The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is out of the way now, sandwiched between The Presidio military barracks and a residential neighbourhood. It was out on the edge because it it sits on what used to be the swampy 635 acre home of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (“The Innocent Fair”). There’s little left to see of the buildings that made up the expo, but it was well-documented – here’s a good glimpse showing the Palace in construction.
PPIE 1915 documentary (11:52 for The Palace of Fine Arts)
All up the fair cost fifty million U.S. dollars (about $1.15B in today’s dollars). Its centrepiece was the Tower of Jewels, covered in 125,000 shimmering Bohemian glass jewels fixed to mirrors. Highlights were the auto assembly plant presented by Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison’s light shows. And then there was The Palace of Fine Arts. It’s a complex that in a functional sense housed an art exhibit, but to Bernard Maybeck it was a carefully-engineered emotional procession.
The commission for the Palace originally belonged to architect Willis Polk, but Polk put Maybeck forward in his stead. Perhaps this was an example of the gallantry of a time past, or the pragmatic solution of a busy man (Polk was chairing the architectural commission for the entire fair). However the job came to Maybeck, he took great care to address Fine Arts director John Trask’s vision. The brief spoke of the mood required for a building housing fine arts in the midst of a noisy and colourful world’s fair, and Maybeck responded.
“The Fine Arts suggest the romantic after the classic renaissance… These nomenclatures, ‘romantic’, ‘classic’, etc. are usually covered by the word ‘atmosphere’… For instance, when [Trask] said that he did not want the visitors to come directly from a noisy boulevard into galleries of pictures… Mr. Trask not only wanted the mind of the visitor to be in a tranquil mood, but he worried lest the high coloring on the outside of the building would dull the eye of the visitor to the delicate tones and shades of some of the pictures.” Bernard Maybeck
Source: Berkeley EDA
“Summing up my general impression, I find that the keynote of a Fine Arts Palace should be that of sadness modified by the feeling that beauty is a soothing Influence.. To make a Fine Arts Building that will fit this…impression, we must use those forms in architecture and gardening that will affect the sentiments in such a way as to produce the same modified sadness as the galleries do… you examine a historic form and see whether the effect it produced on your mind matches the feeling you are trying to portray…a sentiment in a minor key.” Bernard Maybeck
His inspiration for focusing on emotion seems to have been drawn from a visit to a gallery in Munich. Having “dragged” himself past a great variety of artworks, he emerged into the sunshine. “All at once our eyes fell on the marble bust of a five-year-old boy cleverly portraying a little mischief, and underneath the bust were the words, “Dear God, make me pious,” – and we smiled.” He noticed the “drawn” expressions of other exiting the gallery and how they relaxed into smiles upon seeing the bust. “We realized right there that an art gallery was a sad and serious matter.”
Same for the surrounding lake. Maybeck wanted something that was a little less dismal than Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead series, and found it nearby at Clear Lake, “where the trees and bushes seem to rise out of the water.” This choice also may have helped his design fit into an exposition that he believed expressed California. Emotionally, the colonnade and lake were hoped to be a kind of decompression chamber for those leaving the “strain of the galleries”, before reentering the “hustle and bustle” of the fair.
Maybeck wasn’t quite as expansive about another building he designed for the Fair, The House of Hoo Hoo. Much lesser known than the Palace, the House of Hoo Hoo looked like a South Seas tiki lounge crossed with a Franciscan Mission temple. It did share some similarities with the design for the Palace of Fine Arts, particularly in its planter-topped pediments – though at the Palace the plants were pulled for budgetary reasons. This must have been a great disappointment to him, as it seems quite intergal to his vision of the colonnade as a ruin, being overtaken by nature.
It’s reasonably safe to say that the Palace of Fine Arts was the most popular building at the Fair, and was of more note that the art (“ancients and moderns”) housed within. But it had definitely not been built to last… built of timber framing coated in staff, it had a life expectancy of two years. Even while the exposition was still in progress, efforts began to preserve this peculiar fusion of Greek, Roman, Baroque, and.. Maybeck, for the long term.
When the exhibition ended in December, most of the buildings were torn down. There wasn’t much holding them together so that wasn’t hard. Bernard Maybeck made an unusual request around this time – that his attempt at a melancholic, Piranesian palace of ruins should be left to become an actual ruin. But by then the Palace was pretty much assured of some sort of preservation – while the Exposition was running a public fund was launched to preserve the buildings and lake. In 1917 Assemblyman Milton Marks introduced a bill aimed at preserving the Palace. It would be the first of many attempts by Marks, Caspar Weinberger, and many others, to save it. But it was to be a while before anyone came to rescue the Palace, so Maybeck’s wish came true and it began to crumble. If that really was Maybeck’s wish…
Contemporary correspondence with Walter Burley-Griffin, who was toiling away on Canberra town, reveals a different, canny Maybeck. He suggested to Burley-Griffin that building in cheap lightweight materials is a cunning way to encourage funding for a more permanent version. Research by Gary Brechin has unearthed Griffin’s resigned response.. “plaster or stucco are hardly considered as temporary expedients [in Australia] for they are largely employed for buildings both commercial and governmental, already deemed to be permanent.”
It is tricky to work out quite what Maybeck thought of his buildings at the fair – his explanations over the decades weren’t exactly consistent. In an interview with Ben Macomber at the time of the Exposition, he hinted that the public were intrigued by the Palace not because of its architectural mastery… more like its old tricks.
“What is it the people like?” he asked, and himself replied, “it is the water and the trees.” When I reminded him of the beauty of the colonnade seen from points in the enclosed passageway, where no water is in view, he answered: “The public was bribed to like that. Leaving off the roof between the colonnade and the gallery was a direct bribe. A few other simple devices give the effect the people like. One of these is the absence of windows in the walls, a device well known to the old Italians. Others are the water, the trees, and the flower covered pergolas on the roof.” The Jewel City
Two decades after, Maybeck and White returned to the Palace, spending $500,000 in city funds on preservation. The US army also worked on it during World War II. In the following two decades, while discussions swirled about the future of the Palace, the buildings themselves were left to rot again. After reading about the building’s fluctuating condition over the decades, its hard to believe that it received much in the way of maintenance.
There were numerous suggestions put forward for the buildings, including a rather unpopular one from the AIA in 1952…
“The Northern California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects prepared a report… recommend[ing] that the Rotunda and Colonnade be torn down, and that the exposition hall at the back be repaired for modern use. (The estimated demolition costs were $50,000; the estimated repair costs were $1,000,000.) The lagoon was to be saved, and modern sculpture placed about it. This report which reflected the crass business-esthetics of most practicing architects was later repudiated by certain members of the committee.” National Park Service 1964
In 1951 Maybeck was awarded the AIA Gold Medal. He was entering his Nineties but still contributed to the discussion about the Palace. By then he was saying that if rebuilding was to occur, it should be in Golden Gate Park, the original location intended for the Exposition before it was relegated to swampland. Maybeck died in 1957 at the age of 95. The following year the Palace was still looking good from a distance in its brief Vertigo cameo, but up close it was a different story.
1958: Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, still via Lady Eve
1960: Walter Evans
Photographer Walter Evans visited the site in 1960. The cheap staff stucco cladding was breaking off exposing the framing, and the artifice. Evans’ photos were part of a giant set he took of “doomed architecture”, commissioned by Time-Life (the entire collection can be viewed at The Met’s online archive ). It was possibly this exposure, and not-too-distant memories of the Exposition, that helped build the momentum for preservation. The nine page feature also alerted New Yorkers to the imminent loss of Penn Station, but it was too late to save that.
Funding uncertainty continued right into 1964, the year the Palace was demolished and rebuilding began. The architect in charge was to be William Merchant, who as a student in Maybeck’s office designed many of the plaster details for the Palace. But he died, not long after all his ornamental moulds for the Palace had been unthinkingly destroyed. The project passed on to Hans Gerson.
A cursory look at before and after photos reveals a number of differences between the original and the facsimilie, especially the loss of the unadorned half-round walls at the water’s edge in front of the rotunda. It looks paler too, cream where it should be “high colour”. Critical opinion, personified in Ada Louise Huxtable, was not on the side of the recreation. She wrote of the loss of, “the integrity of a work of art as expressive of its time, the folly of second-hand substitutes for first-rate inventions, the aesthetics and ethics of duplication measured against creative art.” Criticism is expressive of its time too. I wonder how she would have reacted if she’d heard of Maybeck’s letter to Burley-Griffin half a century before, in which he suggests that an original can be a cheap prototype, luring funding for its reconstruction in proper materials.
By the 21st Century the Palace was again ailing, again in need, and again rescued. A major nip and tuck was completed three years ago, costing about $21M. Judging from Google Images, this could easily have been funded by a levy on wedding photographers using it as a backdrop.
So we’re left to celebrate the centenary of a building that is an approximate replica of a ‘ruin’ that became a real ruin 50 years ago. There’s a tangle for you. The lightweight materials were replaced with reinforced concrete, joints visible. It’s sturdy, but still not the stone it was never meant to be.
Bing Maps aerial view 2014
Late last week I received a batch of photographs taken in 2010 and 2011. The sender wishes to remain anonymous. This was something of a relief as I had been scouring the web looking for high resolution images taken of the rear of the wall – a mesmerising task. So thanks, whoever you are. Thanks also to the two others who have previously provided privately-held images of the wall.
This photo, from a window high in the old maltstore, shows the September 2011 installation of super stops adjacent to the wall.
After staring at these new photos for a while, I wondered if the southern part of the wall was leaning a bit. The photographer remembers, “a slight outward lean of the wall at the time.” So I extended some vertical lines to vanishing point from several nearby buildings to see if I was right.
That showed the South end of the wall was on a lean, but I wasn’t convinced. As the adjacent lamp post is shown on a similar apparent lean I thought the lens was interfering. So I started again and used Photoshop’s new adaptive wide angle lens filter to horizontally correct the horizon, then vertically straighten the lamp post and the wall beneath it.
Having manipulated the perspective so that the lamp post was true, the Southernmost pilaster is still showing a bit of a twist or lean, of about 25mm. This probably isn’t surprising given the lack of restraint, brick expansion, and the three-sided exposure this part of the wall was receiving.
The following photos were all taken in late 2010.
The Northern end of the wall, demolished on the night of March 28th.
The Southern half, after some site preparation work (removal of asphalt).
The brick panel next to the gate
The next panel down, the northern end of the collapse. The gate bracket may have prevented further collapse, but it also caused local cracking. This panel was over-sprayed with new graffiti in early 2013.
A zoom, showing cracks under the gate bracket (red arrows), and the extent of the wall collapse (blue zig-zagged line).
Southern panels. Note the missing capping bricks on the closest pilaster.
Far Southern panels, note the capping brick that’s fallen away on the left.
Zoom of previous pic, to 100%. The cracks to the pilaster and end panel mentioned in the Herald Sub existed in 2010.
Closer inspection of this new photo shows more cracking and lost mortar, especially in the last panel.
The vertical columns are pilasters, not piers as I’ve previously described them. The U.S. Brick Industry Association defines a pilaster as, “simply an increase in effectiveness of a wall at a specific location”. Its effectiveness extends only six times the thickness of the wall (about 1.4m in this case), measured from the edge of the pilaster. The distance between each pilaster is about 4.4m, which would mean that the pilaster thickenings were not providing any benefit to a 1.6m span at the centre of each panel.
A series of proposals for the site never came to fruition, being stymied by the economic jitters of October 1989 and October 2008. Things came close to happening in 2008, when the asphalting behind the wall was scraped up, and an archaeological dig took place.
The Capital City Zone 2 C126 amendment was issued that same year by the then Minister for Planning, Justin Madden. Apart from exempting the development from public notice and review (in the interests of speeding things up), it stated that a planning permit was not required for, “site preparation and retention works including security fencing, site offices, bulk excavation and piling, footings, ground beams and ground slabs”.
The site was the first major development in town to be “taken in” by the Minister for Planning, in 1989. After several permit applications in the 1990s and 2000s, in May 2012 the current minister issued another permit with conditions for Building 5, then going with the name “Portrait”.
The permit required the lodgement of a Construction Management Plan explaining how the developers would go about demolition and construction in a safe and considerate way.
“Prior to the commencement of the development, including demolition or bulk excavation, a detailed construction and demolition management plan must be submitted to and be approved by the Responsible Authority.”
Five months later in October, an updated planning permit was issued for the same development, in response to a new application by ARM Architecture on 5th June. Oddly, the revised requirement for a demolition management plan did not need to be lodged before demolition took place. Perhaps this had been deemed to have taken place already, or that it was too minor that it didn’t require a permit?
“Prior to the commencement of the development, excluding demolition or bulk excavation, a detailed construction and demolition management plan must be submitted to and be approved by the Responsible Authority.”
Grocon completed a Construction Management Plan for Stage 1, which is behind the maltstore and doesn’t include the street frontage.
The only hoarding application I could find was lodged in April 2003, at the City of Melbourne. It was withdrawn four days later. It was for the “erection of advertising on the existing hoarding.” No further details are available online.
The council released a carefully-worded statement on Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt:
“We can confirm that the City of Melbourne has not issued a permit for the structure attached to the wall… There are four relevant legislative frameworks – Planning, Building, Occupational Health and Safety and Local Laws. There are intricacies in the way in which these interconnect and overlap. These complexities are likely to be considered by the investigating authorities.”
The council doesn’t say if the billboard should have required their permission, only that they didn’t issue a permit. They go on to underline that they aren’t responsible for the site, noting that the building site was private property, and that the Minister for Planning issued the planning permit. The Minister has previously said he hasn’t ever issued a permit for a hoarding either. This is a bit of a worry – the Minister is responsible for building sites all over the CBD which may have similarly confused boundary jurisdictions.
Signage normally falls under regulation 52.05 of the Melbourne Planning Scheme. Clause 52.05-4 mentions the sorts of signs for which permits aren’t required.
“A sign with an advertisement area not exceeding 2 square metres concerning construction work on the land. Only one sign may be displayed, it must not be an animated or internally-illuminated sign and it must be removed when the work is completed.”
There is other advice from the City of Melbourne saying that two advertising signs are permitted, each 2m by 1.2m. Hoardings are to be between 1.8m and 2.4m high. As the sign was approximately 3.2m high and 200 square metres in area, with another sign of about 29 square metres on the stacked containers, this one definitely required a permit from someone. As part of an application, the owner has to lodge details of the, “height, width, depth of the total sign structure including method of support and any associated structures.”
Clause 52.05 does refer to safety, but only to say that a sign shouldn’t distract or slow drivers. This perhaps doesn’t fulfil one of the clause’s purposes: “To ensure that signs do not cause loss of amenity or adversely affect the natural or built environment or the safety, appearance or efficiency of a road.”
I’ve read here and there that I’ve been overdoing it a bit, that sometimes walls just fall. I have overdone it, at some cost, but partly out of fear that no one else would and the issue would quickly fall out of the news. So I’m glad that the mainstream media picked out several items from the first post. Depending on where you read, different final conclusions have been made already. The wall fell because of the strong gust / the hoarding / the cracks. It was a combination of all three, and many more reasons that have their roots in events decades ago. This wall did not “just fall”.
The brick wall was an inbetweener. Not quite of the site and not quite of the street, it became invisible to owners and authorities. It was nobody’s business, a forgotten relic poorly built and not maintained. But it was a useful relic for keeping the curious out of the CUB site, for their own safety. Not that it stopped them – most of the useful photos of the wall were taken by urban explorers and graffiti enthusiasts.
The wall’s context has changed out of recognition since the closure of the brewery in 1987. Firstly Elders demolished the brewery behind it in 1989, exposing it to Westerlies it had never had to deal with before. The buildings that abutted the wall at its Southern end were also pulled down.
In more recent times, a large apartment building was built directly across the street, tram works and a super stop installation have taken place, and the bitumen area immediately behind the wall was dug up then used as a tip for mountains of spoil. Then it was all removed. There was also a decade long drought and a number of half decent earth tremors. That’s a lot to deal with for a wall that had been ready to fall for quite a few years.
Competing and overlapping jurisdictions have led to confusion about who was meant to be doing what and when. There are quite a few aspects that any inquiry will have to cover. Rather than having multiple internal inquiries, some held by bodies that may be partially liable, a better way would be to have one independent public inquiry. It is the general public who have been let down here, so they should be able to have faith in the inquiry and know what is going on during it.
( This post is posted as a draft on Thursday night, and revised and completed on Sunday )
12.04.13 in buildings
A week ago three people died while they were walking down Swanston Street. One was a French research fellow at Monash. The other two were a young brother and sister on their way to the footy. I published a post about the wall that collapsed on Sunday, gathering together what I could find from publicly available web pages. I didn’t expect the level of reaction I got. I was contacted by all sorts of mainstream media outlets, many in search of speculative comment. My investigations were made not because I consider myself an expert in walls and wind, but because I knew how to do it relatively quickly, and because I wanted to do something.
This was an accident of the “waiting to happen” variety. No one wanted it to happen, but no one seems to have done anything to prevent it happening either. The organisations involved, the way they interact, and the regulations governing them all, could do with some improvement. But conclusions should be left to the inquiries. We should be watching these inquiries, demanding an independent one, and making sure they have all the information they can get to work with.
On Thursday I happened to pass the site again. Once again it had altered. A bulldozer was scraping up the debris while a man hosed the dust down. A WorkSafe officer was taking photos of what remained of the footings. A group of random people were gathered at the makeshift shrine, paying their respects .
Here are some further observations about the wall – they aren’t conclusions. The previous post is here.
Overlay showing ground (2009), contours, approximate wind direction, and approximate positions of the collapse (red line), the mounds on March 28 (green ellipses – about 1.5m high), and the 7.2m high stacked containers.
Wall from North East ( Red_Baron_012 )
The red hoarding was built in October 2011, after a rebranding of the development by Cornwell from ‘Portrait’ to ‘Swanston Square’. WorkSafe visited the hoarding on October 12th to inspect the installation, following up concerns about the lack of a pedestrian management system. NEWS
The height of the brick wall was about 2.5 to 2.7m on the street side, depending on where you count bricks. The hoarding extended above the wall by about 250 to 500mm. It varied as the top of the hoarding was sloping while the brick wall stepped down the hill at intervals. The land drops by about two metres across this 78 metre street frontage.
Rear view, January 2013. (supplied by R.Liao)
The bricks composing the wall were of two types – extruded “wire-cut” bricks with hollow perforations, and older pressed bricks stamped with “CITY BRICKS”. City Bricks, now absorbed into Boral, had been pressing bricks since 1923. This mixing of bricks suggests that the wall could have been built from recycled bricks of varying ages, compressive strengths, and abilities to withstand moisture.
The freestanding wall had piers at about four metre intervals along the rear side, which might have been useful buttressing against winds off Swanston Street. [ design guide PDF ] But these piers were not reinforced or tied into a footing, and were much wider (2 bricks) than they were deep (half a brick). It might be more appropriate to call them decorative pilasters, making the wall look more substantial than it actually was. The outer skin of the wall was apparently not bonded to these piers at all. A photo shows how one pier failed in the gust of wind.
Left: View from apartment block across street (crop). ( Meld Magazine / A. Ngo) Right: North end of wall – pier imprint on odd concrete upstand – perhaps this predated the brick wall? Also shows that the bricks continuing down in front of the wall were in direct contact with the concrete. (PJ)
These ‘piers’ ‘supported’ twin-leaf wall panels with all bricks laid in the same direction. There was no cavity between the two leafs at their base, though there appeared to be a small one further up. This could have allowed the internal faces of the bricks to trap damp lower down.
Possible cavity or bowing showing in distorted telephoto image, March 28th ( Herald Sun / H.Blair )
The Southern end of the wall ended at one of these piers. This pier once abutted a rickety timber paling fence. In late 2011 this fence was replaced with a new steel one for the red hoarding. This new fence appears to have butted into the brick wall, and may even have been supported by it as not much else appears to have been holding it up. The hoarding was fixed to both the new fence and the wall, so any wind load placed on the elastic lightweight wall could have transfered to the rigid brick wall through the hoarding. This has been covered in the comments below the first post, and since by media.
Left: Southern end of brick wall abutting lightweight hoarding. There is a noticeable bow in this pier, but this could be lens distortion. The horizontal member of the lightweight fence appears to be fixed to the top of the pier. ( Herald Sun / Jem Richardson ) Right: Metal framing of lightweight wall where it abutted the Southern brick pier (ADL NOW / Alex Coppel)
Another photo showing the lack of support at the North end of the lightweight hoarding. The supporting steel post is to the right. (ADL NOW / Alex Coppel)
North end of wall (9 News). Much blurrier inset: Google 2009
On March 28th, a 9News bulletin panned over a vertical crack visible at the North end of the remaining wall, without comment. News Ltd has also found photos of diagonal cracking along the rear of the southern portion of wall. News Ltd found this shocking, but as the wall had no control joints or reinforcement, probable moisture problems, and.. who knows what in the way of footings, it’s hard to be surprised. News Ltd’s photos also show black matter at the base of the Southern wall segment. Hopefully this was a damp proof course (which I can’t see anywhere else) and not some kind of mould. From the Swanston Street side, there is also black staining visible on the internal face of the wall which does look more like a mould colony, indicating rising damp.
TOP: Black stuff? December 2012 (Herald Sun / Jes Richardson) BOTTOM: Swanston street side, March 28 (SBS/AAP)
At the Northern end of the collapse, there is a suggestion of what may have prevented the collapse from continuing further. A sliding gate rail is fixed into the wall at the point the collapse stopped. Then again, the fixing may have caused cracking, weakening the wall so that it failed at this point.
Northern extent of wall collapse, showing rusted door rail and fixing ( ADL NOW )
This part of the wall also seemed to have succumbed more to mortar problems than elsewhere. The front face of the wall showed efflorescence between the paint-sealed bricks, and the local pier, taller than the others, was quite uneven and looks to have eroding mortar. The end capping piece is an extruded brick on end, allowing water to penetrate with ease.
Left: Google Street View 2009 showing pier at Northern end of failure. Right: Northern end of failure, 2010. ( twitterpic by @funkineering )
Until 2012 the brick wall was partly shielded from Westerlies by a mound of earth and overgown grasslands. This was replaced with a much larger mound in February, after the overburden scrape. By March 28th, all mounds had been shifted and the area was flat. Clear new photos showing the location of this mound last December, and the nature of the land around it, have been sent in by Rita Liao.
Rear of wall, January 2013, affected area in rectangle. This also shows the asphalt and fencing that were removed in March. (R.Liao / butterpaper)
Rear of wall, January 2013, taken from beside the malt house (R.Liao / butterpaper)
Some time after 1967, a brick wall was built from the Queensberry Hotel right along to the remaining two terraces (557-561 Swanston Street, but shown as 45-47 Madeline St in the plan below). Terrace houses used to stretch the whole way up to the Queensberry Hotel, but had been gradually done away with bu CUB. A timber fence later replaced the two last buildings, which were demolished soon after the brewery closed. The removal of these buildings exposed the end of the wall to the elements and removed a boundary wall that may have been acting as a return.
1896 MMBW plan overlaid on Google map, red line showing collapse area, blue shaded areas indicating 19th Century cellars. (SLV)
Trade Quality Control Office, at 557 Swanston Street, shown as 45 Madeline Street in the map above. This building contained an 8 foot deep cellar. The doorstep and the bluestone pavers in front of this office at the right of this photo still exist. (1987 CUB video, 2013 PJ)
Here are some further images plotting this part of the street through the ages.
A view from the north c.1870s. Patrick Fagan’s Queensberry Hotel is on the right and buildings along the line of the wall are to the left of the hotel. (SLNSW )
Swanston Street in 1938, with the Queensberry Hotel at the right. Terrace occupants included residents and a diverse set of businesses: the Swanston Battery Service, a Chinese herbalist, a silver-plater, the Maternal and Infant Welfare Division, the Air League headquarters, Peter Kaye’s appliance shop, and the CUB Personnel office at No. 561. ( SLV / Lyle Fowler )
Aerial photograph from 1946 showing two storey terraces the length of the frontage. ( SLV / Lyle Fowler )
A 1952 aerial view from the North East. ( SLV )
1953 aerial from the North West ( SLV )
Buildings adjacent to Ballarat Street & Malt Store, 1963. At the time, these buildings at 557 – 561 were used by the Manufacturers Bottle Co. ( SLV / Lyle Fowler )
To date, this is the only photo I can find of the wall prior to the demolition of the brewery, taken in 1979 and showing the “top yard” behind the wall and the buildings at the South. This is the blurry online version. ( NLA: Wolfgang Sievers ).
The adjacent malthouse has been in a state of neglect for decades. Built in 1904 and out of use since at least 1987, it too has moisture problems. Moisture is trapped and spreading behind the paintwork added some time before 1988. Demolition of the abutting pier in 1989/90 without any remedial work didn’t help things. I hope that the deteriorating condition of this building is quickly examined in case it too poses a risk to passersby.
Water penetration at the Malt Store
The first brewery on the site was established in 1858. In 1907 a merger of six breweries formed Carlton & United Breweries who then operated from the site. Numerous owners performed building works on the site over its 129 years of production.
The brewery was used only for keg production after 1949, and was closed in 1987. A three part video documents the closure, which makes reference to an outdoor ‘top yard’ used for empty keg deliveries. It had an entry from Swanston Street. From a process of elimination, I’m assuming this to be the yard behind the fallen brick wall.
Rear of wall and ad containers, showing old asphalt, now removed. January 2013 (R.Liao / butterpaper)
The Australian asserts that there is a “squabble” between the City of Melbourne (CoM) and the Ministry for Planning over who is responsible for the wall. It comes down to a matter of definition – whether the wall is a free-standing hoarding (ministry resposibility), or a street advertisement (council). This wall is both.
The Minister says he didn’t approve the hoarding, and the council was “unable to locate paperwork relating to any application”. The Australian believes the council approved the immediate demolition of the rest of the wall. LINK
In its report of 14/03/13, Heritage Victoria list what is included within the site’s heritage registration.
On Tuesday 2nd April, City of Melbourne issued a press release stating that would not comment further, “at this time”. CoM
This section will be updated as any new photographs are found. The photos at the linked Flickr pages can be clicked on to see much larger versions.
Architecture graduate Paul Morgan, on behalf of a group, describes loss of podium as “architecturally regressive”. “Responsibility for the symbolic sense of the city has been abrogated by the State Government… The character of the city is being left to the developer and the architect.”
This post has been continued: PART 3 is here
EDITS: 10/4/13: add new image links, minor corrections, 12/4/13 lens distortion note, 26/5/23 new images.
07.04.13 in buildings
Hi again Peter. Great work on this. Keep it up.
A few general thoughts after reading some of your latest updates. Hope these can add to the discussion:
- a cavity? Yikes! Substantially weaker than a solid wall. – mounds and other obstructions can slow the wind but can also accelerate the flow locally – damp can weaken certain types of brick. Particularly if underfired. But.. – a membrane type damp proof course can substantially weaken a wall by providing less friction and less bond than a mortar joint. An over fired, pressed brick can have a very smooth surface, which can also reduce bond.
Hi Greg, great to have your struct. engineering input.
I’m not sure that was a cavity – may have been the lens – it didn’t look like one in some other pics but all too far away to properly see.
I was thinking along the lines of a mortar DPC – what was the norm back in the ’70s?
Can the level of firing be gleaned from the darkness of the brick?
by peter on 8 April 13 ·#
On Thursday afternoon two young pedestrians were killed by a falling brick wall in central Melbourne, and another 18 year old was ferried to hospital in a critical condition but died on Easter Sunday.
This article tries to assemble some of the publicly available information on this wall, it isn’t trying to point the finger anywhere. The initial reason for doing so was that the newspapers missed quite a bit and got some things wrong. Please note that this article contains imagery and descriptions which may be distressing.
Grocon, the police, WorkSafe, and the coroner are all launching investigations into the collapse. But on the night of the accident, the full length of the partially-collapsed brick wall was removed and thrown in a heap. The stacked advertising containers next to the site of the collapse were also pulled down and rotated so that the Swanston Square branding didn’t show. The site in no way resembles what was there before the incident.
In the haste to remove everything to do with the sad event, the tidy-uppers neglected to remove the blood stains on the footpath. They were not even cordoned off on my visit a day later. Such haste at what is possibly a crime scene is troubling. I hope it was all with the permission of the council, police, and coroner. They have hardly had any time to make a detailed investigation into the structure of the wall that was left, and now they can’t.
Interactive imagery from Google Street View, dated 2009:
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There has been misinformation in the news. The brick wall in question was not heritage-listed, nor was it a century old. It was not even there in 1967, when the area was occupied by a row of shops. The brewery was unfortunately not well photographed by CUB, whose sole set of publicly available online photos was taken from the rooftop in the 1920s – not very helpful. The wall was probably built as part of major rebuilding works that took place in the Sixties – a photo shows what might be the continuation of this wall into the malt store.
Malt store in the 1980s, showing brick arch over laneway matching fallen wall. ( SLV image )
1945 view South down Swanston Street, showing CUB and buildings where fallen wall was. ( SLV image )
Across CUB rooftops in 1920s, showing Swanston Street shops circled at location of fallen wall. ( SLV image )
The Adderley Smith Blues Band posing in front of the Queensberry Hotel, 1967. Some shops at the location of the wall are at the left of the photo. (credit: Len Weigh )
Looking at the wall on Good Friday, what remains of it, the rear two-thirds sat along a badly poured concrete strip footing, the streetside third of it continuing downwards in modern wire-cut brick for several courses. The wall appears in news photos to have fallen forward off its concrete perch.
Area of collapsed wall, March 29th 2013. (PJ)
Zoom in to 7News footage, March 28th
The wall fell for a length of at least 15m. It was anchored at the Northern end of the fallen section by a hefty Parallel Flange Channel with ties into the wall. This PFC is one of two still flanking an old vehicle access way in the wall that was covered by the new hoarding. There was nothing holding the all in place at the Southern end.
Northern end of collapsed wall – bricks now removed. (PJ)
Unrestrained Southern end of collapsed wall. (Google 2009)
The wall may have been laterally supported at some stage if it was part of a larger structure continuing on towards the Malt Store.
Photographer Len Weigh, who graciously supplied the Adderley Smith Blues Band photo above, provided me on Sunday night with 174 images he took of major tram works in Swanston Street in 2008. He wonders whether the integrity of the wall may have been affected by the tram works, which involved four jack hammer vehicles working together. Following are a few of his images showing the then black wall in the background. Further major road works occurred over two weekends in late 2011 when a tram super stop was installed and the road realigned.
All photos Len Weigh, 2008
Grocon bought the site from RMIT in 2006. At that time it was covered in ageing and weedy bitumen. Until this year, not much was happening. There has been a lot of activity on the back side of the wall in recent months. Grocon have stated that there was no construction activity happening at the time of the incident, but site preparation has been taking place in earnest.
In January, the asphalt and topsoil (“overburden”) was scraped up, including asphalt very close to the wall. [ 2007 2013 ] In February, a large mound of fill appeared behind the wall, presumably consisting of this overburden and tailings from the La Trobe archaeological excavations which finished at the end of last month. This month most of the mound disappeared. Heavy machinery would have been required to put the mound there, then to take it away. The ground around the stack of containers, immediately North of the collapse, appears to be flooded in TV helicopter footage.
Late February, 2013. ( Credit Glenn Wilson )
February view Eastwards from archaeological dig towards the East, showing mound and hoarding. ( VHD )
Mounds gone, March 28th, 2013 ( Credit: 9News )
_Possible flooding around site of collapse, March 28 ( 10 News video )
The entire length of the wall was recently covered in a 12mm plywood hoarding, constructed in early 2012 or before [ May 2012 photo ]. It’s now lying in shards in the debris. This was fixed to the brick wall through thin vertical straps, possibly on ‘top hat’ furring channels which are present in the debris. The hoarding extended beyond the top of the wall, to even out the steps in it, but also creating a sail of sorts. The straps created open vertical cavities the length of the wall. All of this would be visible had the remainder of the wall and hoarding not been removed on Thursday night in the interests of what – safety? cleaning things up? Lateral braces would have done the job.
Zoom of the archaeological dig image above, showing the hoarding extending well beyond top of the brick wall.
Photo from a 7News helicopter showing the hoarding being lifted on March 28th.
Demolished hoardings from the remaining wall, and furring channels. March 29 2013. ( PJ )
The two stacked 40 foot shipping containers raise another possibility. At about 7.2 metres high, they act like a building as far as wind is concerned. The failed wall was one of the only stretches of the Eastern boundary without a structure to deflect the wind – and so took extra funnelled wind because of it.
Two images showing the location of the three stacked shipping containers used for advertising. Left: Late February (Glenn Wilson). Right: March 28th (news).
The containers disassembled and rotated so that the Swanston Square advertising is not visible. March 29th, 2013 PJ.
Lots of questions are raised and I hope they are answered by the four separate investigations. Hoarding collapses are not uncommon in Melbourne, though they should be. Last year I took photos of two in a single bike ride in February. Luckily they didn’t hit anyone. They weren’t reported.
Fallen hoardings in Elgin Street and Wellington Street, February 5, 2012. ( PJ )
From an admittedly quick reading of the current regulations, there seems to be a gap in hoarding regulations when construction or demolition has not commenced, and where hoardings are not the “over-the-footpath” type [ CoM Code of Practice PDF ]. The City of Melbourne encourages solid hoardings rather than open chain wire ones – “to secure a building site and
form a barrier against noise, dust and debris” – but for WSW wind gusts of up to 76kph, like Thursday’s, the more porous the fence the better. Before the new hoarding was installed, there were many gaps to allow the wind through.
Many Codes of Practice have become redundant following the advent of the new performance-based OH&S regime in 2004. Try finding one for the construction industry that hasn’t been archived: WorkSafe Victoria Search. There is a new federal code of practice for demolition , but it seems to cover states other than Victoria, and again misses this situation where there is no construction or demolition taking place. All these codes place the worker at the centre of attention rather than the general public – I guess that’s WorkSafe’s remit.
Compare this tangle of code in Victoria with somewhere like Alberta, where the safety of passersby is up front and central in new regulations. This is because three year old Michelle Krsek was killed by flying metal in 2009 while walking past a Calgary construction site with her family in strong wind conditions. It shouldn’t have to take a death… or
two three to wake people up to dangerous sloppiness.
[ article edited 31.03.13, three additions; 01.04.13 link added, wind speed lowered, minor amendments, further reference links added; 02.04.13 furring channels, super stop construction, and possible flooding added; 08.04.13 minor deletion ]
Part 2 of this post, dated April 7th, is here
31.03.13 in buildings
The wooden hoarding to the left of the masonry wall was fixed to the masonry wall. This section of plywood could conceivable have been blown by a gust of wind and acting as a lever pulled the masonry wall over.
As you have reported the City Council local laws require a permit for the construction of building site hoardings. The construction company should have applied for a permit to construct the new advertising hording and the City Council Engineering services should have inspected it.
If the wooden paneling was designed in such a way that the panels allowed for independent movement or a control joint they might not have applied levered pressure to the masonry wall causing to to tumble.
You need to look at the photos showing the parts of the wall left standing and the design and quality of the construction of the left wooden section.
The 2009 Google Street view photos show a fill in panel that was structurally separate from the masonry wall.
The city council, the developer, engineer and the company that built the hoarding share responsibility for this tragic accident.
by Archimedies Leverage on 31 March 13 ·#
Try building a wall to scale out of Leggo bricks and subject it to a wind load. (Grand design or Air-crash investigation style)
Next attach a piece of solid cardboard to simulate the hoarding and apply the same wind loading, The wind would catch the hoarding and lever down the wall from the unsupported left hand side. It only needs to move a few cm and the walls integrity is compromised.
If you look at the remaining concrete foundations there is no sign of rotation or foundation collapse. The most likely suspect is the hoarding.
Council by-laws require a building permit for the construction of a hoarding. The City of Melbourne should have plans and details of the hoarding and hopefully also inspected it.
The walls mortar may been weakened by the construction of the tram stop but the most likely case is the left hand edge of the wall and the open hoarding combined with the extra height.
by Stuctural Model Under Load on 1 April 13 ·#
You are right. The fact that the hoarding was fixed to the wall without a break joint would have added pressure and leverage magnifying the wind load placed on the unsupported masonry wall.
There was inadequate lateral support to the structure.
This should have been identified by the City of Melbourne who should have inspected the site as part of the building site permit process.
The hoarding on the western wall is stronger construction and had solid support, but it also has a large span that is unsupported. Ideally there should be support bracing every 5-10 meters.
The fact that the plywood hoarding was fixed to the brick masonry wall without lateral support on the southern edge most likely was the cause of the walls collapse.
The previous hoarding was a separate unit and as such allowed for independent movement.
The increase in height is another factor that would have contributed to the walls collapse.
The design and engineering of the hoarding needs to be inspected and subject to a thorough review and engineering wind load testing to determine if it met industry standards set down for the City of Melbourne.
I hope the owner, developer, engineers and city council have good insurance cover as the underwriters could conceivably not pay out in what will be a very expensive law suit and compensation claim against all parties involved. Watch them run for cover and avoid owning up to their responsibility. Shares in the project site will undoubtedly be effected.
by Anonymous on 2 April 13 ·#
Tower Melbourne (left and middle), Abode 318 (right). Elenberg Fraser
“This is where Melbourne comes of age” Callum Fraser, Tower Melbourne architect
Elenberg Fraser’s elegant Tower Melbourne proposed for Bourke Street has triggered a couple of opinion page articles in The Age that quickly skew off to talk about other things – public housing towers and suburban sprawl, but what about the city itself?
The tower takes advantage of a rule stating that any development over 25,000 square metres be referred to the state planning minister for approval, not the local council. These developments are are deemed ‘major’, therefore of state significance, no matter what the site area or intended use. It is a crude tool, meaning that there end up being two competing planning strategies for the same area. One is concerned with the macro – jobs and metropolitan density, the other micro – pleasant environments and a consistency of skyline.
The Tower Melbourne site is only 923 sqm, so the tower uses up as much as it can of it. Podiums and setbacks went out with Cona coffee. These devices gave some consideration to the surrounds, especially things like sun and wind. This tower has two shear elevations right on the street, 71 storeys high. Eureka Tower is only 18 storeys higher. Architects accept this now more than they once would have. I remember seeing a late ’70s cartoon by Barry Marshall (DCM) lampooning the design of IM Pei’s Collins Place. It suggested that the tall towers, set at 45 degrees, would cause people to have to walk at a 45 degree lean at a nearby intersection, due to the wind.
A few years ago I sat a Lyons Architecture’s presentation to the AIA jury, they were seeking an urban design award for their BHP tower at the corner of Lonsdale and Russell Streets. I was interested to hear the jury’s questions about the now windblown environment at street level. The council had even had to install wind breaks across the street so that people could sit outside the greek cafes without being blown away. There were no questions about this. Perhaps this was because the jury realised that the volume of the buildings on tight sites is determined by the developer and the government, not the architect. What is the architect to do in such a situation other than to play along, or resign.
I had thought that this was the case with these new towers. That they are the inevitable result of a scarcity of larger sites, and the removal of height limits in the ’90s. But the AFR’s interview [ PDF ] with Shane Rothe set me straight. According to this, it’s an “architect-driven” typology that developers happily came on board with because the small sites are cheap. Advances in structural concrete have also allowed these heights to be reached on small footprints. These new towers are proving popular with Chinese investors.
The towers of the ’70s and ’80s were typically set back from streets with podiums or plazas. They had rear lanes for vehicle entrances. Nowadays the towers are more likely to be residential. They use all of a small site, rather than some of a large site.
Due to the planning minister’s state wide considerations, the urban design concerns relating to these skinny podium-free towers count for little. Other justifications like jobs and density gain prominence. Robert Nelson suggests in his article that if you’re against density, you are automatically for suburban sprawl. “Every time an inner-city development is foiled because of the visceral attachment of residents to low density, Melbourne is forced outward.” Sprawl is more complicated than this, but that’s fodder for another article. This point of view, commonly echoed by developers in planning applications, suggests that all inner-city intensification is a good thing, as it will further activate it, and put a belt on the periphery.
Commentators such as Richard Florida and Edward T. McMahon question this assumption that density is always good, even if it’s a high-rise. McMahon thinks that “Buck Rogers” skylines can be thrilling, but down on the street, they are “often dreadful”.
The problem is that many developers and urban planners have decided that density requires high rises: the taller, the better. To oppose a high-rise building is to run the risk of being labeled a NIMBY, a dumb growth advocate, a Luddite — or worse… Today, density is being pursued as an end in itself, rather than as one means to building better cities. Edward T. McMahon ( citiwire )
McMahon lists a string of cities where high density has been achieved without resorting to towers. A City of Melbourne report ( PDF ) also lists cities like Barcelona and Vancouver, and argues that six to eight storeys are more than enough to achieve, “high density compact cities of the future.” They also note that in these buildings, you can open the windows. Nice touch.
The counter argument, which I’ve read and managed to lose, would seize on that word “future”… Sure we could get a high density city at eight storeys, but that’s a long way off, and complicated by multiple landowners and heritage registered buildings. We can put up a smaller number of tall towers and address the issue quickly.
This does beg the question, what happens to all the neighbours of these towers. Will they run into trouble when they want to rebuild? Fraser believes that good design will get us around that one – everyone can have a view and light if it’s done right. But it isn’t always done right, as recent cases in Southbank and the city illustrate. A tower in Wills Street was recently rejected at VCAT because it would steal daylight from the adjacent residential tower. This is despite the proposed tower ‘sucking in’ in the middle to give a bit of space to the neighbours.
This surge of development in Melbourne’s CBD is largely occurring outside the local planning strategy. We have two planning strategies in use, with quite different aims, and they clash. One looks to Vancouver and Vienna, the other to Shanghai. We are starting to see a different sort of cityscape emerging. A city with many tall and blank concrete boundary walls that you won’t see in the renders.
Anyway, the developers must be pretty confident as they have apparently pre-sold Tower Melbourne. The planning minister is rumoured to be about to approve it, but we’ll have to wait and see. Once a project is “brought in” by the planning minister, transparency disappears. Once he decides one way or the other, there is no way to appeal at VCAT. You’d have better luck enlisting Miley Cyrus to help.
Crikey founder and City of Melbourne candidate Stephen Mayne thinks the Planning Minister’s powers are, “way too extensive”.
If the Minister wants to play God, there should be far more comprehensive public explanations of his interventions. The City of Melbourne has considerable planning expertise yet no power to determine any application greater than 25,000 square metres. This should be changed. Stephen Mayne, 2012 ( PDF LINK )
The minister’s response to complaints isn’t very illuminating. Last month he suggested to News Ltd that people whinging about over-development should move to Adelaide. “Growth in the CBD is where Melburnians expect it and where they want it and it is adding to what is the best CBD for work or play anywhere in Australia.”
There are currently 13,000 apartments either under construction or awaiting approval in central Melbourne. Some of these are listed below.
Adobe 318 55 storeys, Russell Street, Elenberg Fraser
Prima Pearl 67 storeys, Southbank
“33M“http://www.33m.com.au/ 33 level, Mackenzie Street, Elenberg Fraser
36 – 40 La Trobe Street 35 level tower rejected by council in 2012, Elenberg Fraser
Queen & La Trobe Streets, 47 levels
441-447 Elizabeth Street, 50 levels, Peddle Thorp, with the minister.
568 Collins Street, 65 floors.
Phoenix tower, 27 levels
276 Russell Street, 36 levels
Melbourne Star tower , Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne Sky tower , Little Lonsdale Street
48-50 A’Beckett Street, 39 levels
450 Elizabeth Street, Elenberg Fraser, was 55 levels, now 63 levels, with the minister.
410 Elizabeth Street, 51 levels
380 Lonsdale Street, 47 levels, Spowers
399 Bourke Street, 46 levels, Fender Katsalidis
199 William Street, 21 levels
350 William Street, 35 levels
360 William Street, 12 levels
320 Queen Street, 48 levels, with the minister.
272-282 Queen Street, 57 levels
Vision 500 Elizabeth Street, 67 levels.
Clarendon Street, 33 levels, Elenberg Fraser
27 Little Collins Street, 32 levels
108 Flinders Street
17-23 Wills Street, 35 levels, refused at VCAT
Fulton Lane, 45 levels and 29 levels
33-43 Batman Street
35 Spring Street, 42 levels
[ list from multiple sources, including this skyscraper map ]
the towers look shaky already,lucky there is no
earthquake…not a good design…looks unstable
and is in fact an eyesore…if not scary effect of about to fall or slip down effect..sorry to say…
consider wraps of curtain-style facade so it’s neat
yet soft vertically to achive style…elegance…
good luck…if you need help please feel free to email to me…
by Iva on 15 November 12 ·#
Word on the street (and the AFR) is that Total House has been sold to Riichard Gu and the AXF Group, for $40M. Word is also that it was marketed as a city development site. Quelle horreur.
Here’s the sliced version of the article at AFR.
The building houses an office block (resembling a TV or microwave) which sits astride a carpark. Designed in the early 1960s by Bernard Joyce (1929 – 1994) of Bogle Banfield and Associates, it is home, or has been home to many prominent architects over the decades. Recent tenants include John Wardle, Peter Elliot, BKK, and Shane Murray.
Total House missed out on inclusion in the City of Melbourne’s study last year into 98 unprotected buildings deemed worthy of inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register.
AXF Group has recently been in the news for restarting its rejected proposal for an apartment tower in Box Hill, 33 storeys this time. You can see that golden wonder at The Urbanist.
If demolished, it will join Australia’s first multi-storey carpark, which was just up the street, in carpark heaven.
The National Mutual tower in Collins Street (Godfrey & Spowers, Hughes, Mewton and Lobb) lost a marble facade tile today, clearing the plaza 10 storeys below. The Age has more, mistakenly referring to a fallen ‘concrete slab’, a scary thought.
30.01.12 in buildings
Yes marble a little friendlier than conc. but same effect. Funny how no-one recognises marble unless its a counter top. Not popular for building facades for a long time (except perhaps for despotic regimes). This has revealed to me (by rumours and net sleuthing) that the owners have a permit to fill in the plaza with a ten storey block, lower on the edges, thus eliminating the open space ! Lots of cafes / shops at ground level though. Buchans. Shocked that powers that be think losing the open space is ok, though admittedly its never been very user friendly – but it could easily be done over without an actual new office block.
by rohan on 1 February 12 ·#
What an amazing facade.
by crazy over skyscrapers on 3 February 12 ·#
This is a significant modernist building that continues to hold historic resonance: See listing: http://bit.ly/xVVwo3
by nevillek on 12 February 12 ·#
Just went past – some scaffolding up on west side and marble being removed. Guess photo now or never !
by rohan on 20 February 12 ·#
The Australia Council yesterday announced its shortlist for the Venice pavilion competition. As expected, they are playing it safe, with just a couple of smallish practices. Given the level of discontent surrounding the competition, it’s surprising and provocative of them to play it this safe. It’s the competition you have when you’re not having a competition. All blokes who graduated before 1986, so a total lack of Gen X, Y or Z, or XX chromosomes. Of the 67 expressions of interest, the jury of five chose:
I’m sure any of them would do a fine job, but so would many lesser knowns, if given the chance. Rose Hiscock of the Australia Council describes the conservative assessment of the first round entries:
We received 67 Expressions of Interest (EOI) as part of the first stage of the selection process – an open call to all Australian architects for credentials. From this, a panel selected six practices on their demonstrated capability, suitability, experience and skills to undertake this project,”
The big firms with capability coming out their ears, and the architects with decades of experience naturally float to the top. Brian Zulaikha, the sole architect on a jury of arts administrators, discussed the weeding down process:
“There was an incredibly diverse range of interest, from sole practitioners to large Australian architectural organisations, and the selection of a shortlist was difficult. We believe we have chosen a truly talented group of firms which represents a breadth of architectural excellence.”
Perhaps more revealing is a response to a question from the first round.
Q: We have not undertaken a project off-shore. Would this eliminate us from consideration at this stage?
A: Respondents are requested to demonstrate their experience in areas such as projects in an off-shore location as one of the criteria that will help demonstrate suitability and capability for this project. It is envisaged that the EOI stage will be a very competitive selection process, so whilst this is not the only criteria in assessment of suitability and capability ( see Part A Section 1.4) it will be included in the panel’s decision making process.
When I put that through Google Translate it says, “You can try, but you’d be lucky.”
24.11.11 in buildings
as usual your missing the real story.
by info on 24 November 11 ·#
At least I can spell. I did hear a rumour, but I try to keep closer to fact.
by peter on 24 November 11 ·#
looks like a who’s who of the pensioners club.
some of them are even too old to drive anymore.
by cabbie on 25 November 11 ·#
Why anyone would bother to enter this without being one of the ‘top’ established architects at the moment I have no idea – it was always going to be a waste of time for everyone else. Wonder what the Flinders St Comp holds in store for us…?
by STARCHITECT on 25 November 11 ·#
great! venice pavilion yawner to gen x whinger.
i ‘d take the borarchitect list over the up and coming gen y tossers like super colostomy et al any day. playing safe just avoids a demonstration of how threadbare and overated local design is – then again it would have been good to see how crap you neutered deadbeats are if you were given a chance.
by sod on 26 November 11 ·#
Gen y love going on the bottom for a bit of the old nepotist in out.
by japanese cricket tragic on 26 November 11 ·#
Are denton corker or marshall still alive?
by shorn on 30 November 11 ·#
Last word from s. mordant’s missus on mexico’s X Y & Zs.
…. she’s got a point?
by info on 30 November 11 ·#
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu let the Herald Sun in on his top ten Melbourne buildings last weekend. While it’s hard to argue with any of the individual choices, it is more interesting to look at the list as a whole. What an elderly bunch of edifices it is, all built before World War II. Even Burley Griffin misses out on a nod. His favourite is Marcus Barlow’s 1932 Manchester Unity building. He apparently hates a lot of buildings too, but we aren’t told which ones they might be.
Putting down the tabloid down and digging through the web for something more substantial, a lecture turns up [ PDF ] from Baillieu’s time as Shadow Minister for Planning. Here are a few excerpts. Possibly he’s had an architectural blood transfusion since then.
I was educated architecturally thirty years ago. My education started at Melbourne University in 1971, where I studied European and American architectural history. At that time, of course, the credo was ‘less is more’. That credo certainly got into my architectural blood…
In my final year at university, I did a thesis piece on art deco architecture in Melbourne, which in many respects is quite contrary because it’s about ornamentation — architecture as entertainment — and that, for me, is the other side of things when it comes to materialism and architecture: there is a role for entertainment. The role of the architect is to be the provider of joy in the architectural sense. To balance the two is not always easy, but it’s part of that role…
I just love the Manchester Union Building on the corner of Swanston and Collins streets. Most people walk by and don’t really look. For me, it’s amazing. Federation Square was something that didn’t move me, I’m not quite sure why. Lots of people thought it was extravagant. But they use it.
Photo: P.Johns 2011
22.11.11 in buildings
What a lovley showcase of Australian Architecture. Love thay style
by Creative Dragon on 15 February 12 ·#
Le Corbusier’s Casa Curutchet in La Plata, Argentina is the star of a recent film showing on SBS On Demand until the 23rd. A well to do furniture designer lives and works peacefully in the house with his family until Mr Victor next door starts breaking down a boundary wall. Things start to slide rapidly, and it’s master manipulator versus the wimp.
As the architect tells the poor guy, “codes are one thing. Real life is something else”.
SBS ON DEMAND. EXPIRES NOV 23. AU ONLY.
Trivia: the first photo above is from the wikipedia article about the house. This article is referenced in the film.
Hey great tip! This is brill.
by kmcf on 18 November 11 ·#
The news caught up with me on the morning of September 12th 2001, when I got to work. I wrote a stunned mullet wikipedia-style post when I got home. I was mainly trying to get to the bottom of how both towers could implode on themselves, using the scant information available at the time. The death toll at the towers was unknown and incomprehensible. A few days afterwards I received an emotional email from the late New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp, touched that people “with kangaroos in Austria” would be thinking of them. The internet was a small place back then.
These attacks in New York and Washington were related to architecture in more than the obvious way. They were attacks on symbolic buildings, led by a trained architect, funded indirectly by the bin Ladin construction empire. The hawks masterminding the follow-up invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were eventually labelled “architects of war” by the media.
A year later, in New York, the good architects had risen, and with a bit of coordination and promotion by the New York Times and Muschamp, denounced the six dreary development-parcel proposals from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
In June, a group of New York architects met to discuss their dissatisfaction with the planning process unfolding under the auspices of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the state agency created to supervise the rebuilding of ground zero and the financial district. The group included Richard Meier, Steven Holl, Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey and Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer. NYT 08/09/02
The “New York 4”, who kickstarted the New York Times initiative, talked about the development of their discussion into a competition, with Charlie Rose in January 2003. Peter Eisenman: “Architecture is finally where it should be. In the political, social process.”
Daniel Libeskind won the design competition hastily organised by the LMDC, and must have gained an ulcer or two in the years that followed. By 2004 he had lost control of the Freedom Tower design to S.O.M. and was battling his client in court over $800,000 in fees.
Michael Arad’s 911 Memorial at the site of the World trade Center is to be dedicated today. Two sunken pools occupy the approximate footprints of the twin towers, with the names of the dead etched into the surrounding plinths. Names have been painstakingly grouped to allow people with any sort of connection to be adjacent.
A memorial to the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 was also held on Saturday. The Paul Murdoch design will, when complete, trace the line of the plane as it crashed into a Pennsylvania field en route to the U.S. Capitol.
“Timeless in simplicity and beauty, like its landscape, both stark and serene,
the Memorial should be quiet in reverence, yet powerful in form, a place both solemn and uplifting.” Paul Murdoch
Steve Reich’s WTC 9/11
A memorial in music. The composition, incorporating voice recordings, is played here by the Kronos Quartet.
NPR Radio stream
A dentist quietly photographed the towers for almost 30 years, accumulating tens of thousands of prints. Al-Jazeera visited him to hear his story.
Manhatten in motion
New york is alive and buzzing in 2011, but the way we live and work is different. A future post will survey the impact of 9/11 has had on architecture and architects.
11.09.11 in buildings
i watched the towers collapse live – I realised what was happening before the US announcer, though it was unbelievable to me that they would. Surprised that they just collapsed on themselves, but better than actually falling over, which I now realize a tall building would never do. Doco last night about ‘Engineering ground zero’ interviewed David Childs, no mention of Libeskind, just a ref to ‘controversy’.
by rohan on 12 September 11 ·#
It’s great to see that they’re turning it into a positive project now though
DCM’s long-awaited visitors’ centre at Stonehenge is about to be built, according to Robert Bevan at the Australian. There have been occasional posts about this centre, in its varying forms, on this website since May 2001. The last one, in late 2009, reported than it was about to be built as well. So we’d better wait and see – the clock ticks slowly around those stones.
The current design “touches the ground lightly”. Not a DCM trait, but one that addressed the reduced budget. DCM London director Steve Quinlan said in 2009 that, “if a visitor can remember their visit to the stones but can’t remember the visitor centre they passed through, we will be happy.” This gives some indication of the difficulties associated with building anything within cooee of Stonehenge.
Architect / protaganist: Denton Corker Marshall [DCM]
The entirely solar-powered Meridian First Light house has just been packed up into containers at Frank Kitts Park in Wellington. This is the first entry ever from downunder in the US Solar Decathlon. The house was built by students at Victoria University. Check the site for a good overview of the last couple of months.
“The Meridian First Light house channels the essence of the iconic “Kiwi bach” – a focus on recreation, socialisation, and outdoor living.”
A great 2007 doco is on ABC iView, until June 14th, on the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Design plagiarism, kidnap attempts, fascists on horses, bank robbing… it’s exhausting.
06.06.11 in buildings
by peter on 20 June 11 ·#
Good? Bad? Ugly? All three? This video from Sunday’s Art Nation also contains a glimpse of Lab’s ideas for Fed Square East. Think leafy and shady!
Architect / protaganist: Federation Square
its bad enough these two are on the radio, now television. why?
only if they did some background research instead of shooting from the hip.
they’ve obviously been to the andrew bolt school of journalism.
knotty or is it noddy, just loves the sound of his own voice and stuart, well he’s just plain boring.
this segment is a waste of tax payers money.
by cabbie on 24 May 11 ·#
I have had dealings with Stuart Harrison. He is a registered architect and one of the foremost lecturers on architectural History at Rmit University. I would trust any input that Stuart has to put into this project as he is both knowledgable and thorough. Cabbie maybe is best you stop shooting from the hip before downing an individual who is more than qualified to discuss such a public building.
by Kris on 25 May 11 ·#
I took a power nap while they were on. The ballerina’s legs after them woke me up.
I wonder what your objections actually are, Cabbie? In what aspect did Stuart & his colleague get it wrong? I’m not sure that criticism without content is really fair…or useful.
by Briony on 25 May 11 ·#
Its fair. They were shooting from the hip on the glass in the atrium.
by greenhaus on 26 May 11 ·#
just a cab driver
by cabbie on 26 May 11 ·#
Stormin Normin makes me fall asleep too.
by info on 26 May 11 ·#
I am an student at RMIT, it is the world’s best architecture school. Stewart Harrison is a leading architect in the school. Melbourne Architecture is the best in the world. The staff at RMIT are world famous. What would you know Cabbie. What have you ever done Cabbie. Shut up.
by leehon on 27 May 11 ·#
@leehon, chill out buddy, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I can see where the comment about shooting from the hip might come from. The segment didn’t have a lot of the background information on the job, it just seemed to come off as a their first impressions on the project. We all know the amount of newspaper ink that was used to talk about the job, maybe it’s just a by product of the short segment time?
by burchmore on 27 May 11 ·#
fell asleep again today
by info on 30 May 11 ·#
invent a new job leehon.
by cabbie on 2 June 11 ·#
You’re a racist Cabbie.
by leehon on 2 June 11 ·#
@ Leehon, Rimmers send me to sleep as well.
by info on 2 June 11 ·#
@burchmore, I’m not buying the short segment cop out – but i bet the ABC arts management do. Sergio Leone could choreograph a 15 second gunfight with plenty of dead bodies no trouble. It seems more like they just don’t translate from dishwasher loading muzak to good sunday hangover buzz drone.
by greenhaus on 3 June 11 ·#
that’s right leehon, like all australians.
hey greenhaus, surprised you understand, these guys don’t translate at all.
by cabbie on 3 June 11 ·#
I feel asleep looking at a box of sleeping tablets in Swanston Street today.
by info on 3 June 11 ·#
@cabbie, I can translate, talking shit is a second language at home.
by greenhaus on 3 June 11 ·#
hey info you’re boring
by cabbie on 3 June 11 ·#
by info on 3 June 11 ·#
i’m so bored i’m going to enroll @ RMIT.
by greenhaus on 3 June 11 ·#
Mate, wrong choice.
Deakun is the place.
by dug on 3 June 11 ·#
didn’t even wake up for the latest.
by info on 5 June 11 ·#
You didn’t miss anything, the ABC took their water pistols off them after the first week.
by dug on 16 June 11 ·#
As a preface to an upcoming article on prefab housing, which may not be ready for a while… here is a Grand Designs repeat about the construction of a german Huf Haus , demonstrating how ridiculously quickly they can be erected, and also how weirdly it sits in its English suburban context. It expires VERY soon though – May 23. iView here .
21.05.11 in buildings
OK, so you’ve paid $32M for a site in Point Piper, but it’s not on the sea side of the road, and its pretty damn steep. First thing to do is clear the existing historic mansion. Next, build a new one. Then build a Bat Cave, but swap the bat poles for a bat lift.
Et voila, Wayne Manor.
When Qatar was announced as host of the FIFA 2022 Soccer World Cup, what was I to do but see what they were proposing? It sounded scary at the outset – 12 or so air conditioned stadia working against midsummer temperatures floating around the mid Forties. The first five concepts are shown in the bid video above –
Then I heard that the airconditioning would be “carbon neutral”, and powered by solar panels. And then I heard that parts of the modular stadiums would be given away to other Asian countries.
So I went to the web:
- Büro Albert Speer & Partners (son of..) have designed five of the new stadia, with Norman Foster pitching in another larger one.
- Yes it will be solar-powered. Expensive maybe, but University of Phoenix stadium project architect Jack Boyle puts it into perspective: “First cost [initial expenditures] on creating all these alternative energy systems can be fairly high, so you just need to look at what your payback is going to be. But in Qatar, they may not be concerned about payback at all.”
- The 1400 sqm, 700kW solar field for the mini demonstration stadium (seating 500) was designed by Arup, and used Mirroxx solar panels. The FIFA report notes that this technology hasn’t yet been used on larger stadia.
- The “carbon neutral” claim assumes a year long time frame. The solar panels feeding power to the stadia would be diverted to supply the national grid when games aren’t on. Arup says that when they are on, the stadia will have to take energy from the grid. The air-conditioning is not quite solar-powered.
- The stadia will have retractable rooves – invisible in the videos. These appear to be in order to comply with FIFA regulations that might require that games be played in the open. Qatar intends to close the rooves on the days preceding the games to keep the pitches at a “reasonable” 27 degrees.
- each seat will have cooling outlets.
- solar PV panels will be used to chill water using absorption chillers. The water will then be used to cool a blanket of air over players and spectators.
- parts of some of the stadia will be disassembled and exported, along with the cooling technologies, to other arid countries. There is little detail that I can find on how this might be achieved.
Phoenix stadium by McSixth
Looking a bit more closely at Mr Boyle’s stadium in Phoenix (design by Peter Eisenmann & HOK), it holds 72,200 seats maximum and the stadium website boasts in its Fun Facts section that the, “stadium air-conditioning system will generate 8,000 tons of cooling capacity, enough to cool 2,300 residential homes in the Phoenix area.” But don’t worry, the stadium has a Green Mission, the major initiative of which is to include 61 recycling bins in the stadium (that’s one per 1,183 people).
It looks like Qatar might be let off the hook, as FIFA are now considering the possibility of the Cup being held in Qatar’s Winter months. Anything to help out friends.
Spare a thought for stadium designers in the days of yore. The 1965 Harris County Domed Stadium, now more commonly known as the Houston Astrodome, had to be airconditioned. And it was complex, and the first big dome – the roof alone required two years of research. Engineering design problems included internal weather patterns, the acoustic problems from a 62,000 strong audience in a closed dome, growing grass, and smoke clouds (think Mad Men). The growing of grass ended up being rather difficult, so along came Monsanto with their Chemgrass substitute. It was soon after renamed Astroturf after the stadium.
Smoke testing at the dome
20.12.10 in buildings
maybe they should have investigated the possibility of cooling the air using underground labyrinths or basements, as in the Osaka Municipal Gym:
just returned from OS with loads of banal photos how do I upload them? did you miss me? i see no-one else is reading your site except me, must be disappointing.
by James on 23 December 10 ·#