Tuesday, January 23, 2018

ARCHITECTURAL WORDS, LOGIC AND MEANING

 

The impressive image below the bold headline DEMOLITION . . FESTIVAL HALL attracted attention. The Guardian article was perused. The report was that Melbourne's historic, some say iconic, Festival Hall was to be demolished. The site is to be redeveloped. The architectural rendering illustrated the proposed apartment complex - but not all was to be lost:
The redevelopment plan includes demolition of most of the hall but the retention of the Dudley street facade, the boxing ring and stage.



The logic for this gesture, "keeping those historical items," was explained by the architects as a “celebration” of the cultural aspects of the site. Just what this might mean, and how it might be so, remains a puzzle. Does the isolation of sundry parts of a building become a 'celebration'? Does the maintenance of parts of a ruin constitute jubilation, some ritual social affair, or a gesture to remembrance of things past? The redevelopment's statement seems to try to clarify the position by expanding on the logic:
"Festival Hall is a performance venue – we believe that we need to harness the emotional aspects of this venue and apply it through a filter of what it means to live harmoniously.”




The statement is confusing and compounds the complexity of any understanding. As a set of words, it seems that it is trying to say something profound – but what? Is the text suggesting that the building has to be dramatic, exhibitionist, a performance in itself, 'to harness the emotional aspects' of what was once there? How does this equate with the idea of living 'harmoniously' when 'emotions' have been 'filtered' through something, whatever, whenever?



It is all very enigmatic. How do these architectural words explain anything? One could perhaps read this as being a sensitive response to the past, but the next sentence says that the past has gone:
There are no plans to build a replacement performance space on the site.
So are the buildings being asked to 'perform' in this 'celebration' of 'emotional, filtered harmony'? The images certainly seem to suggest this with their boldly sculptured massing and spectacular shaping; but how does 'living harmoniously' become a driving force in this performance model – the simple experience of being, and being content, living together, sharing, when the ambition appears be to maximise the unique, visual drama of the place?



If words are to be useful in explaining matters, rather than merely muddling them, they need to be precise and crystal clear, like the architecture they seek to rationalise.
The New Zealand poet, C.K.Stead translated the Straits Times Quotation from the Chinese text in his Collected Poems 1951-2006, AUP, 2008, p.145:
Clear writers, like clear fountains, do not seem so
deep as they are; the turbid looks most profound.
- Landor.


Clear architects are the same - ‘the turbid looks most profound.’ It is certainly easy to make things turbid, apparently meaningful; it is extremely difficult to make things clear, lucid: but it needs to become the profession’s singular purpose and aim if architects are to be not only understood, but also respected. Self-indulgent fantasies do not help.



THE REPORT



Demolition plan to bring curtain down on Melbourne's Festival Hall
Proposal for apartment complex includes demolition of most of the famous performance venue
Australian Associated Press
Tue 23 Jan 2018 12.26 AEDT



It may have hosted the Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash in its heyday but if developers get their way, Melbourne’s Festival Hall will be demolished to make way for a $65m apartment complex.

A planning proposal has been lodged with Melbourne City council for two apartment towers (one of 16 storeys), shops and an office space at the west Melbourne site.
The redevelopment plan includes demolition of most of the hall but the retention of the Dudley street facade, the boxing ring and stage.
Southbank-based architects Rothelowman said keeping those historical items was a “celebration” of the cultural aspects of the site.
"Festival Hall is a performance venue – we believe that we need to harness the emotional aspects of this venue and apply it through a filter of what it means to live harmoniously,” the redevelopment’s vision statement reads.
There are no plans to build a replacement performance space on the site.
Built by Melbourne businessman John Wren in 1915, Festival Hall became known as the House of Stoush due to its popularity as a boxing and wrestling venue.
It was destroyed by fire in 1955 but rebuilt in time for the 1956 Olympic Games where it played host to the gymnastics and wrestling.

It has since hosted hundreds of local and international acts including the Sex Pistols, Oasis, Soundgarden, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and American rapper Kanye West.

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