Monthly Archives: July 2015

Studies in Material Thinking: Material Thinking of Display

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Studies in Material Thinking

Volume 12 Material Thinking of Display

Cultural Connection—The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).

Architects: Architectus (Lindsay + Kerry Clare—Design Directors 2000–2010) with James Jones. Lindsay and Kerry Clare

Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies Auckland University of Technology Auckland 1142, New Zealand

Abstract: There is a growing desire for the architecture of galleries and museums to create a strong identity for their institutions. We argue that this identity can spring from an understanding of context and culture to achieve authenticity, connectedness, individuality and meaning. A response that favours particularisation and locale can also engage with global concerns and opportunities to create a unique cultural experience. The process for procuring and constructing new gallery buildings needs to support this architectural approach. The unique attributes and potential of any region or country are most often derived from topography, climate and social and cultural backgrounds. Relevant architectural responses to these attributes can often be found in historic or vernacular buildings. To add to the complexity, we consider that the identity of a gallery building should not be achieved to the detriment of the fundamental needs of the gallery, that is, functionality, flexibility and the ease of connecting people with art.

Introduction: There is much discussion about museum architecture acting as a magnet to help a city or region develop a strong identity or reputation. Whilst a strong architecture can greatly enhance or enrich a visitor experience, there has been a tendency for some evocative works to emphasise architecture at the expense of the art. In this regard our design brief from Arts Queensland was extensive and thorough—a document of around 170 pages.

The design brief contained a detailed technical description of all spaces required along with their respective relationships. Also included was the philosophical underpinning and research undertaken to support technical requirements and museological and curatorial practice. The gallery brief underscored the importance of context within the cultural precinct, the city, and to the broader Asia Pacific region.

Our interpretation of this brief was assisted by extensive meetings and communication with three nominated client representatives; Doug Hall (Gallery Director), William Fleming (Coordinator Building and Development) and Michael Barnett (Senior Project Officer). We reported to Hall, Fleming and Barnett, who represented the Trustees and the needs of staff, curators, artists, government and the public. They had produced the brief over a number of years of planning, research and consultation. It is acknowledged by the Queensland Art Gallery that hundreds of people contributed to turning the idea for a new gallery into a reality. Major contributing factors that significantly shaped the success of the project included continuity (cultural memory) of key personnel from the government as well as the architects. This continuity was critical in maintaining agreed conceptual principles throughout the delivery of the project. Throughout the project, there were many changes in personnel within government as well as Lend Lease, the managing contractor. Not all newcomers to the project were aware of important decisions, principles or ideas previously proposed and agreed. Some claimed full understanding of the project after spending two hours viewing drawings and reading the brief (after we had spent two years working on the project with the end user client). Some newcomers brought different agendas that did not support the brief.

An art gallery is a public building. Its significance for the public consciousness is characterised by the fact that it returns enclosed public space to the city. In keeping with this view our proposal envisioned the role of an art gallery as a place for people to connect with art, in all its facets. The opportunity to enrich the cultural life of Brisbane was provided through the creation of an open, inviting, generous and democratic ‘urban pavilion’—created by the ease of access, visibility to the interior and connectivity. The siting of this pavilion was both a logical and intuitive response to the curve of the river that is in dialogue with the city and stands at the threshold of the cultural precinct which comprises the Gallery of Modern Art, the State Library Queensland, Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland Museum and Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

A stated objective of the design brief was to create ‘a unique cultural experience’. It is always possible to import ideas borrowed from other places and situations but they may not be relevant or appropriate to a place, or authentic to a culture. This understanding is critical and important if the concepts are to be sustainable over time. We feel very strongly about responding to the specifics of place—which is not a limiting factor, rather a springing point. Design can be used to particularise, enrich, embellish, complement and heighten our understanding of place. In a time of globalisation local understanding can be a powerful counterpoint to facilitate authentic engagement and experience.

Clare Design: Works 1980-2015

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Book review by Elizabeth Musgrave

Daily Dose of Architecture Review

Oro edition, architects

In 272 pages, with photos and drawings (including design and construction details) Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper show 30 environmentally sustainable buildings spanning 35 years of the practice of one of Australia’s foremost architects, Clare Design. The Clares, practising as architects on the far side of the world, approach their work with a philosophical position that produced beautiful, climatically responsive, low-impact, environmentally sensitive buildings. They achieved this working not from a body of widely accepted theory and practice but from first principles, applying native can-do empiricism to their designs. These buildings – made in partnership with clients – are demonstrations of this architectural philosophy. Almost from the inception of their practice, their work was recognised and commended by their peers with architectural awards. Over the years their elegant and climatically sensitive buildings have been the subject of exhibitions, magazine articles, both popular and professional, and several books.

About the author:
Lindsay and Kerry Clare. Clare Design was established in 1979 on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Lindsay + Kerry Clare, a husband and wife team, have been producing architectural projects for more 35 years. Their work has been consistently acknowledged at home and internationally, for design excellence and environmental performance. Haig Beck + Jackie Cooper write, “The Clares’ ideas about experiencing natural light and ventilation are merged with their ideas about typology. They fuse ideas about type and climate into building form. Their buildings allow occupants to engage with architecture and the world outside, reinforcing the essential connection with place.” They received the RAIA Gold Medal in 2010.

Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper. In 1976 Haig Beck was appointed editor of Architectural Design magazine. In 1979 he and Jackie Cooper launched International Architect magazine in London. They returned to Australia in 1986 and have continued collaborating as architectural editors, critics, writers and publishers. In 1996 they launched UME magazine. The output of 40 years of writing includes books, chapters, articles and critical reviews. Most of these have been jointly written.

Improving the Quality of Housing

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In this essay from Architecture Australia May/Jun 2014 , Lindsay and Kerry Clare explore the impact of SEPP 65 on the quality of multi-residential design in New South Wales.

Like city streets, housing can be considered to be the framework for life. Just as successful cities have great streets, good housing can provide opportunities and influence the way we live, work and enjoy our lives. Quality and choice are what set both a city and housing apart.

Cotton Tree Housing Project

The desirability of cities is re-emerging. Through informed analysis, many progressive city councils have a clear understanding of what makes their city work for its people. As the late planner and landscape architect Ian McHarg said, if you prioritize issues by importance, it becomes very easy to make decisions.1 The ingredients of a good city – connectivity, opportunity (choice), environment, economy and culture – can also be, at a smaller scale, the ingredients of good housing.

Since 2002, multi-residential development proposals in New South Wales have been assessed under the State Environment Planning Policy no. 65 (SEPP 65), which measures quality in relation to urban response, environment, landscape, social contribution, amenity and aesthetics. This policy has arguably been the biggest step forward for improvements in Australia’s housing stock and, in a relatively short time (for the construction world), has led to measurably better outcomes. Its precedents include the 1992 Australian Model Code for Residential Development (AMCORD) and the Residential Flat Design Code (RFDC), though unlike these earlier codes, SEPP 65 is embodied in state policy and assessed through independent design review panels. Panel reports are presented as advice to the relevant approval authority. SEPP 65 review panels are able to assess the functional aspects of each brief, site and context and provide independent recommendations to council beyond the overall planning requirements, which often cannot respond in particular detail to the constraints and opportunities of each site. It also encourages meaningful interaction between architects, landscape architects, urban designers and planners and approval authorities.

Research, feedback and anecdotal evidence all point to the policy’s success. Harry Triguboff, the founder and managing director of residential developer Meriton and the sixth richest person in Australia according to Business Review Weekly’s 2013 “Rich 200” list, has been noted to say that Meriton has “done well” since the introduction of SEPP 65, with apartments [of better quality] selling better. A survey conducted by the Property Council of Australia seven years after the introduction of SEPP 65 showed that 82 percent of respondents agreed that it had led to improved design, and with relatively minor impact on affordability.2 The dividends from good housing are very broad and, as with city planning, good intent can have positive knock-on effects. Increased opportunity, satisfaction, security and wellbeing all stem from the quality of the built environment. Some have called for an extension to SEPP 65 covering townhouses and other smaller scale housing types to improve housing stock across the board.

SEPP 65 has helped to reduce the impact of self-interested, random and uninformed opinions on housing outcomes and has preferenced informed review for the sake of “the greater good.” It has also established a critical distance between the vote-seeking local councillor or small self-interest group and more holistic approaches to urban design.

SEPP 65 also opens the door to discussions about aesthetics and the visual contribution each building makes to the city and to people’s lives. SEPP 65 also opens the door to discussions about aesthetics and the visual contribution each building makes to the city and to people’s lives. This is a step forward from previous policies, which either opted for a “hands-off” approach or overplayed contextual requirements and favoured historic references. Architecture and Beauty author Yael Reisner has argued that since the early modernism of the 1930s, architecture has continued to eliminate aesthetic bias: “When the self is removed beauty is avoided, leading to alienating built environments. For this reason we should desire beauty as a motivation for exploring architectural languages that could affect people, a notion to which architecture has been detrimentally resistant.”3 Without restricting creativity, panels can consider the role of the building in the public realm, the need for “signature” or “quiet,” or other aesthetics and their effects on the streetscape. SEPP 65 provides an avenue for robust discussion about aesthetics and their role in the culture and identity of a city or part of a city.

UNSW student housing architecture

A city’s housing mix also encompasses affordable housing and student housing – two typologies that aren’t currently covered by SEPP 65, though its principles could easily be applied. Providing a balance of housing types close to employment and transport options needs to be fostered and monitored through planning controls. Other housing types such as “two-key” apartments (a larger apartment that can function as two separate living units), “Fonzie flats” (studios above garages) and granny flats cater to a variety of extended family or community living needs that are again becoming common. As house prices rise, people are appreciating the benefits of multi-generational living and, as a result, the instance of families of up to four generations living under one roof is increasing. Meanwhile Defence Housing Australia, one of the largest housing providers in Australia, is looking at better ways to accommodate the changing defence family demographic: to support their interests and their growing families, to provide companionship through community and to balance the need for privacy with the need for connection. The high turnover and posting rate of defence families necessitates systems and homes that facilitate an easy transition to new places and new cities.

Another pressing issue that is being discussed through SEPP 65 is the need for greater provision for open space. Deep soil for viable trees (with no basement or other obstruction below the ground) and rainwater filtering will always be important for the environment with regard to air quality and reduction of heat build-up in urban areas. A large tree shading a facade can reduce internal temperatures by up to fifteen degrees. Both transpiration and shading from trees have a marked effect on microclimates and the inclusion of small pockets of deep soil in building developments is just as important as aggregated deep soil areas for improving the environmental performance and amenity of urban areas.

Cars and their effects on cities and housing have long been cited as the cause of problems including social isolation, obesity, air and noise pollution and urban decay. The late Melbourne architect Col Bandy often remarked that the car had allowed us to ignore the density that makes a city work. As the quality and vibrancy of inner-city and urban areas are regaining appreciation, the place for the individual private vehicle is being reduced and, in some areas, actively restricted. Carshares, bikeways (with family-friendly and commuter routes), tramways, self-driving cars and electric vehicles – to name a few – will all contribute to better streets, better air quality, noise reduction and increased amenity. Housing may always need to provide some storage for cars but the extent could be greatly reduced and, in some areas, eliminated. Consider how the voids formerly occupied by driveways and on-grade parking might be used in the future – and how less disrupted our public spaces and street frontages would become.

The regeneration of cities and the rising appreciation for housing density is an important topic on many levels. A well-worn quote from former Archbishop of Paris Jean-Marie Lustiger is worth reiterating, and that is: “that if all humans were gathered around Notre Dame of Paris with the same density as on the banks of the Seine, they would make up a circle with a radius of only a few hundred kilometres.”

The housing being built today could conceivably be occupied for more than one hundred years, which makes flexibility an essential part of their design. Regardless of type, generally the most enduring buildings have a good measure of openness, clear structural spans, good ceiling heights and access to light and ventilation – “offering opportunity rather than giving direction,” to quote Michael Benedikt.5 A good example is the old-school classroom: the generously sized rooms, complete with high ceilings and passive solar design, remain useful and desirable and can easily adapt to new teaching methods. In a similar way, housing should avoid being too prescriptive when different households and different eras will have different demands. Simple planning decisions such as the placement of wet areas, kitchens and doorways can greatly affect how space can be used and should be made with longevity in mind. Houses have many lives. Rather than meeting a designer’s idea of “perfection” (a word derived from the Latin word for “complete”), housing should aspire to facilitation.

1. Ian L. McHarg, Design with Nature (Garden City, NY: Natural History Press, 1969).

2. Glenn Byres, NSW executive director of the Property Council of Australia, in a letter to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure, 19 July 2011 (citing survey results from 2009). (accessed 3 March 2014)

3. Yael Reisner, “Do architects have a problem with beauty?”, Building Design online, 10 September 2010. (accessed 3 March 2014)

4. Jean-Marie Lustiger, Caritas Australia Helder Camara Lecture, Melbourne, 2001.

5. Michael Benedikt, For an Architecture of Reality (New York: Lumen Books, 1987), 52.

Grand Civic Ambitions: Library at the Dock

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With this public library in Melbourne’s Docklands, Clare Design shows how a small, community-minded building can help instil a still-young urban precinct with a sense of place.

In the making of cities there are moments when all the pieces fall into place to create a sense of civitas. Until that time, many new, hugely scaled developments remain endless estates of undifferentiated floor space or ghostly mono-functional ghettoes – forlorn ventures that conjure the term “placeless.”

Docklands Library architecture

From Dubai to Shanghai, the world is currently full of such non-places, some built, thousands planned. Closer to home, we frown at Perth’s addled embrace of its urban fortunes and await Barangaroo – Sydney’s latest dalliance with urbs – with trepidation and a healthy dose of scepticism. In Melbourne, it’s been the same with Docklands – a long process of populating three windswept mini-coasts with high-rise apartments, massive offices for ANZ and NAB banks, and many saying behind their hands, “I told you so – this wouldn’t work – I wouldn’t live here.” But things have changed.

Docklands has become a city. It has places of exchange (two supermarkets and plenty of shops and restaurants as well as the huge offices). It has housing. It has a kindergarten and childcare centre (though not yet a school). It has an abundance of requisite public art, some of which has been specially designed to mitigate the chilly winds coming off the water. It even has its own stadium. And now, Lindsay and Kerry Clare of Clare Design have designed what might be considered this entire development’s true urban heart: a tiny public prism that may keep this new city alive.

The small library, which also contains within it a series of other public functions, is part of the City of Melbourne’s strategy of inserting or updating public libraries across the municipality. For Rob Adams, director of city design at City of Melbourne, each library was to be an urban exemplar, not just in terms of knitting together context, morphology and public space, but also in pushing the boundaries of technology, especially with regard to responsible environmental design. Adams commissioned Sydney-based architects Lindsay and Kerry Clare to investigate a series of hypothetical projects for various sites in Docklands, in effect testing the potential of this new city at Melbourne’s edge to embrace some form of civitas. The exercise was invaluable in demonstrating that the intervention of a small, community-based building could have significant impact. Places Victoria, the City of Melbourne and Lend Lease entered a tripartite agreement to deliver Victoria Harbour, including Dock Square and the library, which revert to City of Melbourne ownership and management.

Docklands Library architecture, Australia

In the end, the site chosen was at the hinge point of the central strip of dock in Victoria Harbour that is still to be developed. The Clares designed a three-storey rectangular box – each level with a floor area of 1000 square metres – and placed it close to the northern boardwalk. Critically, they added to the box a giant, north-facing verandah, a monumental gesture of welcome, climatically sensible, but also an echo of Melbourne’s archetypal public signifier since the 1840s: the urban verandah. These two gestures – placement on the site and the big verandah – were fundamental, as the building was being value-engineered to within an inch of its life. The Clares, working closely with Hayball in Melbourne on documentation and the City of Melbourne’s City Design on the interior fitout, developed the design to meet strict cost constraints and unusual construction challenges. Located on Victoria Harbour’s seventy-five-year-old timber piled wharf, the building had to be light and its weight evenly distributed. And so this new public building became a timber box, constructed almost entirely of cross-laminated timber (CLT): European spruce sourced from Austria and manufactured there in less than a week by Stora Enso. In addition to CLT, which includes the floor slabs, the building has been constructed with Glulam posts and beams, and recycled ironbark and tallowwood for the external cladding. The Glulam and CLT arrived in Melbourne packed into twenty-one shipping containers containing 1600 parcels, 110,000 nails and nearly eight tonnes of brackets – in short, a flat-pack building in the tradition of Swedish furniture giant IKEA. The building was then put together like a kit of parts and sheathed in the recycled timber, its edges detailed by the Clares with the precision of Prouvé and Chareau to create a breathing, self-ventilating box. With a series of features that includes a passive natural ventilation system supplemented by mechanical operable louvres on all four sides, 85 kW solar panels on the roof, water harvesting for flushing toilets, central skylights that act as ventilation chimneys, low VOC and formaldehyde materials, and all furniture and fitout meeting Green Star ratings – in addition to, surprisingly, minimal energy used in shipping the timber from Austria – the Library at the Dock was awarded Australia’s first 6 Star Green Star Public Building Design PILOT rating. This is no mean feat.

Docklands Library sustainable architecture

Given the Clares’ longstanding interest in design that is fit for climate, their shared experience of working for Gabriel Poole, Lindsay Clare’s childhood experiences of a Nissen hut on Bribie Island adapted for climate with the addition of adjustable window flaps, Kerry Clare’s admiration for the lean and clever spareness of Christopher Kringas’s 1960s design for her father’s Citroen car showroom in Sydney, and their environmentally careful design as design directors of Architectus for the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane, it is understandable that this little building was going to be, and is, dense with ideas.

First, the Library at the Dock is not just a library. In addition to its collection of 60,000 books, CDs and DVDs, it has multiple functions contained within it. At ground level, there’s a cafe on entry, as well as the necessary functions of information, book borrowing and return. Everything, including the columns, is timber, either left bare or stained black. It’s an effective palette as the spines of books and magazines lend the interior the rest of its colour. On the bleak Melbourne day I visited, the library felt Scandinavian. I could have been in Denmark. This had as much to do with the architecture as with the relaxed and informal functions that were added onto the library program. On the first floor is a gallery that can be hired out. On the second floor at the western end is a 120-seat theatre space with retractable seating. On the same floor there’s a recording studio as well as a semi-outdoor terrace where a father and son were playing table tennis on artificial grass, and where louvred walls and roof can open up to the park view and the sky for natural ventilation. In the dedicated kids’ reading area there are delightful, child-scaled curving shelf units designed by the Clares that recall the space-making strategies of Aldo van Eyck.

Docklands Library public architecture

Architecturally, the unifying element within all of this is the nine-tonne central stair. Craned into place and with the feel of a packing crate transformed artlessly into an elegant public stair, this is the other elemental public signifier of the project, something the Clares refer to in their work as “open invitations.” The Clares don’t over-intellectualize their work and it is this strategy that imparts a relaxed humility to their buildings generally. In Docklands, the Clares’ building takes on a role that a municipal library took on in the suburbs in the 1950s but with extra functions: an unassuming identity that will become an intrinsic component in building community. A simple idea perhaps, but it is a strategy that lifts this project to a level of significance to which others aspire but do not reach. And fundamentally this is because of the rigour of its responsible making and the complete satisfaction of its brief. This little building is quiet in form and language but loud in its urban ambition. Given its already high usage (60,000 visits in the first three months), it is indisputable proof of a beating moment in a place about to find its heart.

Architect: Clare Design
Architect of Record: Hayball
Words: Philip Goad
Images: Clare Design, Dianna Snape, John Gollings
Posted: 2 Apr 2015
Source: Architecture Australia – January 2015 (Issue 1)
Tags: Civic, Public