2010 COLORBOND® steel Student Biennale

The following are general comments by the jury in relation to the nature, content and scope of submissions, as well as views on major design projects in Australian schools of architecture. These comments serve both as observations on the submissions received, and as a guide for future entrants.

It heartens the jury to see a high degree of creative thinking and diversity of modes of expression in the competition submissions. The broad range of project types and ideologies is a continued celebration of difference in Australian architectural education.

In general, there are four major project types. Firstly there is a notable interest with urban interventions, towards more smaller scale dispersed projects, and away from expressions of monumentality. Within this project type is the influence of recent discussions on landscape urbanism, and it is refreshing to see a more holistic view of the built world. A focus on adaptive reuse projects with an emphasis on interior spaces, and challenges to existing planning regimes, is probably due to a heightened awareness of sustainable design.

The second is the emergence of a new romanticism and return to craft and drawing. These projects emphasise the poetic and narrative nature of the design process, with healthy doses of nostalgia and whimsy, and in several cases a welcomed sense of humour. However, many proposals tend to suffer at the level of detail resolution.

Thirdly, there is a strong seam of digitally-based explorations of new typologies, particularly around issues of sustainability. These projects, usually accompanied by exciting imagery, pose a difficult problem for the jury as the processes of form generation, which are almost as important as the architectural objects, are frequently undocumented or remain difficult to access. The jury suggests that in future submissions, entrants should organise their submissions with a clear ‘storyboard’ to ensure a sense of continuity in communication of concept, process and resolution.

Lastly, conventional large-scale signature architectural projects remain a constant, however the concept of monumentality and its senses of awe and excess have been used to provoke norms towards eliciting social and cultural change. Differences between projects in given briefs and self-selected briefs, although a general trend, was particularly evident in this category. Projects with self-selected briefs were more far ranging in terms of answering a particular design or research topic, although there tended to be disadvantages in relation to detailed planning and resolution owing to time available for the completion of a studio. Projects with given briefs tend to remain within a limited range of formal and spatial articulations with a higher degree of resolution.

The differences in the project typologies, the diverse interests of the jury members, and the unsurpassed number of entrants, made it challenging to compile the shortlist at Stage 1. However, there was a clear and immediate consensus on the shortlist of commendable projects in Stage 2, at which point jury members with conflicts of interest stepped aside from the selection of the winner.

Generally, the jury was delighted by the talent, enthusiasm and passion of participating students, and would encourage, with the assistance by schools of architecture, an even wider participation in the future.

Competition Jury

Stephen Loo RAIA, Jury Chair, Academic/Architect, Tasmania
Ken Maher LFRAIA, Architect NSW, Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medalist 2009
John Schenk LFRAIA, Academic, South Australia
Alysia Bennett, SONA, University of Tasmania

Winner
Keith Westbrook Ross Slip Shipwright School – University of Tasmania
Commendations
James Barclay The Nook House – Hybrid Housing Solutions – University of NSW
Nicholas Flutter NorthBank – University of Queensland
Lachlan Seegers Newcastle Abattoir + Beef Market – University of Newcastle
Finalists
Lorenzo Ju Sensory Architecture Hepburn Bathhouse Redevelopment – Deakin University
Zuzana Kovar A Guide Book to Whimsical Development in Paddington – University of Queensland
Peter Mcintyre Reconstructing the Zoo – Deakin University
Sam Perversi-brooks Institute of Marine & Antarctic Studies – RMIT University
Michael Sharp / Jessica In Living Tower – RMIT University
Louis Wong Requiem of a Dream in Melbourne – RMIT University
Winner

Keith WestbrookKEITH WESTBROOK,
UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA

Ross Slip Shipwright School

The Hobart City Planning Scheme highlights the Battery Point slipyards as a suitable site for an Interpretation Centre documenting the significance of the Ross Patent Slip. This project has been established around the rejection of the interpretation centre as a building typology, instead interweaving interpretational ideas into the architectural design of a shipwright school on the site.

Currently, the open site is dotted with sheds dating from the mid 1960’s through to present with a deep cutting separating the two existing park areas; the remains of the Ross Patent Slip. This cutting is the location of the proposed shipwright school and slip. The building encourages the preservation of the unique craftsmanship as well as the slip as a physical artifact. The project also maintains and strengthens the working slipyard by re-establishing the once impressive Ross Slip.

Jury Comment

Interventions into the urban fabric of our cities that respect the past and also anticipate the future are rare yet increasingly necessary. Keith Westbrook’s modest yet decisive project, set around a deep cutting and remnants of the Ross Patent Slip, provides an exemplar in its sensitive interpretation and engaging design quality.

By rejecting the idea of an interpretive centre in favour of a live and meaningful use, a renewed relationship is provided between this part of the city and the water. The clarity of the linear spine is enriched through carefully arranged shifts in geometry and vertical alignments, which engage with the water and anchor expressive markers recalling earlier maritime occupations. An intelligent and intimate experience encourages public enjoyment of this previously underutilized site.

This incisive design proposition gives rise to a distinctive, gentle and particular architectural expression, as well as a delightful manipulation of space. A sense of craft underpins the genesis of the concept as well permeating the materiality.

With its elegant balance between forms and spaces, this work displays great sensitivity to the landscape setting, and provides a coherency from the overall composition right through to the fine details. This is a welcome return of preoccupation with informed materiality and craft, providing an antidote to the more currently familiar digital domination.

In challenging restrictive planning schemes and tackling conservation in a refreshingly unapologetic manner, Westbrook provides a model for active urban re-interpretation that is simultaneously practical and poetic.

Commedation

JAMES BARCLAY,
UNIVERSITY OF NSW

The Nook House – Hybrid Housing Solutions

As Sydney grows, the question of where and how to form our built environment becomes increasingly important. Current patterns of development tend to be narrowly focused on what the final urban outcome should be, without acknowledging the importance of the steps between. In considering the case of Green Square, to the south of the Sydney CBD, this hypothetical brief sought to challenge current macro level development patterns, by suggesting something more intimate, more subtle, and more pedestrian. By combining different building functions, and re-considering their relationships to one another, this project explored how current urban patterns could inform and mould future site specific solutions.

Jury Comment

The jury felt that the project was a very good example of dispersed infill architecture, where micro architectural moves provided overall macro possibilities for change. This approach is a legitimate antidote to the obsession with monumental responses especially in the age of climate change. Interventions following particular patterns are almost ephemeral in appearance, but are executed with a high level of detail and consideration to local conditions and existing urban grain. The cross programming is highly effective because it relies on the idea of movement and shifting urban intentions rather than fixed ideas of development. The jury was most convinced by the resolution of the project in model form, as some parts of the conceptual framework were difficult to follow, and the environmental strategies presented remain nascent.


NICHOLAS FLUTTER,
UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

NorthBank

Northbank is an urban planning and public architecture proposition for a prominent section of the Brisbane River bank adjacent to the CBD. The site is dominated by the riverside expressway, a major piece of 1970s infrastructure that strangles the old riverbank and divides the city from the river.

By subtly modifying the traffic flow, opportunities are made for architectural interventions that overcome the concrete barriers and create places and public space at the edge of the city. The functions are defined by the urban context, while the forms react to the landscape of concrete bridges and voids.

Jury Comment

The project is a clear demonstration of the rehabilitative capacity of architecture. Using hybrid building typologies in interstitial spaces of major urban infrastructure, the project makes strategic, topographically specific and highly nuanced urban moves to reframe the relationship between land, water and existing infrastructure. The result convincingly produces new typologies of habitable spaces and socially rich functional programs, while redefining what was a lost edge of the city. The jury felt the scheme encourages more adventurous thinking and interventions commensurate with the scale of urban infrastructure such as freeways and bridges. The project begs the question of what constitutes a sustainable response to a sub-tropical climate in what is becoming a popular project type in landscape urbanism.


LACHLAN SEEGERS,
UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE

Newcastle Abattoir + Beef Market

Conceived as a way to rejuvenate the slaughterhouse as a conscious, ritualistic social intervention, the Newcastle Abattoir and Beef Market aims to realign the processes of slaughter with notions of sacrifice and ceremony.

Up until the late Nineteenth-Century, sacrifice and consumption were inseparable. Today, as society continues to obsess over hygiene and censorship, this connection has been lost.

In response to this cultural ignorance, the configuration of the abattoir was dismantled then assembled, reintroducing the abattoir to the urban fabric, creating the possibility for society to experience the full scale of human emotion. Not merely experiencing the beautiful but embracing the abrasion of the ugly.

Jury Comment

The jury admires this project for its provocative intervention into the social and built fabric of a city. Deliberately abstract in content, and located somewhere between the excesses of the slaughter, and the overwhelming despair in the architecture for dying, the abattoir design forces the city to face the by-products of its consumerism. The communication of the project is reminiscent of the work of Italian Rationalists who used typology as social commentary, and French Enlightenment architects such as Boullee and Ledoux, who used monumentality to induce awe towards social change. While it was a little difficult to follow the functional planning and circulation, the use of traditional hand rendering, seductive diagramming and a sublime timber model elicited in the jury a convincing affectua

Finalist

LORENZO JU,
DEAKIN UNIVERSITY

Sensory Architecture Hepburn Bathhouse Redevelopment

Located next to Bitumen Road, Hepburn Springs, Victoria, this project is a proposal for the redevelopment of the existing Hepburn bathhouse, with an intention to provide a more engaging built environment that interrelates with its natural and artificial contexts. Based on ‘Phenomenology’ research, and questioning the digitalized architecture in current age, this project emphasizes the basic consideration of the relationship of building, surrounding context, space, and human perceptions. Here, architecture acts not only as the embracement of elements on site, but also the medium for the harmonic events of significant elements of the site and its phenomena, with its inhabitants.

Jury Comment

The jury was initially attracted to the sensory focus of the bath house extension. In particular, juxtaposition between the body and architecture, and the evocative atmosphere of the landscape, underpins the methodology. Whether the atmosphere envisaged could be achieved in reality without further detail is uncertain. The jury also noted that the connections between the new building to the natural environment and existing bath house could be more refined. In addition, a lack of formal and volumetric resolution detracted from a potentially strong response.


ZUZANA KOVAR,
UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

A Guide Book to Whimsical Development in Paddington

The project consists of a series of buildings ranging from low to medium density development in the inner city suburb Paddington, Brisbane.

The brief was carefully generated to test the inherent conflicts of introducing mixed uses into a suburban centre at increasing densities. Opposing programmes – from childcare vs brothel & cigar bar to short term backpacker accommodation vs long term residential dwellings – were juxtaposed to achieve this.

The objective: Establishing guidelines for consolidated development in culturally important, character sensitive, inner suburban centres.

Jury Comment

The intentions of the project are commendable. Developers and the public need this reference for adventurous and rich intervening forms, which either challenge or illuminate land use planning legislation. The jury detected a dichotomy between strategies to be applied in similar places and an architectural style that is specific yet appears not to acknowledge the existing fabric of Paddington. The provocative juxtaposition of some uses will excite much public debate.


PETER MCINTYRE,
DEAKIN UNIVERSITY

Reconstructing the Zoo

Intrigued by the uneasy dichotomy of the urban park typology, this is a speculative project which adopts and extends the mindset of an existing, conservative and inherently deceitful masterplan of a large, under-utilised urban park in Melbourne. This approach, combined with the rich histories and legacies of the site across a broad range of scales both temporal and physical, results in what may be viewed as a radical piece of urban apparatus. Part museum, part infrastructure (both internalised and inter-nodal), part open-range zoo and recreational facility, the project endeavours to retain and celebrate its many and contradictory qualities through ambiguity, artifice and appropriation.

Jury Comment

The written and graphic communication of the poetic narrative and theatricality of this project is well articulated and engaging. In particular, the ways in which the form captures the pre-existing zoo structures to challenge the notion of architecture as field versus object was particularly effective. However, a lack of clarity of the primary form and construction, particularly in the main section, were unconvincing but overall a very bold and thought-provoking scheme.


SAM PERVERSI-BROOKS,
RMIT UNIVERSITY

Institute of Marine & Antarctic Studies

The program is a contemporary mix of research, education, science art and culture. The building is vessel for the boldness and importance of the education and research it houses, the wide range of investigation it facilitates – so integral to Hobart, and so critical to the wider world.

The IMAS project offers an Architecture that positions Tasmania as a state of change, creativity and innovation – expressly manifesting these values within the built fabric of the city, in order to both strengthen and make vivid this commitment.

Jury Comment

This is a strong, vigorous architectural statement both in its dominant scale and character. The bulk relates to the size of contemporary cruise ships, but while their presence is temporal, the IMAS will always overshadow Battery Point. At close range the buildings do offer a welcome shelter and amenity and ground level, and a higher engagement with the waterfront. There is a clarity to the presentation which both explains the structure and forms, but also indicates some unresolved detailed planning.


MICHAEL SHARP / JESSICA IN,
RMIT UNIVERSITY

Living Tower

The Living Tower is a proposal for a new kind of living in the Melbourne CBD, one which proactively engages inhabitants to imagine and change for a better future. Embracing a concept where ‘sustainable’ is not enough, architecture becomes a catalyst for giving back to the urban and natural environments. Wind, water, solar, and geothermal resources are harvested not only to create better living environments, but to generate algae production, generating energy for the building and back into the power grid.

Jury Comment

The project demonstrates the possibilities of a current predilection for new digital technologies in architectural design that rely heavily on the appropriation of biology. The jury was impressed by the adventurous nature of the project to illustrate the relationship between structural resolution and parametric design in the first stage of the competition. Ironically, further work for the second stage weakened the scheme owing to a literal and simplistic adoption of biological references. The project would benefit from a better integrated program for sustainability rather than a collection of techniques and technologies to promote a futuristic image.


LOUIS WONG,
RMIT UNIVERSITY

Requiem of a Dream in Melbourne

A design exploration and critique on the displacement of historical buildings by commercial development in Melbourne Chinatown, 3 speculative Acts of architecture aim to develop historical narrative and enrich the precinct.

Act 1

Chinese Archive that maps the development of Chinatown

Act 2

Museum of Views that frames historical motifs on site

Act 3

Forgotten Picture Palace, memorial to the ‘early entertainment district’

Where the old Esquire Theatre lies hidden behind the Bourke Street Target sign, Act 3 layers spatial experiences and reworks nostalgic motifs to perpetuate the dialogue between contemporary and nostalgic, and of Melbourne’s historical identity in place-making.

Jury Comment

An effective narrative based methodology led to the retention and reuse of the existing urban fabric as a framing device for these lost city spaces. In addition, clever use of collage enabled these otherwise difficult atmospheres to be captured successfully. In doing so, a nostalgic sense of the past was created through surprise and intrigue at the revelation of these unique interior volumes. Despite the alluring romantic overtones and seductive imagery, the jury was disappointed that such attention was not paid to the communication of both architectural and structural detail.