12 March, 2008
The Garnaut Review today released Issues Paper 5 – Transport, planning and the built environment
The information contained therein seems to be generally sensible, and I think it is particularly worthwhile for the architecture profession to take note of the fact that buildings are responsible for 23% of Australia’s GHG emissions. This figure does not however include the emissions from the construction and renovation of said buildings. This also compares to transport being responsible for 14% of Australia’s GHG emissions (private cars are responsible for 7%, though this is rising).
What I do find interesting, in fact somewhat worrying, is the fact that 5.5 pages are dedicated to transport and planning, whilst 2.5 are dedicated to buildings, which seems out of whack with their respective emissions impact.
Something I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned (given the market focus of the report) as a way to reduce built environment emissions was the disclosure of a building’s energy rating when it is sold or leased. How are people supposed to make rational spending choices without all of the relevant information?
7 December, 2007
The UK’s new scheme to build a bunch of ‘eco-towns’ is being criticised as being totally stupid. the basic criticism is that you can’t say something is ‘eco’ just because it has lots of insulation, and you especially can’t say it is eco if you have bulldozed a bunch of trees to get at the land to build it on and that land is miles from anywhere else. Der.
An economist pointed out a while ago that the best way for a small town to become ‘green’ was actually to move to London. Because of the density of London, the people that live there emit 40% less GHG than the national average, whilst the inhabitants of the town emit 25% more.
I tried to argue for the benefits of density with a committed Green a while ago, in the wake of protesting against some truly badly designed new development nearby, only to find out that density just didn’t fit with this person’s idea of green. Not enough mud bricks, vegie patches or hemp it seemed.
14 November, 2007
An interesting addition to the Festival of Silliness that is the current federal election campaign is the RAIA’s party poll on issues affecting architecture and the built environment.
Basically, they’ve provided a bunch of statements to the parties and asked them to respond. So far only the Greens and the Coalition have gotten back to them it seems. There is so much bloody spin in the Coalition’s response that I could barely read it without feeling ill (from the dizziness you know), though I think they basically said that they wouldn’t give any money to the Venice Biennale. But they do quite clearly and in all seriousness quote a Demographia study, so they’re obviously a pack of simplistic morons. And the Greens, jeez, why can’t they work out how to print to PDF? They also want to “promote a distinctly Australian style” within architecture. Which sounds a) impossible and b) like jingoistic crap.
The RAIA has also created three BBQ Stopper Podcasts (their term, not mine), which seem to be recorded panel discussions, on the topics of housing affordability, sustainability and nation building. Will have to investigate further and report back, because I am in fact going to a bbq this weekend, so I’ll see if shouting something from the podcasts gets everyone to shut up and stop eating.
2 November, 2007
The Victorian Housing Minister, Richard Wynne, yesterday announced competitions to tart up the Footscray commission flats and design new low-to-medium density public housing in Dandenong. The Footscray competition is called Tower Turnaround and the Dandenong competition is called Living Places. They’re approved by the RAIA and the total prize pool is $135 000. Though it isn’t really prize money when you have to work for it, it’s remuneration.
There seems to be a lot of consternation about the ugliness of the towers, people invariably want to knock them down, but even though I don’t disagree about the ugliness, I’m really glad that the Vic Government is going to renovate them instead. Simply because you can house so many people in those tower blocks, and ugly shelter is much better than no shelter. I’m glad too that they’re building more public housing, because everyone is aware of the expense of buying a house, but there are plenty of people who don’t even have the money to rent because rents have gone up so much.
31 October, 2007
The Griffin’s own house in Eaglemont is for sale (from $770k).
According to the blurb, the 1922 house has an ‘Art Deco’ addition. I think someone might want to send the copywriter a book on historical styles because somehow I don’t think angled blonde timber panels are a particularly deco feature. It isn’t a great extension in my opinion, don’t think it pays enough attention to the Burra Charter, specifically “22.2 New work should be readily identifiable as such”, which really is a very good recommendation.
26 October, 2007
it was announced today by the Building Commission that from May next year, all domestic renovation and extension work will include bringing the house up to a 5 star energy efficiency rating, press release here.
this is really a much more important step than introducing 5 star for new homes, simply because the vast majority of homes in Victoria are not new, but we do love to renovate. though it will still be pretty hard to make the argument for energy efficiency on the basis that it will save you money when greenhouse gas emissions are free and thus coal fired electricity remains so amazingly cheap.
23 October, 2007
there’s a new book coming out next month 50/60/70: Iconic Australian Houses which looks pretty damn good, great photos and plans.
possibly the best thing about it though is that it isn’t seemingly aimed at the standard audience, i.e., it isn’t preaching to the choir (us). it is written by the editor of one of those cushion chucker style interior/design magazines, which contain most of the architectural knowledge that the australian general public will ever be exposed to. which i think says more about architects than the general public really.
also, it is published by murdoch books so it will get out to more than 3 bookshops.
as wonderful as books like Houses for the 21st Century are, they’re unlikely to reach a wide audience, which is something that i think 50/60/70 may well be able to do. and in doing so might be able to introduce a whole lot more people to the wonderfulness that was Modern domestic architecture in australia.
18 October, 2007
yes, the election campaign is finally upon us and the stupid policies have started flowing thick and fast.
now k. rudd appears to believe that the prime miniscule’s commonwealth land release policy to improve housing affordability was such a good idea that he wants to claim it. never mind the fact that it basically won’t work because:
- most of the land they’re talking about isn’t anywhere near where anyone wants to live
- anything that brings the cost of houses down would piss off people who already own houses, who are a far bigger voting block than those who don’t, not a group any politician wants to lose
- they’d only sell the land to big ugly developers who would simply sell it for going market rates, after erecting rubbish soul less boxes that no one should have to live in before that of course.
- it’s the economy stupid!
i mention it though because i think this is as close to mentioning the built environment as politicians will come… it seems that despite the fact that we spend a good proportion of our lives inside a building, no one really talks about them much, unless it is in reference to how much they cost or if they’re broken in some way.
back on topic though, hosing affordability has more to do with low interest rates prompting people to borrow more than they otherwise would and competing against each other at auctions than a lack of land. and they’re only doing it in close to cities. in some areas of western sydney, house prices are actually in decline because people simply don’t want to live there because there is nothing to do and no services. if there is so little demand out there already, what the hell use will releasing yet more land be?
11 September, 2007
The nominations for the 2007 Stirling Prize are out, there’s a nice little gallery at The Guardian.
The token ‘blobby’ building up for nomination seems to be like a lot of other blobby buildings in that it kind of doesn’t look like a building but like a discreet scaleless object, something I think a lot of the big modernists buildings do too (Farnsworth house is a good example).
On the Farnsworth house, according to the wonderful Rory on The Architects this evening, Brad Pitt is shooting a Japanese jeans ad there and donating part of his fee to help fix the place up a bit.
21 August, 2007
Flicking through the local rag, I found out that there is another Robin Boyd house for sale, in Balwyn North, his 1954 Latchford house. There are some alright photos there, although it is odd to read about a Boyd house described in real estate agent speak, they really do use a lot of random superlatives.
But having just driven through Balwyn North recently I was struck by the apparent contrast of housing then compared to housing now, I didn’t see any new buildings that look like they’ve been individually designed by an architect. The majority are mass built display homes, decorated boxes with hipped roofs and variations that indicate their style: doric columns means it is georgian, deep eaves means it is Frank Lloyd Wright. I actually saw one called the ‘Urbane’. I was tempted to scribble ‘sub’ in front of it.
But as witty as that pun may or may not be, I don’t have anything against the suburbs, hell I’ve lived in them for most of my life. But I wonder why it seems that domestic architecture in Melbourne in the 1950′s was seen as accessible and appropriate for the suburbs, whereas now it seems like everyone is building display homes? What happened?
In the 1950′s places like Balwyn and Ivanhoe would have been outer suburbs, the equivalent of Caroline Springs or Aurora perhaps. Places that now have practically no involvement by architects.
Perhaps I’m being a bit romantic or sentimental, but there seem to be a lot more good older houses than good new houses. I realise that a lot of the not so good older houses have been knocked down, fallen down or have been made over, but there seem to be enough not so good 1950′s houses around still to provide a reasonable comparison to the good ones. I wonder why architecture seemed accessible in the 1950′s and it doesn’t now? Are architects doing something wrong? Or are developers just doing something right?