having been to a few fashion shows with the 1960s inspired fashion of 2007 I started thinking about whether the clothes reflected the architecture and was playing with an idea to take photos of the outfits in and around the architecture of the period. I never did it but it started me thinking about the era, one I had previously disliked a lot, and I began to take photos of it.

This is one of the photos I took early last year of a building on Bourke St between Elizabeth and Queen is a case in point.

I had barely noticed this building till I set out on one of my taking photos afternoons. It is a rather innocuous side of a not particularly remarkable building, but when photographed in black and white patterns emerge. The regular white tile square columns are punctuated by the dark shadow on their thin side. Black circles (light fittings?) dot the ceiling.

They also emphasise one-point perspective, this is obvious in the photo above and the photo of 1 Treasury Place. Maybe that is also appealing to someone like me who spends so much time looking at set designs. They use the same repetitive form to exaggerate the depth of space.
But maybe comparing set designs for a Baroque festa in Vienna in the late seventeenth-century with modernist Melbourne architecture is starting to go a bit far.
Set Design for Il Pomo d'Oro, by Ludovico Burnacini, 1667, from the edition held in the Museo Teatrale alla Scala.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Spring in East Melbourne

I took a spring walk around East Melbourne this morning.

First I cut across the Eastern Side of the Fitzroy Gardens.

A square tempietto (small temple) or 'The Old Bandstand' as it is usually described, is a beautiful sculptural form. You can see that on the side facing me there are two pilasters with a sort of Egyptian inspired capital, on the entrance side the columns are free standing. I often see weddings here, though on my return through the park it was being used as a stage for some boxing practice. I love architectural features in gardens, but they seemed to have died out in the last 100 years in favour of sculpture. It is architecture simply for architecture's sake, for the enjoyment of looking at columns and capitals. Unlike a sculpture it can often be entered into, an experience which can change the way you see the space. For instance you can stand and look at the garden framed by the columns, actually I should have taken a photo of that! It can also be an expression of architectural creativity, without the constraints of function.

Next are the sculptures that adorn the Eastern entrance on Hotham St. These were designed by William Leslie Bowles, who also designed the statue of Diana and the Hounds which stands outside the Conservatory. The sculptures, creatively titled 'Mermaid and Fish' and 'Boy and Pelican', won the sculpture competition held in the gardens in 1935. I think it is a wonderful time to look at sandstone sculpture, when the sun falls upon it it almost shines deep ochre which is set off against the green of trees and grass and the blue sky that has finally returned to Melbourne.
The statues exhibit the streamlined classicism typical of Melbourne Art Deco.

Art Deco Apartments on on Powlett St. I don't know much about these apartments construction but I would guess a date in the 1930s. Two buildings curve to meet in the middle and create a semi-circlular garden area. The brickwork is delicate, not the way slightly darker brick on the entrance tower which give the pattern a rhythm and make it stand out from the main wing.
I also like the pared back classicism of the entranceway. With so many wonderful examples of apartments in Melbourne it upsets me that most modern ones are so atrocious. Not only is their appearance dull and uninspired but they lack good design. Here are a set of apartment which give an outlook onto a garden, most apartment must have windows on both sides so have good light and so on. My modern apartment rant must wait till another day.

Finally some blossoms on Hotham St. The wisteria (below) will be around for a while, but I though I should capture some cherry blossoms before the spring winds toss them away.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Someone put me onto this great resource yesterday. RIBApix (Royal Institute of British Architects), they have put up their collection of architectural images online. This includes sketches, photographs, plans. Although there is a focus on England many many other places are also represented. I remember when I started my thesis I actually had to write to them, on paper with stamps (!) to ask for details of an image.

Here are some interesting images I have found:

A set design for an 18th century opera probably by Giuseppe Galli Bibiena

The water pumping station on the Isle of Dogs, London.

The palazzetto di Madame Stern: corner of the garden wall on the Grand Canal with gondola in the foreground, Venice, taken in 1912.

Friday, September 5, 2008

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