Saturday, January 29, 2011


Sydney was great. I went on a tour of the Opera House which was amazing. It's incredible what they achieved at that time. Jorne Utzton designed it, inspired by peeling an orange and then they had to make up the technology to build it which took three years (just to work out the engineering!). Utzton was the son of a naval engineer and this really shows in the ship like interiors of the opera house. The total project took sixteen years and during that time the Sydney government changed and they stopped paying Utzton so that he was forced to resign. They then employed a troupe of Sydney architects to finish the job. It took them years to work out what Utzton had already designed, so the government did not save themselves much. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Poor old Utzton never got to see the finished work but now there is a room at the Opera House dedicated to him and his son came to see that. Utzton was 82 at the time and could not travel. He has won a Pritzker prize for the Opera House and it has been declared a world heritage sight. The Opera House was opened in 1973.

When I first arrived in Sydney we stayed in North Sydney which is a really pleasant area, not least because you can take the train across the Harbour Bridge on the way to getting there. When we returned to Sydney we stayed in Kings Cross which is quite busy. My favourite area was the Rocks so called because the buildings are built in and around the rocks of the harbour edge. There are some very atmospheric pubs here. We took a ferry to Manly which was beautiful. We had a beer looking over the sea and then on the return journey watched Sydney at night get bigger and bigger as we approached. I went running barefoot along the botanical gardens towards the Opera House with views of the Harbour Bridge all the way. What a beautiful run!

North Sydney, a church with a skyscraper back drop

View from the Manly ferry

Another Manly ferry view

Manly approach

English colonial buildings, lots of these in Melbourne too

Sydney Harbour Bridge and lots of runners

Me in front of the Opera House

Utzton designed the building to reflect the water

Really beautiful details

Windows frame the view

This ceiling kind of opens up and serenades you

Even the boring old circulation routes are exciting spaces

Who said concrete was boring? This is eventually how they solved the problem of how on earth to build the opera house, they pre cast segments of a sphere to all have the same radius and then craned into place. This photos is kind of an expression of that process.

Its a really great public space

This is the view from my run along the Botanical Gardens

A building 'growing' out of the rocks

The Great Ocean Road

James and I took a tour of the Great Ocean Road which was really beautiful. We saw kangeroos, koalas and parrots as well as stunning coast line and we heard great sea stories. The weather started off a bit miserable but we were lucky and the sun soon came out and the part of the Great Ocean Road that had been closed due to landslides reopened just in time. We had a really enthusiastic and amusing guide who really made the whole trip quite special.

The Great Ocean Road begins here!

That's where we are going, still a bit miserable weather

The sky has got some blue in it finally!

A Koala!

Another Koala

Me and a parrot

Another parrot

More great views

Me at Apollo Bay (beach behind the trees)

A small part of rainforest that we visited. It is a temperate forest which means it does not get as hot and steamy and has different plant varieties to a tropical rainforest

This tree must have grafted itself onto another as it appears to have roots in mid-air

Very tall these trees

The twelve apostles (or what used to be twelve)

Me and James at Loch Ard Gorge

A bit further along, beautiful coastline

London Bridge, it used to connect but that part fell down, London Bridge is falling down....

Our very enigmatic guide! She was great!

Friday, January 28, 2011


It was raining in Melbourne when we arrived and rained so much over the next few days it caused flooding in southern parts and the Great Ocean Road was temporarily closed due to landslides. Luckily all this did not affect us apart from getting us a bit wet. Federation square is a great new central meeting space (well not that new). You can sit outside eating your sandwiches while watching the news on the big screen (in our case flood warnings for Queensland). We watched a live 20-20 cricket match at the MCG which was very exciting with England creeping up on Australia but we lost out in the end, but all the way through, we could have just done it, so it was a good match to watch. Melbourne is a very pretty place and there are lots of English colonial buildings everywhere, so it kind of felt like being at home but oddly different. It is a very livable city, with a lot going on and you can get around by tram and bicycle. It also has a 3.8km running track around the botanical gardens - perfect!

Melbourne is where I met David Week, an architect who has had some fascinating experiences and who designed and implemented my case study in Papua New Guinea. He has a very interesting viewpoint on how we, in the West, approach working in cultures different to our own. This is something we are increasingly doing and a measure of our success in doing so is how well we can open up to 'the other' as David terms it. Having read David's thesis and interviewed him, I think we can learn a lot from someone who really listens to and absorbs the cultures of the people for whom he is designing. This results in a rich piece of architecture and a process in which culture is not forgotten, but embraced.

One example talked about in his thesis portrays a situation in PNG where he has asked the carpenters to turn the timbers around so the timber marks do not show in the room. When returning, he found they had done the opposite. He discovered that it is only Western ideas that see the unmarked timber as more beautiful. In PNG the marked timber holds some interest.

Colonial buildings

Old English Colonial architecture

Federation square by architects Lab Architecture and Bates Smart

Nice mix of old and new, brown and grey

More Fed Square, nice English weather

The Yarra river

Trams and Flinders st station in the distance

The Victoria Markets which are open late on Wednesday nights for food, booze and live music


Nice old arcade

Inside the Atrium at Fed Square

Watching England vs Australia

More cricket

Me and Errol st close to where our hotel was, interesting colonial buildings behind

Brunswick st is famous for alternative shops and interesting architecture, we had some delicious Vietnamese food here

The city

The Royal Botanical Gardens, lovely on a hot day

The view from our window