Friday, March 27, 2009

THE PURPLE PERIL

You may have seen this creation taking form if you are a resident of the southern suburbs of Brisbane, or if like me you are a northsider, you may have seen its sister structure very similar only orangey-red in colour. If you haven't realized both are the ventilation shafts required for the inner city tunnels project. Now you may have an opinion about the cladding, the colour selection, the pattern or the form...

I have a problem with the whole concept...

Here we are supposedly going green, the Brisbane City Council is busy promoting earth hour with competitions to win scooters if you show your support...but where is their support?
Here was the opportunity to lead the way, even if it only acted as a billboard for green initiatives and didn't maximize possible opportunities at least this concrete monstrosity could have been covered in an environmentally friendly, ecologically responsible...green velvet coat of vegetation...- possibly even flowering every now and then...real flowers...not the supposed graphic representations of Jacaranda and Poinciana...

Or why not clad in a lightweight scaffold structure providing planting for an inner city farm...???With just a little creativity and forward thinking the possibilities would amaze you...but instead aren't you proud....we have these structures to admire and applaud for years and years to come...

Have a look below at what the rest of the world is up to....come on Brisbane...Keep up!!!








Friday, March 13, 2009

SKIN OBSESSION - BILLBOARD ARCHITECTURE - SUPER...MODELS

When did we become sooo obsessed with skin...
I'm not naive...I realize there is something erotic about skin...human skin that is...but it seems of late our buildings have grown a skin of there own...One wonders is it in an aim to cover and disguise something a little more sinister... Are these pretty patterns and three dimensional craftings of sometimes nothing more than layered cladding, just a smoke screen...enticing the eye but bamboozling the client..some Architects have gone as far as to entwine a complex pattern into an external structural systems...some how trying to warrant the obscure patterns as a requirement and development of design...
...maybe a little cliche but where are our mothers' voices....

..."don't judge a book by its cover !"...
..."its what's inside that counts!"...
I do hope we have not reduced ourselves to mere advertising agents...assisting our clients to market their floor space or property...producing "billboard architecture"
Lets hope we still remember ...that good design stands the test of time...and a building that works well for its owner and its user..is more than a pretty facade....
...and is likely to be the best investment for any client...
...and the best advertisment for any Architect...
meanwhile....even I buy a magazine or two to look at the pretty pics...





Let us just hope that in their case beauty is more than skin deep...

Monday, March 9, 2009

THE GREEN ELECTION

.
.
So another state election is upon us… campaigning has well and truly begun, the Polies are out about town, and the promises are rolling off their tongues, left, right, and centre, but how many of them are realistic … do they hold water at all??? (Pardon the green pun)

Not that I have ever been one to be easily persuaded by Politian’s posturing … I do think no matter how you vote, at the end of the day, someone will be elected…and I believe it is important to understand how each parties policies might impact and ultimately be of benefit …

The construction industry and the environment are big draw cards this election with the “current economic situation” imposing great pressures on all of us linked to these industries, so it is with great interest I watch how these campaigners propose to ease the strain.

Anna Bligh is promising if elected… all new houses and major renovations will be required to be of “6 star energy efficiency standards” by 2010… (but new units will only be required to be 5 stars)…and has on the eve of calling elections, introduced the climate smart home service. Http://www.climatesmart.qld.gov.au/

Lawrence Springborg is proposing spending on bike trails and the development of clean fuel ethanol programs, as well as his own eco house scheme to encourage home owners to install rain water tanks and innovative water saving initiatives. Http://www.climateproof.com.au/
But Anna – whose star rating are you using??? – is this only an energy thing...do we install a few electricity meters and a few green bulbs and wham bam thank you mam…global environmental crisis solved??? – And why are you being so kind on the big developer…surely with larger developments it would be easier to implement more effective not only energy, but water and waste initiatives… isn’t it always the larger industries with the larger budgets that can afford to the start the ball rolling???

Lawrence – same thing applies, you are starting at the wrong end!…water tanks and solar panels for mums and dads …isn’t going to have us the renewable energy capital of Australia by 2015…it might remove our title as the state with the slowest uptake of solar power… but as we have been told for years solar power is of all the renewable energy alternatives the least effective and requires a lot more research and development …

And not to be out done …the greens, Ronan Lee, recently threw punches Anna Bligh’s direction in relation to the Queensland governments environmentally hypocritical support of the Gold Coast Indy and Virgin Airlines, but failure to assist a Canberra based solar cell company’s desire to relocate, a move which would have created job opportunities for the construction industry and state at a time when they are need most…

Meanwhile Australian conservative council’s sustainable program manager, Monica Richter supported Anna Bligh but said she wanted standards increased to seven stars (there are no seven stars Monica…)

Have these Polies been “green washed” too? It wouldn’t surprise me… as someone who is very interested in green approaches to living and designing…I also have at times found it difficult to make sense of the jargon … star ratings vary depending on who you are dealing with ;
energy http://www.energystar.gov.au/about/index.html ,
water http://www.waterrating.gov.au/about/index.html ,
…or a holistic approach http://www.gbca.org.au/... Life cycle costs might only refer to a building from construction onwards and not necessarily take into consideration the energy requirements to produce materials off site prior or during construction…

And closer to home…are green bulbs really green??? They may reduce energy consumption when in use…but they contain mercury…they cost some times up to 3 times as much as the conventional bulb and reports have it if you are one who since an early age has been taught to turn the light off when leaving the room …they tend not to fair as well as promised…

Obviously, from this it is evident, there needs to be a collaborative effort to standardize and integrate the variety of rating systems out there into one rating program. Standardization would improve consumer understanding by demystifying green lingo and might even be a step toward reducing marketing green washing. Providing a rating tool that could deliver across the board, across all industries and would act as a green counter…a measure which we could all refer to for clarification and best practise, a proactive and dynamic rating system that evolved to encourage continual innovation...But rewarded all that invested in green products/technologies or services (green building consultants) through a levy …just like the Medicare levy…your tally or investment % would see a tax reduction...

Just as another politician lord mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, summed up at the recent Green Building Council of Australia’s green cities 09 conference “it is about changing behaviours”
Maybe it is about all of us changing our behaviour….politicians as well…really getting serious about green measures…and let us hope whoever it is that is elected … they actually deliver on their promises… so it isn’t the voting public “green washed” in the end…

Friday, March 6, 2009

THEY DON'T BUILD THEM LIKE THEY USED TO...

.
John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, P 728.31 rei

I am in the process of looking for a place to call my own... With the increase in the incentives being offered by the government..Who isn’t ...and I mean who isn’t...it seems the property market is currently being supported by the renewed activity from first home buyers keen to grab their grant entitlements.

However I am not sure if I am going to be able to make use of mine... You see I have now seen 18 properties and counting...some are too small, barely room to swing a cat...some are overpriced – sellers trying to take advantage of inexperienced buying market urgent to invest ... The list goes on...(literally I have an excel spreadsheet with each property's details and shortcomings) and well, I am willing to concede..Maybe I am just a little picky...

But there was one that took my fancy...Torbreck... Now I am sure there are very few of you that can understand my fascination with the Brisbane landmark...but if you could see what I see, its potential..you would understand...the building is a heritage listed structure – according to the Queensland heritage register “the complex is a good example of the 1950’s architectural and landscape design in its form, attention to climate control and use of materials” http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/chims/placedetail.html?siteid=16019

I arrived at the complex, Dornoch terrace side, through the beautifully maintained landscaped entrance. The modern influence immediately apparent in the glazing details and the proportions of the entry space. The two interconnecting sitting rooms that precede the lift lobby, both with their immaculate timber panelling still intact, I could imagine myself in an episode of ‘mad men’... All that was needed was the right furniture, a dropped pendant and some attention to detail, but as it sat with a token chair it looked bare, tired, and just old, not a good example of anything.

We took the refurbished lifts to the appropriate floor exiting onto if not the original, an accurate representation of the lino floor that would have been initially chosen. Again the corridor was generous, not making you feel it was there only through necessity, squeezed of any perceived unnecessary space like some of the newer developments I had viewed. Mail boxes were positioned and apparently still delivered to on every floor, and the no longer used hatches for individual apartment milk delivery punctuated the corridor.
The apartment itself had never been renovated, other than a lick of paint and new carpets, it still remained much as it was the day it was completed, original kitchen and bathroom joinery, timber veneer built-in cupboards to both bedrooms and the original Kleenmaid drying cupboard in the laundry... The large balcony to the living room with spectacular views back to the ranges and the space the apartment offered was nothing like anything I had seen in the CBD. The large sliding doors to the balconies opened to allow a magnificent breeze, that even on the 34 degree day would mean no air con was required...if I could I would have pitched tent then and there...
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect... Nothing ever is...with 150 units in the combined blocks, the recreation spaces were surprisingly small in comparison with what I had seen in other more modern developments, the pool was a token effort, but still well maintained, no gym was available, and in the common areas, there was no furniture, or encouragement to use. The car park which is offered with this apartment is I am told not a common feature and a bonus, incredible, not in a good way. A parallel park between two structural elements, it was no more than two and a half meters wide, and if careful consideration did not go into your approach...I am sure you could end up sleeping in you your vehicle unable to escape...so maybe a replan of the car park so as to maximize the ease of use would be in order.
Now to me, here is an opportunity. If these heritage listers truly cared for the preservation of our architectural heritage, owners in buildings the like of Torbreck should be incentivized, encouraged to maintain the original condition of not only the main building but possibly even apartments. Although I know heritage grants exist, the process to apply is not a simple one...it therefore raises the question, why do properties listed not receive regular entitlements, audits and assistance in maintaining their premier heritage status? Instead, it seems the onus has been transferred to the owner, to toe the line... Why? ... Where the body corporate contributions for this building double that of several of the newer, much better serviced buildings in the CBD, it is only going to become harder and harder to convince the future generations that investments into buildings of the like are of any merit...

What I am suggesting is a more stringent heritage listing criteria, that encourages owners to register their building entitling them to not only prestige of owning a quality representation of our architectural heritage, but easy regular access to funds, knowledge and assistance...

In London...they have an architecture week...with open houses...allowing people to access buildings normally not open to the public... Where proud owners showcase their buildings, be it new, old, renovated...buildings like the gherkin, the helmet and many others, providing guided tours, allowing people the rare opportunity to experience the benefits and joy of good architecture both new and old... Maybe we should look at doing the same...educating the future and current generations ...so maybe their future investments are our architectural assets...