Thursday, April 11, 2013

QUIRKS - ARCHITECTURAL IMPORTS & PARADISE



Quirk (Architecture): an acute angle or channel, as one dividing two parts of a moulding or one dividing a flush bead from the adjoining surfaces. (Dictionary.com)




A quirk is a small articulation between. The pieces included here as ‘quirks’ fall into the gaps ‘between’ in the same way. They gather and divide. While appearing as various insignificant items as a quirk does, eliminate the quirk and everything changes. The pieces are sundry asides to stimulate . . . - well, just to stimulate.




IMPORTS

The recent (April 2013) advertisement for Dr. Who on ABC TV proudly boasts the new series as being “Express from the UK!” It reminds one of immigrant folk in the 1950’s and 60’s who used to speak whimsically of “home” and “the old country,” and boast about how everything was much better there - even the syrup: Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup; “Ah! Nothing like the CSR stuff!” And those bananas! Fyffes!: “Far more tasty!” Indeed, everything was better in the “UK.” Certainly there was no vermin like the flies, mosquitoes, midges and cockroaches in this God-forsaken land of floods, fires and famines. The New Chum's Farewell to Queensland, a long, inventive curse, expresses these sentiments. It concludes:

To stay in thee, O land of Mutton!
I would not give a single button,
But bid thee now a long farewell,
Thou scorching sunburnt land of Hell!




Once travel became available to all, it did not take long to discover how completely wrong all these perceptions about the UK were, and still are - yes, in every way possible.




It occurred to me that this TV programme promotion also appropriately described the staff of one of the newest schools of architecture in Australia - possibly selected using the same criteria as the old visions that saw only things superior when ‘Made in England,’ the preferred message on any purchase in the 50’s and 60’s: real quality, not like the Australian trash!




The strange irony is that after these teaching appointments were made, our Prime started Minister is raging on - it could be a feigned ‘political’ fury - about foreigners taking “Aussie jobs.” There is no necessary connection; but she has sworn that she is going to fight the 457-visa system that is “putting Australians at the end of the queue.” One could ask, “What queue?” in the same way the question has been put for the boat arrivals who have been said to be “jumping the queue.”




As an aside, just a couple of days ago, a boat loaded with 67 people from Shri Lanka arrived at Geraldton in Western Australia. It was the first boat for many years to reach the mainland. This boat takes the total number of arrivals to over 4,500 for the year 2013, and it is only 11th April!



One could also ask why there is no one in Australia who could play an important role in architectural education in this country. And now I recall how one applicant for a position in a school of architecture in Brisbane reportedly turned up at the interview in an Oxford blazer when he had never been near this University. Ah, the power of perceptions. Yes, he got the job over a ‘local’ boy!! No blazer! As the promo said: “Express from the UK!” The implications remain: this has to be better than anything Australian can produce!



Will we ever learn to stop cringing at the ‘old country,’ it accent, (and others to - the problem has expanded to include those from other shores), and its regal stories, and start believing in ourselves? Are we still burdened by the ghosts of the British ‘masters’ who managed the colony full of convicts? If we don’t know it now, it should not take long to discover how completely wrong all these perceptions about the UK are - yes, in every way possible.







PARADISE

This sign was not a promotional advertisement for any TV show even though the BBC’s The Paradise has just finished its run (April 2013). The sign sat beside the highway just east of Grafton in a poor attempt to match ‘the strip’ at Los Angeles. This was a bush setting that lacked any urban identity. The road was just an upgraded track meandering through gum trees and scrub. The huge panel declared in large lettering: “25 minutes to paradise.”



Well, if only. Another quick look at the sign before it was left behind revealed that ‘paradise’ was the settlement of Wooli, a little sleepy hollow on the mouth of the Wooli Wooli River - no this is not a typo!




When asked on a recent showing of Q&A, an ABC TV programme where the audience gets to ask the questions, the Muslim representative was asked, (by the host Tony Jones this time), if the Muslim vision of heaven had houses, streets and the like. “Yes,” was the response.




Goodness, maybe Wooli is ‘paradise’? Who knows? A wonderful old beach shack behind the dune by the ocean could indeed be heaven itself. Such are the Wooli shacks, modest but beautiful pieces of architecture.




We should not modify our definition of architecture just to incorporate the brash, smart and new, or the grand, pompous or pretentious old buildings as Pevsner liked to promote it. Memorably, he declared that a cathedral was architecture, but a bicycle shed was a building. Architecture is more than landmarks made by heroes: much more. We need to come to understand what ‘paradise’ really is as buildings; that there is no difference between a building and architecture other than a descriptive one: different types if you like; not necessarily different qualities. We have no trouble using ‘art’ for all and sundry varieties, in the same way as we accept the varieties in religious experience. Why do we struggle so hard with architecture; to try to make it so unique? Indeed, paradise could very well be at Wooli!



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