Saturday 26 October 2019


Golden Harvests
I am too glad to make a Christmas poem
too full of the river's lilt to spill
the words, mill them to nourishment.
The grist has been dispersed with all
this love of life. The stones are still
but warm from memory.

Even a moon at Christmas cannot shame
their silence, round on this lack of words.
They will turn again, pull glinting syllables
from the sublunary streams, enhalo elegies,
love poems; sift a gleam of fullness, a hint
of the divine from the chaffy banter of a year,

Christine De Luca
Plain Song The Shetland Library Lerwick 2002

I have a copy of this beautiful publication in Australia. It is in mint condition, purchased new and carefully handled, complete with its glossy paper jacket. Earlier in the year, in the COPE Shetland Home recycling shop, a copy of De Luca's poems was discovered in the Shetland publications section. It was purchased as the ‘Shetland’ copy.

The book was in fair condition and priced for the popular market. It was no bargain, but was a nice thing to have nearby. There are not too many books that I purchase twin copies of. One is the biography of Eric Gill (Eric Gill, Fiona MacCarthy, Faber, 2003). This is a good publication to open, to look at, to refer to. Gill’s work is truly inspirational. The skill and precision of the hand-cut letter designs is a marvel. Gill Sans remains as impressive a font today as ever. Then there is the book of Kenneth White's poems, Open World The Collected Poems 1960- 2000, (Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2003), a really wonderful collection that can expand and enrich. Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams, (Vintage, 2001), has been twinned too. It is an astonishingly sensitive and aware book on the experience of the environment - landscape and its meaning. Now the De Luca poems have joined the list.

On opening the 'Shetland' De Luca book, one discovers a dirty hand print, maybe from a thumb, or perhaps a finger, on the preface page v; and again on the reverse page vi that schedules the acknowledgements. One is not dismayed, seeing these filthy smudges merely as a part of the story of its past, its history: the book has been handled and read by another.

Looking through the publication, one sees no further grimy blurs until one gets to the opposite pages 48 and 49 - the Pilgrim To Portlethen poem - and again, more on the opposite pages 60 - 61 - the Plainsong 2 Natal 1997 poem: and over on page 62, the dirtiest of all the markings, the Quantum Sufficit A sufficient quantity poem. Was this last mark an indication of the most favoured poem; or was it just a time when the hand was truly grubby? What had the hand been doing? What circumstance caused the book to be picked up and read in such a state? What was the relationship between the tasks that involved the filthy hands and the interest in this poetry?
The atoms of a wild rose petal
dance before my eyes, create
a heart-shape in the mind . . .

Book cover by Eric Gill

Who knows? The intrigue hovers in a haze of questionable interest. While one always ensures that one's hands are clean when handling books, one is not disturbed by these foreign markings: they acknowledge interest and happy, casual use, perhaps a more sincere and committed interest than otherwise? Is there a lesson here for us today?

Other publications by Christine De Luca

I once shunned secondhand books, always seeking out the pristine copy. Now I love the used items. The scruffiness can be appreciated, along with all the odd bits and pieces that get accumulated between the leaves, as well as the scribbled notes and inscriptions. I will still not write in my books, just as I will never fold a page over as a dog-ear marker; yet I can appreciate these markings in the old books that I purchase.
On 'borrowing' books: there was a lovely line read recently; it told of how one person, when visiting his friend's house, looked to see if the friend had as many of his books as he had of his friend's on his shelves.

While used and a little befouled, the 'Shetland' De Luca book still holds its magic along with its enigmatic past. The feelings and ideas, their depths, linger: mill them to nourishment .......
sift a gleam of fullness, a hint / of the divine . . .
The words are expressive of the act of creativity, that mystic making of matters meaningful that is always delicately elusive as the muse.

Architects might learn from this attitude to inspiration and creative work. Who are the architects who might mill ideas to nourishment? . . who want to seek out a gleam of fullness, a hint of the divine from ordinary life?

Today we seem to get more and more blatantly self-interested architectural performances as the world gets 'Ghery-ized,' stamped with spectacularly startling, indulgent visions seeking attention. Christine de Luca has touched on things delicately subtle, matters that we seem to have neglected in our push for progress - 'moving forward' without knowing why or where.
Architects need to pause and ponder the implications of their processes and their products.

Gill Sans 1928-29 - designed and drawn before the days of computer fonts

The single arc reads:
"The artist is not a different kind of person, but every person is a different kind of artist."
This is a quote inspired by Ananda Coomaraswamy
Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art  Dover Publications

Thursday 24 October 2019


Taylor Square Warehouse  Virginia Kerridge

The puzzle was the Citroen. It looked to be in an unusual location, but it was still prominent in the frame. Might it be concealing something? Could this ‘something’ be street furniture, like an untidy rubbish bin; maybe a fire hydrant? It was decided to look at the project on Street View. The starting point was vague, so the Internet was searched to see if the precise address could be found. The Virgina Kerridge - - site has become ‘403 FORBIDDEN’ for me, so one had to press on without the possible assistance one might discover in this office information.

Unfortunately, no street address could be found. The only clue was the project’s cryptic title: Taylor Square Warehouse. Google Earth was opened and Taylor Square, Sydney was searched. One wondered where Taylor Square started and finished. It seemed that the only way forward would be to examine the area to see if the project could be discovered. The clues were scarce. A couple of photographs of the project from the ‘vk’ site had been used in the blog – see: – so these were analysed. The building was in what looked like a terraced street with no awnings. The task was the equivalent of seeking out the proverbial needle in a haystack.

The search for context

Taylor Square looked to be a large and complex zone. The aerial views of the street frontages were studied. One could quickly dismiss some locations as these were either an array of larger complexes, or they were buildings with awnings over the footpaths. The search continued for some time. Pure determination kept the interest levels up. Finally, after repeated efforts over some frustrating hours, the distinctive roof profile was seen through the leaves. One had not expected trees as there were none to be seen in the architectural images.

Street View was opened up; yes, this was the location: 24 Taylor Street, Darlinghurst. The camera was swung around to peruse the context. It was indeed a surprise. There was no street furniture that might have necessitated the careful location of the Citroen. The street was narrow and full of parked vehicles, so might there have been an unwanted car parked outside when the photographer arrived? Is the Citroen the photographer’s car? It was night-time, so one could expect folk to be home with their vehicles parked nearby. Parking was obviously a problem as Street View revealed a NO PARKING sign on the front door of the project. The Citroen seemed to be some distance from the front door, so it could be concealing a less impressive car?

Taylor Street

The original door handle detail.
Might it have been just too awkward to turn the key?

The new door and the adjacent pole and switchboard

The eye wandered: there appeared to be a different front door on the project. The original scheme had a rust brown infill with a Scarpa-inspired handle and lock. Now the infill looked like burnished stainless steel. The intricate handle/lock had gone. The door appeared to have been moved across and to have been swung the other way. It now had no handle at all, just an escutcheon plate with the keyhole in it, nothing more other than the sign to stop cars blocking the access. Might the self-rusting protective layer on the steel have proved to be a problem?

American research has shown this product to be not as durable as it promised. Pin holes have been found in containers made of this grade of steel that has become fashionable with artists and architects. The product does give a beautiful patina, but if folk chose to be observant, they would notice that the rain water washing over the surface carries rust stains along with it, marking everything below with ferric red streaks.

Is there a new downpipe too?

Then there is the other problem of physical contact. The rust surface relies for its protective properties on not being disturbed. In spite of its reputation, it is a surface of relatively loose rust that will rub off onto body parts and clothing if contact is made. Might the front door have proven to involve just too much contact with this material? Rust is not easy to remove from the body or clothing. Nitric acid products are no longer available to remedy the problem. Had the finish become a nuisance; an annoyance? It seemed that the burnished stainless steel might overcome the rusty problem; did the re-positioned, re-sized door help too?

The antennae

Having noticed this change, the eye browsed for more. Had there been security problems? Bars had been added to two outer sets of upper windows; and there seemed to be a new television aerial on the top right of the elevation that the architectural shot did not reveal. Could it have been erased? From the look of the building in its street context, one could see how cleverly framed the published image was. The power pole directly adjacent to the front door, along with its multitude of signage, had been cropped, as had been the external switch board. Street View is always enlightening. Why do architects do this?

Note the original door handle, size and swing, and the mere glimpse of the pole

One wondered why the image had been taken at night. What was being concealed? Was the original exterior considered too messy? The contrast in the images, that of the architectural photograph with the light spilling from the open door, and the Street View image, is stark. The Street View camera was swung in order to get a glimpse of the broader context. The project was opposite a large development at a fork in the road. The streets were narrow and tree-lined. One had no idea of this is any of the architectural images, yet, to the passersby, all of this would become an immediate part of the experience of the place, of being there. Why does this information have to be edited?

The neighbours

This little bit of research proved interesting. Google Earth/Street View can be useful in locating particular places, and in learning more about contexts and details. Street View needs to become an architect’s tool, not only to learn about contexts, but to see the world as it is experienced, not as the camera chooses to fame it. Why do architects appear to be embarrassed by bits and pieces of our cities? Do architects seek a vision that can never be; shaping possibilities and outcomes that are only a reality as a photograph? Why are signs just outside the front door noting speed bumps, alcohol-free zones, and 1P parking so offensive to the architectural vision when they are there, as necessities like the switchboard? What other realities need to be suppressed in order to achieve an award-winning outcome? The 'architectural' eye needs to be re-evaluated, reassessed.

2nd November 2019
The thought is: if architects are not prepared to engage with a simple lamp post and a few signs, what hope is there for architecture and the street, let alone towns and cities?

15 February 2020
The struggle with context can also be seen in the Clare granny flat that has been shrewdly photographed to exclude every glimpse of its suburban context at Palm Beach, Queensland: see  and  It is the same circumstance as can be seen with the Drew Heath extension to his cottage in Sydney: see -

Wednesday 23 October 2019


a new way of living

One paused between completing and beginning tasks at the computer, seeking a break, a diversion. The thought arose, (no pun intended): what Australian building might one look at on Street View? The interest in Street View has been discussed before, noting how it offers the eye an impromptu, unprejudiced vision of the world, allowing one to see things just as they are, as a passerby with no expectations, or any selective framing, special angles, manipulative intent, or Photoshopping. The latter term is appropriate, as there is much effort that goes into 'shopping around' for the 'right' image in architecture. Everyday appearances are apparently just not good enough for seeing a project: it seems that one has to always be 'seeing as' - in a particular way, “with an architect’s eye.” The aim appears to be to impress with a clarity that ordinary viewing cannot capture or comprehend.

Taylor Square Warehouse by Virginia Kerridge
Does the classic 'architect's' Citroen conceal a less impressive parked car?

Architects like to have their work photographed 'architecturally' for public consumption - for presentations and publications. Frequently in a talk when one is being shown photographs of a project, the comment will be made without any apparent or intended irony: "We haven't had the job photographed yet." The first thought one has is: then what are we looking at? The speaker is referring to unique, arty, or specifically chosen images that 'recreate' or reinterpret buildings and manipulate their contexts with additional 'creative' layers that superimpose ideas, meanings and visions to define the unique way the place is to be seen, understood, and felt. The identity is never the ‘Street View’ snap. Indeed, the statement about having it ‘photographed’ refers to the non-‘Street View’ image, the 'visionary' identity as it might have been supposed to have been or become, but for, perhaps, the street and the neighbours: maybe highlighting what the architect would have liked it to have been, but failed to achieve.

Street View of the Taylor Square Warehouse

Frequently the context is excised to reveal the 'true' building. Lens lengths and camera angles are skillfully manipulated along with filters and quirky chance lighting effects. Cunning branches, trees, shading, even vehicles and the like are used to conceal 'undesirable' pieces, proportions, and parts - see: - note, by way of example, the Citroen outside the Kerridge warehouse; it is enigmatically interesting. Looking at Street View, it is difficult to understand exactly where this vehicle might have been placed to get this shot. It appears to have been positioned in the middle of the road. It is not parked against the kerb in front of the project; and there is a fork in the road opposite, so it is unlikely to have just been left there. Another more explicit example of contrived camera angles is the new arts centre, the Mareel, in Lerwick, Shetland. This building relies on two precise camera locations for its ‘preferred’ identity – see

The Mareel - one preferred architectural image

The Mareel in context

Snapshot of the approach to the Mareel

The Mareel from the car park

The Mareel - the second preferred architectural image

The Mareel from the harbour - this is the same building as that illustrated in the image directly above

Photographer Max Dupain and Harry with his Leica

No one was more particular about photography than Harry Seidler. He carried his much-loved Leica around, snapping his work and others, (see the book of his photographs: The Grand Tour published by Taschen in 2013, interestingly subtitled Travelling the World with an Architect’s Eye), to offer what one might call 'drafts' for his specially chosen professional photographers to finesse. He would instruct them on the angles and framing, how to ‘see’ his building, defining the way in which he wanted it photographed. Photographs define 'seeing as'; they fix a particular, persuasive way of seeing in time and memory, c.f. Wittgenstein duck-rabbit and the concept of ‘seeing as.’ The major concern with architectural photography is the way it fabricates special ideas about a place instead of reproducing just what one sees when one walks past nonchalantly, expecting nothing; yet it can do the latter if it so chooses: the image is readily modified to suit the message - see  Through publications and publicity, the world has been trained in how to see particular places, and the eye dutifully goes to see these cities, landscapes, buildings, etc., in this unique manner; indeed, to reproduce the image in yet another photograph, perhaps a selfie, dragging oneself into the mire of the importance of the promotional material – ‘as seen in the brochures’ - “And I’m there!” Places on the tourist routes are even marked as ‘scenic’ spots to stop at in order to ‘take in/appreciate,’ and/or to photograph the classic view, and ME.

The 'Japanese'format?

Given the Seidler interest in selective identities, it was decided to look up Harry’s mother's house, the Rose Seidler residence at Wahroongha in Sydney, (69-71 Clissold Road), built from 1948 - 1950. One has never seen this house in its context, but it is a familiar project, a part of Australian architectural history. The much-published image of this residence - see Google images - has been promoted as the startling beginning of modernism in Australia.# The forthright struggle with law makers to have this place built in spite of their 'ignorant' objections is now legendary, and has become a model for ‘creative’ architectural protest, and a lesson that supports architectural arrogance. The case turned the architect into a genius hero in the profession. The residence has become an icon for the story of modern housing in Australia, a turning point, now promoted as 'a new way of living' (Sydney Living Museums).

The house is seen as the critical link back to the sophisticated beginnings of modernism in Europe - 'the old country’: the Australian cringe is still alive and well. The accented Harry must have been an intriguing curiosity. Australia still seeks references to other places for its meaning and relevance, wanting to be 'world class;' still happily chirping on about anything Australian that might make news in another country, as if this recognition really confirms its relevance. It is as if Australia, being so uncertain of itself, is constantly seeking the other's approval, as a child does his/her mother’s: “Look at me!”

Harry obtaining approval from the Bauhaus master, Gropius?

"You've done well boy."

Harry’s mother’s house seemed to be a good choice to look up on Street View, as Venturi's mother's house had been viewed some time prior to this. Might there be an interesting comparison? The surprising revelations on the Venturi project have been noted in  What might one discover about Harry's place? One came to see this house as a home in a street of the 1950s, standing proudly different in the array. It was the ‘new way of living;’ there was no indication that its siting might have been otherwise. While this contextual image was never shown, one learned or liked to see the building in this way, as the new ideal, the inspiration, for Australian housing as it was promoted in the publications. One never really noticed that the house had no identifiable place, no neighbours, and no street frontage that the driveway and garage space suggested. Architects rarely appear to question context; they seem happy to delight in the building’s image, its singular appearance. The photographs always precisely framed the home as an architectural object of desire, with, if any, a few glimpses of the bush to confirm its ‘Australianness.’

This lack of any communal identity was never a problem as one knew that some new suburbs were under development and remained raw street voids, with trees ready for more clearances to make way for the buildings yet to be constructed. Maybe the Rose Seidler house had been a ‘first on the block,’ just as it was a first in Australia - the first box house, just like those white crates in Europe. Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, and the work of Meis, Gropius, Breuer, and Neutra come to mind amongst many. The modern house was cubic, with a flat roof, glass strips and Mondrian walls, and white, inside and out, preferably on stilts named politos by Le Corbusier, or hanging over rustic rock walls in the Californian style of Breuer and Neutra. This Seidler house appeared to have a bit of everything.

'Rose Seidler house' was typed into Google Earth: the globe spun around and panned into the Sydney region. Immediately on seeing the red pointer, one was alarmed: the house was a hermit, isolated in a clump of bushland, in a private blob that was clearly distinguishable from the patterns of the nearby suburbia. The house stood alone in a dense grove, in a pocket completely isolated from neighbours and the street – from everything public nearby; even the driveway to the house that had vehicle accommodation underneath, could not be discerned. Like Venturi's mother's house, the place was isolated, on its own island, away from the street; unlike the Venturi residence, the Seidler house could not be seen from any public place. Why did one ever envisage this building to be on an Australian street? So much for the idea of a house in a street, that classic ordinary concept of Australian suburbia. What type of housing was Seidler thinking of when he designed this home? It was certainly not the typical Aussie house. Might it have been purely a promotional exercise; an exhibition home, that shortly after in the early 1960s became the cliché new ‘prize’ home that was raffled off by some charity as a fund-raiser? Mothers seem to get used for such experimental things in architecture: Harry Seidler, Robert Venturi, Charles Gwathmey, Richard Rogers, Cedric Favero, le Corbusier, and Richard Meier all did houses for their mothers: see -
Locally, one can add Claire Humphreys and Noel Robinson: there are more; such are mums.

Street View blue

The little Street View man was clicked; the blue lines appeared with three blue dots near the house to identify the views from the streets and the locations for the 360 degree spherical camera vistas. The isolation of this remote residence was confirmed; not one blue line appeared near the clearing. The only images of the house were those in the 360 degree point views. The blue line on the street was clicked at the locations nearest to the home. The screen image fuzzed and spun from plan to horizon, and then into the view along the street. Not even a fleck of white could be seen through any of the adjacent bushland. One went back to the aerial view to click on the points around the house. Each gave its 360 degree surrounds - from the deck, the lounge, and the base of the ramp. There it was, the ‘modern art’ mural wall of the deck.

One wondered why the ramp, the major, most dramatic visual element of the house, was there. Might it just have been for visual effect? It was not for disability access as it had a step at its end. The ramp gave access from the incoming driveway to the private deck; but was this meant to be otherwise? Was it intended to link the deck to the bush, for it was a beautiful site? The main entry to the house seemed to be under the suspended box, the door next to the garage area, a location seen everyday in suburbia with the two-storied brick veneer house. What might happen if a salesman walked up the ramp and knocked at a private location in the middle of the house? Was there a ‘No Entry’ sign? Might the ramp merely be a modern sculptural object as seen in le Corbusier's work? Villa Savoye has a central ramp that leads up through the house to the top deck. Did Seidler think a ramp might be essential to confirm the modernity of the image? Was it assumed that, being buried in the bush, fully concealed, any intrusion by a stranger would never happen; that no salesman could ever find the place, let alone arrive in the private core of the house?

Villa Savoye section

The awkward step up without a handrail to confuse the clarity of expression

Deck to bush, or entry to deck?
Entrance beside the car accommodation

One has to think about the number of homes that were inspired by this Seidler model without having the luxury of a bushland isolation. Is this architecture's failure - unique buildings in their special, private places become the inspiration for other works that have completely different, more public contexts? Is this conundrum the basis of all of our contextual problems today? Architecture appears to have given up on doing anything about the street, town or city. It seems to be racing ahead blindly concerned only with itself, as best seen and experienced in its museum-styled isolation, away from the maddening crowd of ill-informed, lesser folk who need educating about 'a new way of living' as the Sydney Living Museums has promoted the house in its exhibition: and if this remoteness is not available on an alternative site, the camera is always available to make it appear to be real in the photographic image.

We need better models than isolated dreams: we need ideas, forms, images, structures, infrastructures for community. The hagiographical whimsy of architects wanting to drool over self-important, creative visions facilitated by mothers, and choosing to be inspired by sparkling gems in their special settings, needs to be put aside. Here one also thinks of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water residence, and the Jacob’s first house; le Corbusier’s Ronchamp chapel, and Villa Savoye; the Eames house; . . . there are more - these modern icons are all isolated, alone* - see:

The Rose Seidler house needs to become a model of what NOT to do. With the population of the world growing to unsustainable numbers, the promotion of a vision of excellence in a private place seems extraordinarily bizarre, an anachronism, looking like an arrogant, self-interested, elitist, carelessly privileged stance. If architecture is again to become relevant, it needs to step away from its special preconceptions and hyper-dreams. It needs to scorn the Ruskin/Pevsner ideal of architecture being separate from or different to building. The idea of architecture needs to embrace hovels and cathedrals; shacks and mansions; bicycle sheds, factories and train stations, all with an equal passion, rather than to classify and isolate most of our world to non-architecture, non-art, mere building, with the tiny remainder being ‘Architecture.’ The Rose Seidler house only reinforces this ‘arty’ schism with its isolated, separate presence. Little wonder that inspirational works driven by this raised box are mocked when constructed in other denser, more complex and varied contexts. Seidler might as well have constructed a castle on a hill as a prototype for modern living, such was this house’s uniquely singular and self-identifying features.

Here one thinks of the poor client stuck with the special, one-off, starkly different house – no doors or windows; with each room having only three walls, all opening to a courtyard, (the architect is fond of camping), and with the courtyard opening to the street - in a typical brick-veneer and tiled-roof area: "You expect something different when you go to an architect." Well, maybe you shouldn't. If architects are only seen as purveyors of difference, something uniquely expressive and ‘creatively’ stylish, bespoke, then little wonder that they are seen as arrogant fools, dilettantes dwelling in their own tiny mental 'clearings', isolated from the every everyday concerns of ordinary people, ordinary life, seeking out only those who want to be ‘different’ for their clients; and if the client has a totally remote site, then this client will be all the better to work with: see award winning isolated homes in the bush etc, and c. f. Rick Laplastrier too

Richard Murphy House, Edinburgh

Murphy was inspired by Carlo Scarpa

A few years ago, the RIBA Home of the Year was a house in Edinburgh by Richard Murpphy. Happily, at last, the residence was in a tight, crowded urban setting; but it was a house of wonders worthy of a Wallace and Gromit movie, and the popular Shaun the Sheep cartoons created by Nick Park, where clever, quirky gadgets are ‘invented’ for every possible function. It appears that the sense of things ordinary is given no status in architecture; for any acknowledgment, either isolated or in an urban setting, it seems that things have to be especially different. There needs to be a significant change; this should start with the erasing of the idea of the architect as the bespoke, hero genius, a smugly brilliant master builder. Let's just become good builders doing good work; c.f. Schumacher Good Work. Maybe awards have to be abolished. We need to live in Street View, not through the rose-coloured lens, (sorry, no pun intended), of the special camera effects, or in isolation, for the world is not like this, even though some might like it to be. If we are incapable of, or unhappy with seeing things for what they are rather than for what they might be, then we have a serious problem. Our inspiration needs to change from godliness to ordinary man, and be manifest as this too; then architecture might truly become special and meaningful rather than remaining in an exotic wonderland of hyper-things unique and special, in a clearing, on an island, as if quarantined from the pestilence of the everyday, things that will only pollute the purity and glamour of the grand vision – c.f. Seidler’s The Grand Tour.

The 'architectural' eye

There are movements today that use language to suggest things communal and green lie as the core motive, the driving force, but these ambitions still appear to seek difference in the same ‘arty’ manner, just with an alternative language. We have to be careful, as we seem to be easily fooled, foiled.

As for the house itself, Rose's residence is typical modernism, now on display to the masses by a 'living museum.' Let it be seen as an example of where architecture went astray, rather than an example of creative bravado, heroics that brought the new world to Australia. It might have, but what is there to boast about when the ideal is so ephemeral, a very special display promoting a reputation?

What we have to consider seriously is not just how we see Rose Seidler’s house, but how we view architecture more generally. If we are going to continue with our hagiography, then nothing will change, as saints are singular identities standing aloof and alone as exemplars; maybe we need to think more about 'sinners,' folk with faults; messy, ordinary life, rather than the world of things perfect, remote and elusively exclusive: community rather than things segregated and restrictive. If these concerns are not attended to, then we will only end up with more of the muddle we have today.

This new, broad, inclusive approach should never be considered as 'art for everyman,' as something unique in its own special way, since the problems will only morph into a different sameness, a new stylish shambles. We need to root ourselves in the integrity of ordinary wholeness with an honest humility. Wright’s ‘honest arrogance’ is not something that can be or should be matched by all. Such change is never superficial or aesthetic; it is not merely a way of seeing things. It is rooted in being, and reverberates with this enigmatic richness. The circumstance has to do with matters Christopher Alexander has come to be interested in in his books Pattern Language (1977), and The Nature of Order (2003-2004). It has nothing to do with his design strategy in his wonderfully titled Notes on the Synthesis of Form (1964). Alas, after checking the publication dates of these books, all that can be said is that we just do not appear to care; and if we ever do happen to develop an interest in things subtle, then we have a lot of catching up to do. The question is: how?

Plan of the Alhambra

Persian carpet

Villa Savoye, the Corbusian classic that is still raved about - a model and driving inspiration for the Rose Seidler house - similarly stands isolated inside a tree moat, in a small clearing cut off from its busy street and the surrounding developments - see below. Was this isolation an inspiration too? Is architecture only 'great' when it stands alone, on its own island? - see Eames, Wright, etc. -  Surely the challenge for architecture is to be a vital part of the everyday? Little wonder that architects are the equivalent of isolated islands in our community, seen as bumbling, self-centred elitists seeking the wonders that can only be known in the perfection of a segregated detachment, locations not to be polluted by the messes of the foolish masses.

Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye

When completed in 1950, the Rose Seidler house was ‘the most talked about house in Sydney.’ Sydney Living Museums.

See Google Images for more photographs of the residence: ‘Rose Seidler’s house.’
All the images only ever show the house and some trees; there is nothing else to cut off or to delete. The site is the complete answer, the ideal for the architectural photographer who can concentrate on the subject without worrying about neighbouring elements, objects, and buildings, just the prettiness of the juxtaposition of the trees and their shadows. There is nothing else there, and no one else to worry about. No concessions have to be made by the architect or the photographer: the house is always alone, able to be whatever its architect wants. Still, in spite of this unique quality, it is promoted as an ideal for housing. Little wonder that there is a huge schism between the architect and everyman: not every man can live alone, isolated from the world, ensconced in an array of specially placed design items in a void of trees. Why then is this house promoted as ‘a new way of living’? It is a new way of living for those on glorious bush sites, who can afford the very best. The implication that this stylish home can be replicated everywhere is misleading. It really is a sad hoax promoting a false, fancy vision. It is truly an exhibitionist’s home where no guile is needed for the photographer other than that required for showing off the house to suit the architect's whims.

How many ‘iconic homes’ are islands?

Most images above have been taken from Google Street View; those below have been taken from Google Images 'Rose Seidler House.'


A Rose Seidler house lookalike


No, this is not the house; the villa is concealed behind the trees.
Why do the 'accessory' buildings try to be 'Corb-like'? +

The tree moat

Savoyes returned to their estate after the war, but were no longer in position to live as they had done before the war, and soon abandoned the house again. The villa was expropriated by the town of Poissy in 1958, which first used it as a public youth centre and later considered demolishing it to make way for a schoolhouse complex. Protests from architects who felt the house should be saved, and the intervention of Le Corbusier himself, spared the house from demolition. A first attempt at restoration was begun in 1963 by architect Jean Debuisson, despite opposition from Le Corbusier. The villa was added to the French register of historical monuments in 1965, becoming France's first modernist building to be designated as a historical monument, and also the first to be the object of restoration while its architect was still living. In 1985, a thorough state-funded restoration process led by architect Jean-Louis Véret was undertaken. It was completed in 1997. The restoration included structural and surface repairs to the façades and terraces because of the deterioration of the concrete; the installation of lighting and security cameras; and the reinstatement of some of the original fixtures and fittings.

For more look-alike visitor centres, see: Glenn Murcutt's Macleay Valley Coast Visitor Centre at Kempsey, New South Wales, Australia, where additional picnic shelters and a toilet block have been styled after his beautifully detailed building; and the Taliesin Preservation: Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center, a building that appears to try to incorporate a variety of Wright's designs all in one structure.

Murcutt's original visitor centre at Kempsey: a considered elegance

The mocking extra picnic shelters and toilet block

The Taliesin Preservation: Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center

An awkward mishmash of Wrightian themes