Friday, November 29, 2013


The new Abedian School of Architecture at Bond University on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia is nearing completion. Amongst the various pieces and parts of this educational edifice that make a claim for attention, the downpipes are particularly eyecatching. The question arises: is this a symphony of downpipes or a cacophony? Were the downpipes once forgotten, or are they a reference to the ad hoc arrangement of pipes sometimes seen on older Australian country buildings?

The difficulty in seeing the arrangement as either a circumstance driven by necessity, or a considered design, a clever, self-conscious'reference' to the buildings of old, lies in the clashes of the downpipes with the carefully sculpted sunhoods. The hoods seem shaped more for pleasure for the eye than for any shading outcome, but these seemingly obvious 'design' elements have, on occasion, had to be chopped off and hacked away to allow for the apparently random run of the downpipes.

If the downpipes were attempting to touch on the character of the quaintly improvised setouts seen on old buildings, sheds and hotels and the like, then why were the pipes not arranged to avoid the need to carve out any of the hoods? It seems that what might be the random organisation of necessity has been artfully adapted and articulated, manipulated to recreate perhaps only the appearance of layouts that the tradesman's careless functional inattention achieves - the commonplace ease of the 'whatever it takes' attitude.

So, is it a symphony of downpipes or a cacophony? Perhaps we can say that it is a cacophonic symphony? The donwpipes look deliberately attention-grabbing. Even those that cluster in the decorative verticals on the south are kinked, maybe for identification, rather than seeking out any simple concealment with a straight vertical run. One wonders if these pipe elements map out the gestures of the conductor of this symphony, such is their unusual configuration? Who knows? Is it all a reference to itself, singing its own praises? The whole is more 'sophisticated' than the raw beauty of ordinary buidlings that reveal a rude naivety, something almost transparently and unapologetically uncouth.

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