2017 UQ Architecture lecture series: Welsh + Major

Welsh + Major is a New South Wales based architectural practice led by Chris Major and David Welsh started in 2004. Their work is described as having modernist sensibilities and the aim in their architecture is to design in such a way that is responsive and evolving rather than just reacting. This design ethos is demonstrated in a number of their works discussed, their projects range from small alterations and extensions, to public and commercial projects. All the projects are connected in the method of intervention of the new to the old. From each project they build on a body of work that grows in depth the quality of detailing and attention to the expression of the modern additions either contrasting or complementing the existing fabric. Their design embraces the beauty of the ordinary through the simple gestures and selection and use of materials.

History and memory are strong recurring themes in the works of Welsh + Major in part dealing with mostly heritage properties but also the notion of place making which resonates in their work. Particularly in their residential projects the idea of memory is integral to the life of a house and its story. Whether it be in the building itself or the landscaped spaces and the spaces in between, all are integral to creating that sense of place. Their approach to design termed as “modernish” is reflected in the material palate they work with, usually constraining themselves to a few simple materials, generally chosen for their robust qualities and detailed simply and sparingly but to a considered affect. Always designing for light and ventilation to enhance the spaces to allow users an appreciation of the materiality of these spaces.

There is a sensitivity needed when designing in an historical context but also ambition to make more of the existing building, respecting the building but also enhancing it to give the building a successful new future. How do we work with existing buildings and their fabric to further its use as well as acknowledging the its former life? That requires an understanding of the buildings weaknesses and strengths and not being afraid to change the things that do not work to better so new life can be breathed into the building but does not compromise the qualities of the old. Adaptive reuse must consider the social, economic and environmental impact of the design.

Protecting our architectural history and heritage is critical to preserving the memories of a city. There are always layers of history as a city grows, as things are pulled down and added to, this builds on the memories. The decision of what stays and what intervention should be undertaken can quite critical to the preservation of our built environment.

100 days of sketching urban scenes

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I spent 100 days of those 6 months sketching the city, thanks to the lovely Katherine Geppert, who suggested a group of us try out the Instagram 100 Day Project. Armed with a notebook and pencil I sketched urban scenes from October through to January.

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As well as being a good reason to explore the city, practising my sketching was another thing on my to-do list. What I’ve learned from the 100 days is definitely practise, practise, practise. I might compare some sketching in the summer to see how different the urban scenes would be.

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Check out Miss Geppert’s wonderful watercolour instagrams @katiegeppert. Also many other wonderful 100 day projects to explore on Instagram.

Change is as good as a holiday

After a three year hiatus from this blog it’s probably a good time to start this whole wandering architects endeavour again since Tim, Edie and I have moved to a new city. It’s now been 6 months living in Berlin, most of it feeling homesick for Glasgow where we’ve left some wonderful friends and a three-quarter renovated flat. We’ve also spent the time making this new city our new home; learning a new language and exploring the many wonders this energetic and complex city has to offer. It’s been exploring architecture, history, public transportation, play parks, city parks, cafe culture, bar culture (not so much these days), markets, museums, galleries, and so forth.

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6 months and I’ve barely covered any great breadth of this city. I guess starting this blog up again would ensure I made a concerted effort to get my arse out of P-berg and see parts of Berlin I haven’t seen before.

manchester

We missed the first snow of the season this weekend, instead dodging sleet and hail on our first visit to Manchester.

We stayed with an old colleague of mine in the lovely village in a suburb of Chorley. We packed a fair bit in on Saturday, with a visit to the new architecture at Salford Docks as well as the highlights of the city centre, including the beautiful John Ryland library – a great secular temple.

The new stuff was generally pretty bland (though better than anything Scottish) as my preparatory reading of the relevant chapter of The New Ruins of Great Britain had made out.

On Sunday after an adventurous evening that ended up in an eclectic Cuban cafe we pottered around the lovely Whitworth Museum, whose luminous red brick was quite striking against the grey.

Monday we spent exploring the fantastic Northern Quarter in more detail, with great warehouses and fire escapes, along narrow streets combined with the requisite cafes and vintage shops creating our natural habitat 😉

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A quick trip to the Captain’s Rest last night for some classic antipodean singer songwriting courtesy of our favourite man from Gympie – Darren Hanlon.

He was great as always, the gig was ned free, lots of old friends present and correct, and he played lots of our old faves as well as a couple more rootsy tracks from his new albumn.

fringe activities

Word up for the Glasgow crews slogging it out on the other side of the country. Especially our favourite actor Judith Williams who is earning rave reviews in the excellent if a little overwraught Orlando. Chhay is working at a couple of productions and spent four days hanging out last week to properly soak up the vibe. We are back tomorrow for some high class festival proper actions with the premier of the adaptation of Murakami’s Wind Up Bird Chronicles.

allotment update


Our good life attemps have been limited by the awful summer we have had so far. We did enjoy the brief return of former allotmenteer Mike for a brief visit last weekend, photos courtesy of him!