Tuesday, 23 June 2015


In the Steel Profile magazine 120 May 2015 that covered the BKK ‘Geelong Ring Road [Truck Stop] Rest Areas,’ - see: http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/ronchamp-rest-areas-and-meaning.html - the cover also advertised the Clare Design ‘Burleigh Heads Granny Flat.’ The article on this little structure was given six pages. It was titled ‘BEAT BOX.’ The headline subtext read: ‘Clare Design has created a double-story, steel-clad pavilion for its clients [themselves?] that echoes the lightweight qualities of the traditional Queenslander, without the verandah trimmings.’ It is almost the same as promoting Roy Rogers without his horse Trigger; Slim Dusty without his ‘golden’ guitar.

Why do architectural reviews always seek some ‘reference,’ any reference: to enrich the idea? The BKK project referenced Ronchamp and medieval towers, and more. Strangely, in this granny flat project the reference is to the ‘Queenslander without the verandah,’ the iconic identity of the style that is oddly referred to as ‘the verandah trimmings’ – a mere accessory. Who knows exactly which particular ‘Queenslander’ is being referred to less its verandah? There are many varieties, all with verandahs, and all with different outcomes once stripped of them.

Has anyone seen a Queenslander without its verandah? It is truly a sad circumstance. One is left with a bulky, naked shed of awkward proportions. A ‘Queenslander’ does not make as nice a ruin as Wright’s Taliesin West might. Looking at the Clare design, one might consider describing the result as a simple shed. Indeed, the title bluntly calls it a ‘box.’ So why drag in the Queenslander, less its verandah? Has architectural writing got out of control with its boasting, its extreme ‘intellectual’ hagiography?

The article finishes with a celestial touch:  ‘In suburban Burleigh Heads, within earshot of the surf on a clear evening, Clare Design’s Granny Flat brings all of the stars into alignment.’ Is Peter Hyatt a fan of Hair? The proposition is a bit like the cliché ‘seeing of Stradbroke Island on a clear day.’

Is this style of review/reporting prepared for the profession or for the public? If it is for the profession, it appears very indulgent. Do architects need to be preached to with such fabricated eloquence? Can they not see straight through the hype? Have these promotions become some sort of competition to see who can create the best yarn? If this writing is for the public, it is not doing much at all for the future of architecture as being perceived as anything but some elitist game.

The project seems to be a very nice yellow ('sunny Queensland?) and silver steel scheme, neatly detailed and resolved, but why does everyone appear to want to say more and more about it, skewing obscure matters to make them, both the author and the building, appear uniquely ‘clever’ and ‘academic’?

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