Sunday 29 May 2022


The Waseda University Honjo Senior High School Gynmasium by Nikken Sekki – see: reminds one of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library at the James Cook University in Townsville, Australia by James Birrell – see Stage 1 of the library was completed in 1968, (image above), with stage 2 finished in 1990.

The gym

The square, concrete mass of the gymnasium complete with curved corners, punctuated with ‘Swiss cheese’ holes, prompts the recall of the library that has concrete walls with curved corners, punctuated likewise with ‘cheese’ holes, topped by a large, rectangular roof, framing its phantom mass.

The library

The gym

The library

The gym

The gym

The surprise is not only the similarity, but also the time that separates these two projects - over fifty years.

9 MARCH 2024

 LAVA & module K's ecoKid kindergarten in Vietnam.

Saturday 28 May 2022


With apologies to Christopher Alexander: this ‘tree’ is one designed for the Queen’s Jubilee by the Heatherwick Studio, and is described as a ‘Tree of Trees’ – see: The headline declared - First images of Heatherwick’s Tree of Trees at Buckingham Palace revealed.

The photographs presented a tree form made of tubular steel with 350 pot plants hanging from this framework, clustered so as to give the appearance from the distance of a tree-like shape – a trunk mass with a green clump above.

It is a ‘tree’ in similitude only; in reality is is a collection of suspended pot plants where the greenery is used as a living decoration. The closer one gets to this ‘sculpture,’ the more the harsh reality of it ‘not being a tree’ becomes obvious, as the assemblage is revealed as a stack of steel tubes supporting potted plants.

A nostalgic 'Gainsborough' image of the 'Tree' used for presentation.

A typical Gainsborough landscape.

The blurb explains:

A Heatherwick Studio-designed sculpture containing 350 trees, which is being erected to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee, is nearing completion outside Buckingham Palace in London.

Shaped like a giant tree, the 21-metre-high sculpture was designed by the Thomas Heatherwick-led studio to draw attention to a tree-planting campaign to mark 70 years of the Queen's reign.

It will be officially unveiled on 2 June as part of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee weekend celebrations.

The images show the sculpture outside Buckingham Palace, which is the Queen's London residence, largely complete. The final section of the sculpture is due to be installed at the top of the tree-like form later today.

When complete the tree-like form, fabricated by UK-based Millimetre, will support 350 living trees on its steel branches, giving it the name Tree of Trees.

It has a central steel structure surrounded by stacked steel tubes that twist to form the tree's trunk and extend to form branches at the upper levels.

Stacked steel tubes supporting potted plants - not a Gainsborough!

One wonders why 350 potted trees have been selected – why not 300, 329, or 400? - and what the purpose of such a number might be. Are the potted trees destined to be scrapped, returned to the nursery, or planted in some significant way at the end of their usefulness as being a part of a ‘tree’? Are these potted plants all of the one species? If so, what; and why? If not, why; and what? The intent of the sculpture is all very vague, being described as a celebration to draw attention to a tree-planting campaign to mark 70 years of the Queen's reign. Is this something of the past or for the future? Why not just plant the poor trees instead of playing ‘illusional’ – delusional? - games with them? One wonders if this ‘tree’ might be the outcome of a committee struggling for an idea to mark the Jubilee. Here one thinks of the Millennium Dome.

The nostalgic ambition soon becomes grim steel and suspended pots.

Is it now just fashionable to use living plants as decoration? One thinks of all of the new ‘green’ builds that get published: see – How serious are these? Has anyone thought of the future of these decorative bits of green that actually will grow, will increase in size and density: destiny? What is the ambition for this growth? What will happen to these 350 trees? The symbolism appears to be very flimsy.

The idea to design a tree of trees might all seem very ‘clever’, but what is this concept going to do to add value to our lives, other than remain a slick, 'interesting,' entertaining gesture? Heatherwick designed The Vessel as a sculpture in New York – see: This has left us with some serious concerns, even though it has been promoted as a ‘brilliant’ design. Has anything been learnt? What is the Tree of Trees sculpture going to become? What is to happen to the potted trees; the tubular trunk and branches? Is this future scaffolding? Is a small forest planned somewhere? Where? Why? What is the intent beyond difference?

The Vessel, New York.

Our era seems to be very much rooted in the immediate present, happy to grab accolades for outcomes for which no one knows what the future might hold. Has design become just too indulgent, seeking the thumbs up of social media as it strides on boldly looking for the next ‘LIKE’ regardless of outcomes yet to be?

We need to become more serious with life, and with how we handle living greenery too. Living in the ‘present’ has its virtues, as religions tell us, but this does not mean that one can ignore the future. Simple responsibility demands more from us. One wonders: How ‘green’ is this green? Are we supposed to be happy viewing admirably from the distance and believing?


There are two new pedestrian bridges proposed for Brisbane on which construction has started: one connects South Bank to the new casino development currently under construction, unfortunately next to Parliament House (see: ) – the Neville Bonner Bridge. (Might this naming be an apology for the demolition of the Neville Bonner Building?); the other pedestrian bridge connects Kangaroo Point to the northern tip of the Botanic Gardens, the northeast edge of the CBD. It is appropriately named the Kangaroo Point Bridge.

Neville Bonner Bridge, Brisbane.

Kangaroo Point Bridge, Brisbane.

Brisbane has had two pedestrian river crossings added to its historic traffic bridges in the last twenty years. One is the Goodwill Bridge, opened 2001, connecting South Brisbane to the Queensland University of Technology; the other is the Kurilpa Bridge, opened 2009, connecting the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) precinct to the northwest edge of the CBD – see:

Goodwill Bridge, Brisbane.

Kurilpa Bridge, Brisbane.

The concern with these pedestrian bridges is that they play no core role in reinforcing the structure of the city, acting almost as decorative, sundry asides. Civically, they connect nowhere with nowhere, and fit no structurally native, functional relationship: they just offer a way to walk across the river from one side to another, rather than from one city place to another. Two bridges link parkland, one at the extreme eastern perimeter, to private places – the QUT and the casino; the other two connect to the very limits of the CBD that are zones well outside of the centre, places that one has to make a special effort to get to. These structures do not make the city resonate with richness.

Victoria Bridge, Brisbane.

New design for use of Victoria Bridge.

One existing bridge that was a traffic bridge with pedestrian paths each side, Victoria Bridge, (Brisbane was established as a ‘colonial’ town, with one of the most severe penal colonies in Australia, and used colonial names for its infrastructure as it grew), did have a significant link to the CBD, extending the main axis of the city centre, Queen Street, part of which was made into a mall in 1982. This bridge has now been redesigned to be a bus/light rail bridge complete with a pedestrian path and a cycle track to one side, with all other vehicular traffic being excluded. The public transport connections break any strong link to the city that the bridge once held, with detours and tunnels terminating all things intimately civic. One supposes that this is a natural development for a city that built a freeway on its waterfront in the 1960s, isolating the river from the city heart. Brisbane seems to want to self-destruct ‘rationally.’

City street axis extends Queen Street, Brisbane, to South Bank.

Original Victoria Bridge, Brisbane.

The PAIRS are interesting: it seems that Nessie might have migrated south for the Australian winter, to become the Neville Bonner Bridge. Should Australians call the bridge ‘Nevvie’?

Neville Bonner Bridge, Brisbane.



The grandiose Kangaroo Point Bridge is more assertive as ‘a point,’ seemingly giving the city ‘the finger.’ One concept for yet another pedestrian bridge proposed to link St. Lucia to West End uses a similar gesture, albeit a little more refined. Might this be a ‘lady finger’ – not a banana, but a gentle, more elegant gesture?# Should the Kangaroo Point Bridge be called: ‘le doigt'?

Kangaroo Point Bridge, Brisbane.

le doigt?

Proposal for St. Lucia - West End Bridge, Brisbane.

One does wonder why bridge designers might not have been inspired by London’s pedestrian bridge designed by Anthony Caro, Foster, and Arup, the Millennium Bridge, that sought to keep the superstructure low to allow pedestrians to enjoy the uninterrupted city views, instead of using ‘super’ structural systems that have been used for traffic bridges. These cable-stayed structures all look out of scale for their pedestrian purpose, which is ‘pedestrian’ when compared to the requirements of traffic bridges like the elegant Erskine Bridge outside of Glasgow. What destroys the elegance of a simpler pedestrian bridge?

Millennium Bridge, London.

Erskine Bridge, Scotland.

At least neither of the new bridges in Brisbane has tried to claim that it has used a tensegrity structure! Has the lesson been learnt? Who knows?

Kurilpa Bridge, once wrongly described as a 'tensegrity' bridge:

The bridge is now described as a 'tensegrity-inspired' cable-stayed bridge.


An alternative scheme for the proposed St. Lucia/West End link is equally expressive!

Proposal for St. Lucia - West End Bridge, Brisbane.


These four pedestrian bridges cluster around the CBD. There is another pedestrian bridge in Brisbane that was opened in 2006. This connects the University of Queensland to the suburb of Dutton Park. It is named the Eleanor Schonell Bridge, but is more commonly known as the ‘Green Bridge.’ It replaced a ferry service and has little civic presence other than its grand ‘super’ superstructure. This cable-stayed bridge has two very tall twin structures that seem to literally be ‘over the top,’ looking more appropriate for something like the Erskine Bridge than for a ‘green’ pedestrian link across the Brisbane River.

The Eleanor Schonell Bridge.