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.

100 days montage

 

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 😉

Is this a job for a lady?

Is this a job for a lady?

Exhibited at Loop – a celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day

The recognition of 100 significant female architects.
How many [female] architects can you name?

E-1027 is a modernist house that sits on the edge of the sea in Roquebrune Cap-Martin, France; completed in 1929, up until recently its design was attributed to Jean Badovici, a contemporary and friend of Le Corbusier. In actual fact the house was predominantly the work of Eileen Gray, his partner at the time. Gray was generally more renown for her furniture design, less known for her contribution to architecture. This is not an isolated incident – female architects often struggle for recognition and commissions within the industry.

Architecture as a profession has been around for centuries however women have only been allowed to practice architecture for less than a century. Following the passing of the 1919 Sex Discrimination Act women were first allowed to become architects. Prior to that women had found it necessary to practice in secret, as was the case with Elizabeth Wilbraham (1632-1705) who may have designed many notable buildings in the seventeenth century but without the records to establish proper attribution for her designs, her name lies in obscurity. Even the Bauhaus design school which was reputed for it’s forward thinking and embracing of modern ideas still would not admit women into it’s architecture school when opened in 1927. The school had defined roles for the “beautiful sex” most female students restricted to the textile crafts, few permitted into sculpture or other areas deemed for the “stronger sex”.

Women are now able to make a name for themselves in architecture these days, and the recognition of their contribution increasing with high profile names such as Zaha Hadid and Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA. However inequalities do exist in the architectural profession today, and it is still regarded as a male dominated profession, with very few women reaching high managerial roles, the glass ceiling within the profession is still a serious concern. Studies have shown the number of women that stay in architecture are relatively low. Women make up 38% of the architectural student population however only 13% of the practicing profession. The long hours and family commitments, and general pressures of a “macho” industry are considered to be reasons for the lack of progression of women architects. This work acknowledges the numerous women and their contribution to the built environment, not satisfied in just taking up the traditional crafts.

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fife ceilidh (again)

Another one that could be pulled from the vaults, although it is actually new annual installment – as we are just back from our third charity ceilidh that our friend Lynn’s parents organise. The attendees take it pretty seriously so we usually stand our like the antipodean interlopers that we are but we seem to be getting better year by year and it is a properly fun event.

After torrential rain last year the weather was absolutely stunning this weekend so we fitted in a visit to the beach, a quick glance at all the fabulous models & boards from the V&A Dundee competition shortlist (Lynn’s partner Craig and my offices’ are in rival bids – Steven Holl & Snohetta respectively) before winding our way through the East Neuk of Fife for some fish and chips in Anstruther.

renovation

It has been a bit of a posting desert round here for the last couple months, mainly due to work commitments and sheer laziness, but in recent times more to do with our new project.

We have bought a flat in the centre of Glasgow, but require quite a bit of work to get it up to scratch! – You can follow all the (mis)adventure on our flickr – I think it will be more up to date for the foreseeable future.

We are also back to Aus in April – drop me a line if you fancy catching up.

doors open day

Mum and Dad had a suitably impressive introduction to Glasgow with Doors Open Day being held just after they arrived. We arranged a leisurely wander into town popping into series of ever more impressive historic buildings and churches culminating in the absolutely phenomenal City Chambers. If find it difficult to believe that hadn’t discovered this totally over the top edifice  before – especially as we work just around the corner. It is full of stone and marble lining and the grand ballroom has the dimensions of an aircraft hanger with vast murals and gilt everywhere. It is a truly impressive building and gives an insight into the astounding wealth that Glasgow once possessed.

biting critique of zaha's gleegie shed

quite an entertaining rant…

“In this case, the baroquely difficult solution to the five-second long design process is a perfect example of the dead end; of the arbitrariness and bankruptcy of cultural architecture, a seductive design moment, achingly contingent (should that squiggle be 500mm to the left or not?) followed by an interminable slog of realisation, keeping everybody busy. The fact that the buildings that occupied the site previously were sheds of about the same size, albeit of a less wow-factor shape is hilarious, making this an exercise in architectural futility.”