Monday, 21 November 2016


The project manager for the nearly-finished ‘Power Tower’ was being interviewed on television. The announcement was that the new ‘Power Tower’ of the Queensland Government, the new government offices built to make way for the proposed casino development by allowing the demolition of the existing nearby government accommodation, (three award-winning structures: see - ), was to be opened in November 2016, if all went to plan. The completion of the building had been delayed by a few months; the end could at last be determined.

The project manager spoke about the building, its accommodation features, its fit-out, and its environmental qualities. He seemed to want to record his disappointment that it had "No solar panels," adding, apparently by way of almost satirical commentary, that "the roof slopes the wrong way." It seems that there must have been a debate about this matter during the design process: he appears to have lost. One was left wondering: why could the roof not have sloped the ‘right’ way for solar panels? Surely this could only have been a win-win situation for government: good PR and a saving on power costs? The idea could have set an example for all. With the current arrangement, one ponders why the grand slice has been used to terminate the top of this tall tower. The concept must add complications to the detailing.

The city without the riverside freeway

The final building is a tall, triangular extrusion with rounded truncated corners. Unusually for such a dominant building, it is sited in a dead-end corner of the CBD, between entry and exit ramps, and beside the freeway they serve, the brutal 1960’s transport infrastructure that follows the edge of the river in front of the CBD: see - The mass is completed with a large, salami-like truncation, creating a plane that faces south, away from the CBD. One gets the sense that the building is ‘looking’ away from the CBD; that it stands as a self-centred, proud, isolated identity, wanting nothing to do with the city. It is an unfortunate reading for a government structure.

RAAF memorial, Queen's Park

One is reminded of the RAAF memorial eagle sculpture on the corner of Queens Park closer to Brisbane’s CBD. Here the bird is placed flying ‘away’ from the CBD, distinctly giving the impression of showing its bottom to the place as it flies off. The gesture is a subtle, perhaps unintended reference, allowing for an interpretation that suggests neglect and rudeness; but it is there. One gets the feeling that everything might have been perceived more positively if the bird had been reversed, placed to appear to fly towards the CBD rather than giving the impression of being keen to leave it; to ignore it; to get away from it.

Brisbane city

The new ‘Power Tower’ appears to do likewise. It seems to turn away from the city to pompously look south, putting its ‘back’ to the place it is there to serve. This is because the sense of address of the tower is located by the truncation, “the slope (that) faces the wrong way” for solar. This shaping gives the tower a ‘face.’ The authority of an 'address' - the 'facing' - can be seen in the statue of Queen Victoria in Queen's Park.

The Queen Victoria statue in Queen's Park formalises the axis of the park with its address

One wonders what particular difference it might have made if the slope had been angled ‘the right way,’ facing north. There seems to be nothing that could have hindered the rotation of the plan or the ‘salami’ slice. Was it that the first sketch had fixed everything for this design; that its ‘creative’ inspiration made it thus? What is the slope for: mere aesthetics? If it had been reversed and covered with solar panels, it might have been given some sculptural relevance beyond what now seems to be a strategy based on preference for particular appearance. A reversal might also have given more office space more river views.

Why are practical issues ignored in favour of what looks like whims? Is this architecture’s problem: form no longer follows anything but personal ideas; pretty preferred patterns? Do integrated functions get ignored in favour of desired images? Why? It appears that the project manager is still asking this question with some degree of frustration as he remembers the lost opportunity.

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