Tuesday 24 November 2015


Facade detail of development?


It would be funny if it were not so serious. The Gold Coast Bulletin recently reported on a development proposal for what it describes as 'the famous Merrimac Cow paddock': see below. Apparently Council has already approved a scheme on these flood plains subject to the development providing: 'two boat skippers, warning lights, [and] flood rations for three days to ensure residents' safety on the flood plains.' Is this really true? What happens after three days if the flood waters have not subsided?

The skippers?

Proposed apartment block?

One has to ask: why allow any construction on a flood plain? The Gold Coast should have learned about the problems of approving development on low land from the Brisbane floods. What on earth is happening here? Has the Gold Coast forgotten about the 1974 floods that inundated the region; and the regular regional problems with heavy downpours? The report sounds like a joke; but no, it seems to be real. Apparently Council is now being asked to approve a larger development on the same site; and, as if to confirm that it was serious with its previous outrageously unusual conditions, a spokesperson has apparently said that these conditions would remain in place. Maybe they might be modified? The report mentions lifeboats! What might insurance companies think of the circumstance?

Typical apartment block for flood plain?

Is this the design solution to the conditions of approval?

How can anything like this be enforced? Who will check? Will there have to be lifeboat practice once a year in the same way that offices have their fire evacuation rehearsals? How can a flood evacuation drill be held in dry conditions? How will the food be kept? Where? By whom? Who will distribute it? Will this be rehearsed too? How? Who gets what: when? 1500 units are being proposed. One is reminded of the requirements for post-disaster cyclone occupation. One project completed some years ago in Townsville had to have fuel and drinking water supplies available to ensure that it could remain operational. Tanks were installed and filled, but one suspects that neither tank has ever been looked at again. Both fuel and drinking water need regular refreshing. What surprise might the next disaster reveal? How might the flood plain residents cope? In the last Brisbane floods, the upper units in the high-rise apartment blocks on the Brisbane River survived untouched by the rising waters, but the basements and lower floors were flooded, cutting off all access and services to the apartments above. The whole place was uninhabitable. Boats and food might not have improved things, even with trained skippers.

Floor plan of development?

The whole circumstance borders on farce. Surely the only responsible thing to do is to prohibit the development of the flood plains on the Gold Coast? These areas are a critical part of the natural variation of water flows over land. One has to ask: why might anyone choose to live in a flood plain and tolerate the disruption that floods cause, with boats and food or not?

Apartment block in flood?

It has to be remembered that this is the Gold Coast, a place that shows a remarkable tolerance for the whims of smart developers out to make the cliché 'quick quid.' One Council CEO in the past was bold enough to suggest that the flood plains in a particular area should never be developed. He was threatened with legal action by the land-owner developer, and he eventually 'left Council.' This area is now up for sale or lease, as if it was ready to be developed.
Training drill?

It seems that the Gold Coast is determined to approve anything, anywhere. A recent report told how a super tower had been approved without going through the formal channels. No Councillor knew about it: see - http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/gold-ghost-city-planning_45.html  Past experience has shown how Council can be inventive in overcoming any and every objection to a development proposal with an array of special conditions that allow anything/everything to occur. The conditions for the Merrimac Cow paddock flood plain development only appear to confirm Council's willingness and determination to indulge any developer without cynicism or humour, when both are needed if the reality is to be recognised.

Detail of typical elevation of apartment block?

To some who read the report, the whole situation appears to be irrational, just plain silly; and, one might ask: irresponsible too? Others, it seems, see no folly. Will Council approve a larger development, or change its mind on the first approval? One has to wonder what hold developers might have over Council that seems scared to say 'NO' to them. Is it just open slather for mates? To continue the puns in the report, like 'moooove,' one might hope that the reported situation was just a lot of bull: if only!

Food boat?


Developer plans 1500-unit development for famous Carrara cow paddock despite flooding fear
NOVEMBER 23, 2015 12:00AM

It looks like the cows in the famous Merrimac Cow paddock might be on the moooove soon. Plans have been given to the council for a city-like development with high-rises. Picture Glenn Hampson
A RESIDENTIAL development needing lifeboats and food rations for three days for fear of flooding is before council bigger than originally thought.
Owners of the famous cow paddock at Carrara want to turn the 25ha site into 1500 dwellings.
Orient Central Development Corporation has planned up to 10 buildings as high as 19 storeys on the corner of Gooding Drive and Robina Parkway, up from the 970-unit project that gained preliminary approval from the Gold Coast City Council in mid-2013.

Back then, councillors told the developer to include two boat skippers, warning lights, food rations for three days to ensure residents’ safety on the floodplain — and the Gold Coast Bulletin was last night told those conditions would remain.
It looks like the cows in the famous Merrimac Cow paddock might be on the moooove soon. Plans have been given to the council for a city-like development with high-rises. Picture Glenn Hampson
Cr Bob La Castra, whose division is also home to two other planned high-density city-style developments, said he was concerned about flooding on the site.
“I was against plans to develop that site from day one and I still am,” he said.
“This proposal is just beyond comprehension.”
The new application was filed this year and public comment opened last month.
No submissions or objections have been received and community consultation ends on December 1.
According to plans filed with city hall, the project includes a 19-storey and two 17-floor towers and other medium-rise buildings ranging from four to 10 levels.
Artist's impressions of the Carrara development proposal.
At least three four-storey townhouses are also included and a two-storey residential club.
A cafe, convenience store, medical office, tennis courts and other sporting facilities are part of the plans.
A bridge is also mentioned as a possibility in council documents.
City planning boss Cameron Caldwell said all emergency requirements put in place during the 2013 approval remained current and that major flooding issues would be assessed by the council.
He said the proposal was one of a growing number of large sites under single ownership being developed in the area.
Artist's impressions of the Carrara development proposal.
“Any approval on this site will require significant steps to mitigate any flood impacts,” he said.
“The previous approval catered for flood-free access in the event of a significant incident and I expect similar provisions will be put in place with a future decision.
“The council welcomes the new approach for the development of this site and we will make our assessment in due course.”
Attempts to contact Orient Central Development Corporation for comment were unsuccessful.


Wednesday 18 November 2015


The analogy the designer used for the pavilion was flowers. We were asked to see this beautiful, fine, fragile structure that sways gently in the wind as being like a flower - flowers in a light breeze. It is the 2015 MPavilion in Melbourne, designed by AL A, the studio of Amanda Levete, promoted as being 'the Stirling Prize winning architect' from Britain – see: http://www.mpavilion.org/ The botanical reference imbues the shelter with a radiant feeling that encompasses everything that flowers stand for. Little wonder that the idea is pushed, as it carries all of those rich, symbolic, sentimental understandings that the Victorians knew and loved as the language of flowers.

But as one looks at the structure, it is not flowers that come to mind. There is very little of the frail, flimsy delicacy of flowers, their supreme lightness and perfection in tiny things; their exquisite detailing; their colour; fragrance. Under the translucent sheltering panels held on fine stems, one thinks first of water lilies, not the flowers, but the leaves; how they spread on the surface of the water that, from below, filters light into the depths from which rise swaying stems.

Alas, in the MPavilion shelter, the 'leaves' are the translucent, glowing planes, so the analogy is weakened as one tries to force the match and adopt all of those qualities water lilies promote. The mystical images of Monet come to mind.

Yet there is something familiar here. What is it? One can sense it, feel it, even understand its order, but not comprehend it, or locate it in one's experience. The awareness cannot yet be expressed.

Ah, yes! Rotary flight - the patterns of spinning blades as captured by the camera; of helicopters and, it has to be the reference here, drones. Drones have multiple spinning blades that are articulated, arrayed with a precise geometry for their ordered flight. We have both in the MPavilion: the marks of the spin; and the rigour of the geometry. These are not the qualities of flowers that have a less explicit arrangement. The organisation of the structure, its solidity and firmness, has more to do with the forms of crystals than those of blossoms.

The translucent surfaces are patterned with radial lines that remind one of the blade image in stop-motion photography, as wheels look sometimes, but they are vertical. The blades of drones spin horizontally forming sets of circular planes. This is what we have here in the MPavilion, but many of them that are all precisely analogous with what we see, expressing the same order as used in the geometrical pattern of the structure that strengthens the shelter and articulates the radially patterned surfaces that all have intermeshing curved profiles matching the shape of multiple spin. The whole reading of the MPavilion can be neatly assembled to replicate the experience of an aggregation of puppet drones hovering, photographed with the blur of the blades making phantom surfaces that filter the light through the spinning motion captured by the lens.

Sadly, while the fit is good, perfect in nearly every way, the analogy is not as sweetly coy or exotic as that of flowers, which offers a rich romance in the stories they tell and the nostalgic magic they weave. Drones give a lazy, 'techy' nerd sense to the appearance. It may be an accurate parallel to the 'tech know-how' of the structure and its organisation, but it lacks the complex emotive qualities of blooms. Ms Levete must like her romance; or is it that the 'flower' reference is more uniquely multifarious, more smartly arty?

Sometimes we try just too hard in our attempts to be just too clever with our rationalisations: see – http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/swell-sculpture-festival-2015-art-of.html The sad thing is that these twee explanations are usually indulged in, rarely questioned. We stand there dreaming of the wonder of flowers as the architect would like us to, as we stare at drones silently hovering overhead.

23 November 2015

Does it matter? Reporting on the bad sex awards, The Guardian quotes Jonathan Beckman: “Flanagan swaddles the encounter in so many abstract nouns that the whole experience becomes very obscure and desexualised. The Murakami seems weirdly frictionless, an opportunity for metaphor-making above anything else.” - see: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/03/ben-okri-wins-bad-sex-award-rocket-the-age-of-magic The drawing of analogies and the making of metaphors can completely change the perception of the experience. Yes, it does matter:

Richard Flanagan: “Hands found flesh;flesh, flesh. He felt the improbable weight of her eyelash with his own; he kissed the slight, rose-coloured trench that remained from her knicker elastic, running around her belly like the equator line circling the world.”

Haruki Maurkami: “Shiro's were small, but her nippples were as hard as tiny round pebbles. Their public hair was as wet as a rain forest. Their breath mingled with his, becoming one, like currents from far away, secretly overlapping at the dark bottom of the sea.”

Ben Okri: “When his hand brushed her nipple it tripped a switch and she came alight. He touched her belly and his hand seemed to burn through her. He lavished on her body indirect touches and bitter-sweet sensations flooded her brain. She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour.
Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with a gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a slow rhythmic wail . . . The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off.”

see: http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/faking-provenance-misuse-of-meaning.html