Monday, July 27, 2009

Lonsdale House may be doomed.

Some other bloggers have already reported this, but I feel so strongly about it I thought I would add my own post.

The Age is reporting that the State Government has given approval for the Myer redevelopment and given Colonial Global Asset Management permission to knock down the wonderful art deco Lonsdale House.

I am appalled that Myer, who like to advertise themselves as a central part of Melbourne, appears to have no desire to retain buildings that make Melbourne unique. How do we encourage businesses like Myer, and David Jones (who are also guilty of destruction in this area), to have a conscience? How do we make them see that they have a responsibility to save and conserve Melbourne along with the rest of us?

I am appalled that the City Council essentially washed their hands of the affair (though we have recently seen Robert Doyle's attitude to Melbourne's iconic Flinders St station). Do they not realise that Melbourne's appeal lies in the range of architecture and diversity of street fronts? Every city, even every suburban area has its glass cathedrals to consumerism, but only a few have the range of art deco buildings that Melbourne does, or should I say did.

I am appalled at the State Government. Planning minister Justin Madden, who trained as an architect, lists "20th century architecture" as one of his interests. I can only think this is a cruel joke, or that he simply has not had the chance to change it to "bending to the will of developers".

The area where Lonsdale House is has a heritage overlay, meaning essentially that the area is considered to be of heritage significance. Sadly these overlays seem to count for little and one wonders what the point of them is. It seems there is little recognition that preserving heritage is not about keeping a few surviving key examples of styles, or just keeping the biggest and brightest. It is about preserving the look and feel of a city. It is about the overall urban appearance, the range of façades along a street, not just individual examples. Melbourne suffered at the hands of development and in particular the infamous Whelan the Wrecker in the 1950s and 1960s. Philip Adams recently wrote about how these "The wreckers deserve a National Trust classification for the simple reason that Whelan helped bring the National Trust into being." Sadly it seems we have not learned from our mistakes.

I honestly do not know if there is anything else that can be done, but I will certainly be writing letters to the paper, to the government and to Myer and Colonial to let them know what I think.

Lonsdale House and its unique crystalline tower, with a view of the 1990s skyscrapers which took inspiration from art deco towers.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jean Cotelle and the Bosquets of Versailles

The famous bosquets of Versailles were captured by the French artist Jean Cotelle in the late seventeenth century. It mystifies me that we still lack any kind of in depth study on this artist and his images of Versailles. Perhaps his work is considered too frivolous for serious consideration, or perhaps we forget in part that these are 'paintings' and simply see them as historical records. Which they are to an extent, but they are hardly objective!

Bosquet means 'small wood' in French and these places were open spaces hidden within palisades of greenery. They were meant to amaze and delight the viewer when they emerged from green corridors and acted as counterpoint of intimacy against the vastness of Versailles.

Michel Baridon in his recent, excellent, book upon the gardens of Versailles writes of the bosquets that:
" As soon as you are inside, the dominant tones of green, blue, or gray, which you see in a panormaic view of the gardens, are enhanced with complex variations. This then is a world where the geometer is ever-present of course, but often eclipsed by the set designer, the poet, or the story-teller. In other words, geometry gives way to imagination and the pleasures that men and women expected when they entered places expressly designed to delight the senses.
It would probably be going too far to represent the bosquets as a female domain, given over to entertainment and the pleasures of society life, and contrast them with the male world of the engineer, the strategist, or the politician as represented by the open spaces.... Alongside the serene geometry of the open spaces, the bosquets were a universe where sentiment mattered more than science and where illusion enjoyed a special status."

Michel Baridon, A History of the Gardens of Versailles, University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2008, pp. 170-1.

Cotelle added the figures of classical myth to his paintings, which only serves to enhance the sense that these spaces were places where the line between relity and fantasy was blurred.

'Bosquet du Marais'

'Bosquet of the Water Theatre'

'Bosquet of the Domes'

'Bosquet of the 'Salle du Bal' (Ballroom)'

'Bosquet of the Colonnade'

'Bosquet of the Trois Fontaines (Three Fountains)'

'Bosquet of the Arc du Triomphe (Triumphal Arch)'

'Entrance to the Labyrinth'

Images Courtesy of Joconde and the Web Gallery of Art.

The paintings still form part of the collection in the Musée National du Château et des Trianons, Versailles, the images can be viewed via Joconde, an donline catalogue of the collections of the museums of France.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Snapshot, East Melbourne

Some houses and their entrances on Grey St in East Melbourne. The elegant yet simple shape of the porch doorway caught my eye at No. 39. The second just seemed so simple and yet so perfect, it stood out amongst the mainly terrace fronted houses. Just a lovely combination of the old raw red brick wall, the flat and naturalistic paving stones and the stark bare tree against a white wall.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Melbourne Open House 2009 - Photos Part 1

I had a great time on Sunday. I only had about 2.5 hours to visit buildings but I managed to squeeze in seven. Not too shabby. I was disappointed to miss the Manchester Unity building and the Russell Place Substation, but the queues were just too long. I tend to agree with what some others have remarked, that the day could easily be run more than once a year, or over a whole weekend. But on the upside it is great to see so many people turning out to look at Melbourne's architecture. It gives people a chance to see inside buildings that are generally closed to the public. It also heightens the awareness more generally and reminds people (me included) to stop and actually look at the buildings around us. I saw several groups of people, little blue books in hand, stopping to admire the façades or decorative details of buildings that weren't even on the Open House itinerary.

There were so many people taking photos, and below are a few of my favourites. I did have a bit of camera envy, me with my 5 year old canon point and shoot, everyone else (it seemed) with the world's biggest SLRs. But the buildings were the stars at the end of the day.

To see others' photos take a peek at the Melbourne Open House Flickr Group, where you can upload your pictures as part of a competition.

View from the Boardroom of 101

View from the Boardroom of 101 Collins St. Forum Theatre.

View across the Boardroom of 101 Collins, with the spire of St Paul's.

Glass dome of the atrium at T&G now KPMG building on Collins St.

View of the ceiling of the new foyer at KPMG.

A much photographed art nouveau lamp at the Athenaeum Library, Collins St.

The lamp in the dome of the wood-panelled lift at the Athenaeum Library, Collins St.

The ceiling of the old boardroom at 271 Collins St, formerly The National Bank of Australasia, Collins St.

The sideboard in the dining room, adjacent to the boardroom at 271 Collins St, formerly The National Bank of Australasia, Collins St.

More to come.... or check out my Melbourne Open House flickr stream here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Melbourne Open House 2009

I am excitedly planning what to see tomorrow at the Melbourne Open House. In the past I have always had something else on, and even tomorrow I have to dash off by 1pm to see an opera at the Nova, which I had completely forgotten about. Anyhoo here is the website if you are interested.

Melbourne Open House.

My short list of things I can squeeze in between 10 and 12:30 is

The Melbourne Athenaeum
The boardroom of 101 Collins St (I am assuming this is UP HIGH, it had better be or I will complain.)
The Donkey Wheel House
Manchester unity (I have spent hours in the accessible parts of this building so looking forward to seeing the boardroom and other bits you usually don't see, though I admittedly I have possibly 'wandered into' several section you usually don't see).
T&G Building of KPMG House.
Capitol Theatre.
271 Colllins St.
Denmark House.
Russel place Substation.

That is probably more than enough, at this rate I will snore through the opera! Anyhoo I am currently charging my batteries and hoping to bring you many lovely pictures of the buildings that we don't usually see.

Happy gorging on Architecture Day to you all! (When I am mayor this will be an official holiday, possibly a four times a year holiday).

All photos courtesy of the Open Melbourne website.

Also see Melbourne Heritage Watch for a more comprehensive write up.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Timorous Beasties

I was just listening to an interview on By Design about the wallpaper and fabric designers called "Timorous Beasties". You can download the interview here. I looked them up and had to share their designs with you all. Absolutely beautiful illustrations. But I also like the way that they create new variations on old themes. In particular the toiles, see the London Toile below, which eschews the usual chinoiserie buildings and shepherds and shepherdesses and instead includes shady characters and modern architecture from the streets of London. Apparently they have a Sydney Toile planned. As you stare at them more and more details emerge, which is what I think wallpaper is all about after all. Something to gaze at first for the rhythmn of a the repeated pattern and the richness of colour, and then as you look for longer small details and even a type of narrative begin to emerge.

The designers are featured in an exhibit at the Melbourne Exhibition centre for the State of Design Festival. More information here.

It will be a long time before I have my own place to wallpaper willy nilly but in the meantime I can wallpaper my blog instead. All images come via the Timorous Beasties website.

London Toile

Napoleon (though as a keen scholar of Baroque Rome this says Barberini to me!)

Devil (I love the idea of having this on the wall and as you stare at it the Devil emerges, maybe not for a bedroom though...)

Branch Out

Bloody Hell

Monday, July 13, 2009

Twenty-first century water theatres..

I have been writing about some seventeenth century water theatres, see my old post which mentions the Villa Aldobrandini at Frascati, and I decided to google the term to see what came up *cough*to procrastinate*cough*. Anyway, at the top of the results was a spectacular twenty-first century example.

A proposal for the city of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands by Grimshaw Architects. The theatre is meant to create large quantities of distilled water to help the island move towards self-sufficiency in renewable energy and fresh water. Like several of my 17th century examples this theatre takes it design cues from the classical Roman amphitheatre with a semi-circle of stepped seating, and a magnificent wall of water in place of the traditional scenery (called the scaeanae frons). It celebrates water in a place where water is scarce, as did those created at Frascati, a town that had been virtually cut off from a proper water supply since th Roman aqueducts failed. The show of water is made all the more spectacular because of the scarceness of water. In this case though the water is for public use rather than simply to celebrate the power and influence of individual patron (the inhabitants of Frascati often found themselves cut off from water when the waterworks of papal villas were switched on).

A detail showing the theatre and cascade of the the Villa Aldobrandini in a view by Matthias Greuter of the papal villas at Frascati, 1620, image via Catena Digital Archive of Historic Gardens.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Snapshot, Maldon

I went to Maldon last Monday just to have a look around. The town describes itself as Victoria's 'First Notable Town', which made me giggle. Turns out they aren't just pompous it does actually mean something as the town was classified by the National Trust as important and 'notable'. It is nice if a little dead on a grey Monday afternoon. The light wasn't particularly good for photos but the sun did peek out for long enough to capture this lovely old painted sign. I found the old signs if anything more interesting than the buildings themselves.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Snapshot, East Melbourne

Some photos taken on the beautiful sunny winter's day on Tuesday. Possibly spent a little too much time photographing East Melbourne.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wintery gardens

I am up in the wild countryside, ahem, Daylesford, this weekend and in between enjoying a small wine by the open fire and flicking through five year's worth of Country Life magazines, I have been enjoying the beauty of the wintery garden at the house in which I am staying. I always find it a shame when reviews and discussions of gardens are so focused on spring and summer, and even autumn, to the exclusion of winter. I like the different colour palette that appears in winter. Green is at its most vibrant, such a contrast in a place like Australia where summer usually means the grass if shades of brown and yellow. Also wet tree trunks reveal splashes of orange and red, and raindrops glitter hanging from leaves and twigs. Monochrome silhouettes of trees against the grey sky and the delicate patterns of lichen and moss, usually hidden beneath a clutter of foliage. Anyway, enough of this waxing lyrical I took some photos for you all to enjoy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oh look someone made a building out of a doily! Clever.

A design for the Polish pavilion for the 2010 Polish Expo by WWA architects. Despite my facetiousness I actually think the building is beautiful. The intricate patterning on the wraparound façade (that sounds like a contradiction in terms but seems to be the best description) is based on a folk-art paper cut-out. But I'm not really that concerned with the cultural significance, I am more excited by the dedication to decorative detail as a central aspect of the buildings exterior. Also the consistency of the motif rather than splashes of colour, mixed with pattern mixed with wood mixed with shiny mixed with everything else. Found via archdaily.

Image via archdaily.

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