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I’m not sure which bothers me more, bad architecture or bad copywriting. Probably copywriting. It puts ideas in our heads. And closing our eyes doesn’t make them go away. You’d think bad architecture is responsible for bad copywriting but it’s the other way around. Architects think of what their press kit will say and then CAD it up. Recently, my sister sent me a booklet of a local building she thought I might be interested in. She thought the building fussy, too many things happening. Agree. How much inspiration does a building need to have? Clue: It’s a shed.

The booklet itself is an anachronism. This printed paper matter wasn’t designed to be read, let alone air mailed around the world. I was not an intended reader. Too late.  

This link recycles much of the booklet text but let’s start where the booklet does – with “the architect’s vision”.

There is a specific philosophy behind the form and function of the building. Designed by Melbourne architects Lyons, in partnership with Perth company T&Z, 30 Aberdeen Street also mirrors elements of the vast West Australian landscape. Stratified open cut mines, precious metals, turtle shells, blackened sticks, metal mining bridges, black and white striped shadows in the atria, termite mounds in the red desert serve as a rich visual narrative to inform the aesthetics of the building. The horizontal striations on the facade are representative of an open cut mine or natural erosions in the landscape like the Bungle Bungle ranges). The copper, silver and coloured metallic facade panels reflect the wealth of natural resources in WA.

Shamefully, I had to google “Bungle Bungle Ranges”. The list of inspirations was exhaustive. Exhausting. The black swans are happy. Consigned now, as they are, to the anonymous dustbin of parochial cliché.

Confession. I didn’t understand how a function could have a philosophy either. Maybe I could raise an eyebrow at the use of the words “mirrors” and “reflect” as meaningful verbs, the compound misuse of “narrative” and “aesthetic”, the relative accuracies of “striation” vs. “strata”, the position of the apostrophe in “architect’s”, the newly-coined plural “erosions” and whether “natural resources in WA” is actually correct English.

I know, I know. Let’s just enjoy it for what it is.

The copper, silver and coloured metallic facade panels reflect the wealth of natural resources in WA.

An open-cut mine near Kalgoorlie. Impressive? Very. Poetic? No.

Upon entry, the library service desk greeting clients mirrors a downscaled outback Wave Rock.

Wave Rock is a 27-million year old natural wonder. It’s seen a lot of shit happen. It must be thinking that now is a good time to die. Let’s have another look at that library service desk above, reflect upon the meaning and purpose of human life on this planet, etc.

The Social Heart triples the size of the implied urban space and connects with Campus’ older buildings along Aberdeen Street. The Social Heart is half inside, half outside, barely separated visually by a large clear glazed facade wall running diagonal to the street. The space is designed as one space, indoor and outdoor, connecting together structural, formal and material elements to create a larger urban space. Stairs, ramps and lifts are all visible and highly accessible to make way finding easy. There is the presence of continual movement.

Reading this paragraph is like learning a new piece of piano music. There’s tricky passages, hidden themes, ornamental flourishes. It has to be comprehended and practiced one phrase – no, one word – at a time before taking a deep breath and trying to put it all together and make something coherent out of it. Tripling an implied space? Large clear glazed facade wall? Indoor space + outdoor space = urban space? I know, I know. Let’s let it go. The structural, formal and material elements have the urban space pretty much to themselves after dark. And, mostly, in the broad daylight as well.

I love this bit.

the cloud and pool of history

The public art feature hovering over the main entrance, by Jurek Wybrianec and Stephen Neille has been the cause of much public discussion.

The intriguing ‘Cloud’ is part of two separate but interconnected artworks commissioned specially for the new building under the Percent for Art scheme. The second element, inside the foyer, is a sandblasted cobblestone floor work entitleed ‘Pool of History’. It mirrors the kidney shape of the cloud.

Perhaps it was a mistake to have “cloud” and “pool” so interconnected, so mirrory. All it takes to jump the analogy barrier is the fibreglass swimming pool, another feature of life in Western Australia.

Most of all, I love that telling faint praise, “the cause of much public discussion”. I can imagine the tenor of most of it. A town divided over whether the ‘Cloud’ is the Postmodern social comment of the gold-plated TV antenna on Robert Venturi’s 1961 Guild House?

Or the Dadaist found-object irony of Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain? 


“Art, my arse!”

Too right.

Cheers, sis! Hi Jonathan! =)


  • Now now Graham, I was hoping that you not find out about this gem.
    Not very highly regarded, by the populace, architectural of otherwise. A signal of early urban blight?
    The press verbiage is straight from the horses mouths, so to speak. Having herd the drivel in person prior to the unveiling-cheap continuing education points.
    Wait till your sister sends you images of the Perth Arena. or check out the aerials on
    You can then follow the time line and the also unfortunate demise of the far more inspiring neighbour. Maybe she already has and you are holding fire until all is fully revealed.

    However the example of the Guild House is an unfortunate analogy.

  • says:

    I think the problem with press architecture is not with the people who write it, but with those who read it. People can produce any rubbish they want through any medium if there is no one to evaluate their production (verbal in this case).
    I really respect the approach of our neighbours in the cars’ industry. You don’t find a good car designer who gets his inspiration from a rock or a bath tub. They design it to look cool, pretty and stupidly expensive so petrol heads with no installed brain can buy it.
    Regardless of the metaphor, the idea of modelling an object based on another one from a different galaxy is a bit outdated. Our friends in this building took an extra step sugar-coating it!

    I think you should make a magazine called “Nafchitecture”
    And by the way, I want those stamps.