Archive 2004

Drawing people into architecture

The AAA was mentioned considerably in the feature article in the March 2004 Building Australia Magazine profiling AAA Founding Committee member Ian Moore.

Here is the article in full:

By the time he left home to study civil and structural engineering at the Auckland Technical Institute at the age of 17, lan Moore lived in more than 30 houses, each one built by his father. As well as instilling in his son a love of building, Moore ’s father provided some solid career advice: don’t become an architect.

“So I chose the discipline that was closest to architecture, which was structural engineering,” Moore said, “with the long term goal of always swapping back to architecture once I had enough money to run away and be allowed to do it, which is what I did.”

In 1979, following his graduation, Moore moved from New Zealand to Australia , where he worked as an engineer for six months, before heading to Europe . He lived in London for three years, and was working in Arup’s offshore engineering group, where he became involved with Norman Foster’s Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank project.

“I was just in the right place at the right time, dealing with offshore oil platforms and communications towers,” Moore said. “Norman Foster had used the analogy of a North Sea oil platform for the main structural frame of the bank, so his firm came to Arup’s offshore engineering group for the design of the main steel frame, and I just happened to be there.”

So was Richard Hough, now a Principal at Arup Australasia. “Richard took me under his wing: he knew that I was a frustrated architect, and he knew I could draw really well,” Moore said. “So he took me along to Foster’s office, and as soon as I got into that environment, I knew I was on the wrong side of the fence! By the end of the project I was actually doing quite a bit of work within Foster’s office, along with Richard and others on the team, and I had enrolled at the Southbank Polytechnic and been accepted to do my architectural degree in London .” Unfortunately his visa had expired by that time, and Moore was forced to leave the UK . However, the experience of working on the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank project had a profound impact on his career. “It’s a very significant building architecturally, and it was very significant for me, because it was the thing that catalysed that desire of mine to switch back to architecture,” he explained. “Also I received extraordinarily good advice and support from people within Arup and Norman Foster’s office, to make the jump, so it was incredibly important for me.”

Having returned to Sydney , Moore was accepted into the NSW Institute of Technology (now University of Technology , Sydney) to undertake a part-time architecture degree. In his first year, he continued working for Arup in the Sydney office, on the H&SB project. From second year, part-time students had to work within an architectural practice, so Moore worked for several years at Conybeare Morrison and Partners before joining Neil Burley and Partners.

“I considered their work to be exceptionally good: it was a ‘finishing school’ in a sense, teaching me all those things that you didn’t learn in architecture school, about interior planning, furniture, colours, materials and detailing,” Moore said. “When the name change to Burley Katon Halliday took place in 1988, I’d just finished my studies. The firm started an architectural division, and I was made a director.”

Success swiftly followed: Moore ’s first significant building project, the Davetari Apartments, a six-storey prefabricated steel- framed apartment building in Port Moresby , was a joint winner of the PNG Institute of Architects’ inaugural ‘Hardies Housing Award’ in 1989. The following year, Moore was awarded the NSW Board of Architects’ Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship, to study contemporary infill building within historic urban environments in Europe , “which was particularly relevant to the sort of work I was doing in Sydney , and the battles I was having with councils,” he said. He’d already experienced “an urge to run my own operation”, so he left BKH and travelled to Europe before setting up his own practice in Sydney in November 1990. Early work consisted mainly of single family houses and the practice boasted six staff by 1995. That’s when Moore first teamed up with interior designer Tina Engelen, whom he’d worked with at BKH, on a project that would change the course of both of their careers.

The Price O’Reilly House, in Sydney ’s Redfern, created a new typology for inner city terrace housing, and earned the newly formed partnership accolades locally and overseas. In 1996, the house won the Inaugural Wools of New Zealand Interior Design Award and the RAIA NSW Chapter Merit Award for new single houses, as well as the United Kingdom ’s AR+D Award for emerging practices in 1999.

“A number of those early houses won awards, including projects from before and after Tina joining me, and some of them were sold for record prices in their areas,” Moore said. “So we started to attract attention from developers, and we eventually got into some larger scale work, as well as maintaining the smaller scale houses and retail fitouts.”

One of those larger projects was Altair, the139-unit, 19-storey apartment tower located above the Kings Cross tunnel in Sydney , completed in 2000. Again the building scooped several prizes, including the high- density residential categories of the NSW HAIA and HIA awards in 2001, and two honours at the World Architecture Awards in 2002, including best apartment building.

EngelenMoore now has a staff of 16 people, and is currently working on a range of project types, from a 40-storey residential tower to $50,000 alterations and additions, with the majority of the firm’s work falling into the category of new houses ranging from $700,000 to $1.5 million, and residential developments ranging from 30 units to several hundred.

The practice is currently working on commissions in Australia , New Zealand and California , including an ‘affordable’ housing project in Auckland , called Beaumont Quarter. “It’s on a former industrial site, near the waterfront, and although the developer owns the land outright, they are selling the homes as leasehold properties,” Moore said. “So rather than buying the land, you are effectively only buying the house and then paying ground rent each year, which takes a considerable chunk off purchase price, but you don’t own it in perpetuity.”

While leasehold title homes are common in London , Moore admitted that they are novel in New Zealand . “This arrangement has never happened in New Zealand before, and people were initially very reluctant, because, like in Australia , there’s a goal of owning your own quarter acre block with a house on it, and you hand it down forever,” he explained. “Even though Auckland is a long way behind Australia in the move back into the centre of the city, people are now starting to catch on that if they live in a smaller apartment, they don’t have a big yard, they don’t have to mow the lawns, they are five minutes walk from the centre of town and from waterfront restaurants, so lifestyle is the key driver.”

The EngelenMoore project .is stage three of a new master planned community, where Wellington s Studio of Pacific Architecture completed the master plan and stage one, while Amsterdam-based S333 designed stage two. Construction of stage three is expected to begin by early March.

The firm is also working on a design for a house in Mill Valley in Marin County , north of San Francisco , for “clients who only ever planned to build one house, and consequently put considerable effort into choosing an architect,” Moore said.

“They interviewed some of the top architects from around the world, including Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Thorn Mayne from Morphosis, Herzog & de Meuron and Peter Zumthor,” he added. “They read every book and magazine on architecture, and they made a scrapbook of what they liked, and eventually they found that there were a number of projects that they liked more than any others, and supposedly they were ours.”

The clients are music teachers who run children’s summer camps, and Moore said that the house would be the first building in a series, to be followed by a recording studio and then a private school.

Rather than finding the process of working on overseas projects difficult, Moore said he had encountered surprisingly familiar terrain.

“I went over there, and met with the chief planner at City Hall in Mill Valley , and it was like walking into South Sydney council,” he laughed. “The lobby was identical: it had the same noticeboard and potted palms.

“A man came out, and was introduced to me, and he was told I was from Australia ,” Moore continued. “He didn’t have any idea what kind of work I did, and his first comment was ‘Just make it look like the houses next door, and you won’t get any trouble from me.’ He added, ‘We do things in timber around here: I don’t want any concrete, metal, or a lot of glass’.

“So really, there’s no difference whatsoever, apart from the fact that being in America , the clients tend to go straight to their lawyers and get them to check out the plans before they lodge them,” Moore concluded. “In fact, the only thing that’s different is that they use feet and inches, so we just press a button on the computer to convert. Also, with the advent of the internet, we can talk to manufacturers and subcontractors in the local area, and we can get their full product catalogues, without having to visit them.”

Having achieved considerable success as an architect, Moore is now intent on advancing the public’s understanding and appreciation of contemporary design. He’s been a committed member of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects since he was a student, and last year he was the creative director of the RAIA’s annual conference, themed Imagining Architecture. Now he is a founding committee member of the Australian Architecture Association (AAA).

It was established by architects James Grose, Richard Johnson, Wendy Lewin, Glenn Murcutt, Alex Popov and Harry Seidler in December 2003, and membership is open to architects and other professionals involved in shaping the built environment, as well as members of the public. “We felt that there was an opportunity to set up a totally complementary organisation to the Institute, to focus just on the cultural side, and the promotion of contemporary architecture,” Moore said, “rather than being all encompassing and trying to be all things to all men.

“With the Institute being a member-based organisation, it has to focus on its members, who are all architects, whereas this organisation allows us to focus much more on promotion to the general public, and allied professionals and cultural institutions,” he continued. “We want to try and pull them all together, so that architects are seen not just as professionals within the building industry, but as people within the arts. Part of that will entail working with galleries and museums around the country, to co-ordinate programs, such as exhibitions and talks.”

This year, the AAA will also relaunch the International Series of public talks by eminent overseas architects, which was established by UTS academics Neville Quarry and Frank Low. “When Neville [Quarry] retired from UTS, the series died,” Moore lamented. “Ed Lippman, Stephen Varady, Sam Marshall and I revived it briefly in the early 1990s, for a one-off lecture by Future Systems, but we didn’t have the skills, time or experience to keep it going.

“But now we can do it justice,” he said. “And we’ve got Glenn Murcutt as the inaugural president [of the AAA], and, being a Pritzker laureate, he has fantastic access to all of the major architects in the world,” Moore enthused. “The other fantastic point is that the Opera House has always been very keen to be more actively involved with architecture, and through the connection with Richard Johnson [who is currently collaborating with Jørn Utzon and Jan Utzon on renovations to the building], we’ve been offered the Opera House to stage these lectures, so that’s a major coup.”

Despite the initial Sydney bias, Moore insisted that the AAA would serve a national audience. “It’s very important that it’s not seen as a Sydney-based thing, even though obviously it is at this stage, because we’ve been instrumental in getting it going, and Directors Stella de Vulder and Annette Dearing are Sydney based,” he said. “But it is intended that it should be a national organisation, and we are now making connections in other parts of Australia to introduce the whole country to the fact that this organisation exists.”

As for promoting contemporary architecture to the public, Moore conceded there might be some hurdles to overcome. “There needs to be more attention given to major public institutions in the west,” Moore said. “Chris Johnson, as NSW government architect, is promoting design competitions within government controlled bodies, such as the Roads and Traffic Authority. If that continues, people all over Sydney will see examples of good design, and be able to use them and understand the benefit of architecture. “Of course the other really significant area is obviously housing,” Moore continued. “At the moment, it is still very difficult: we often hear a criticism of architects that we only work for wealthy people in the Eastern Suburbs. That’s not true, but there is some truth to it.

“Unfortunately, many people only go to an architect when they have got a lot of money, because there’s a perception that architects cost a lot of money, or that their buildings end up being very expensive,” he said. “But there are a number of architects involved in housing for aboriginal communities which is incredibly cost effective and very appropriate. In cities too, architects are involved in low cost housing: our office is building a kit set house that will cost less than $300,000, Queensland ’s Gabriel Poole has designed a number of kit houses, and Tasmania ’s Ken Latona has built a low-cost kit house. Also, although he’s not an architect, Michael Mobbs’ designs for eco-house kits demonstrate good intentions and the prices are great.

“There’s actually an enormous amount of work going on in that regard,” Moore asserted, “and we need to show people that they could choose a Gabriel Poole House or a Ken Latona House or a Michael Mobbs house, or even an EngelenMoore house, which is going to cost them about the same as their big ugly project home.”

Moore argued that developers also needed to take responsibility for improving the standard of new housing in Australia ’s suburbs.

“We need more development and building companies to use some of these innovative architectural ideas, and build them,” he claimed “Companies like Mirvac, Australand and others, who build architect-designed apartment buildings in the inner city as well as large tracts of housing in the suburbs, need to play a major role in lifting the standard when they are dealing with areas out of the centre of the city,” he added. “And we need more diversity: [ Sydney ’s] western suburbs are virtually the same from one end to the other.” Moore said that the growing emphasis placed on environmental issues would bring about greater involvement from architects.

“A lot of those issues can’t be dealt with properly by the project home developers,” he said. “So they need to get more involved with architects and environmental specialists, which will immediately start to change the nature of those houses.

“In fact there’s already a whole lot of work going on, and it just needs to be promoted more,” he added. “The more you educate the public about these issues, the more informed they become, and the more able they are to make decisions about what’s a good house and what’s a bad house.”

While Moore hopes that the AAA will foster the development of architectural talks and exhibitions in the suburbs, he said that it was necessary for major international architects to receive top billing at the Opera House. “To get the big names of architecture to even stop in Australia , you’ve got to give them some sort of incentive, and giving a major lecture in the Opera House is one of those things,” he said. “However, I would hope that we would get people from Liverpool , for example, coming into the Opera House, because maybe they’ve never been there before, so to hear a fantastic architect speaking within a piece of incredible architecture would be a good thing.”

As for the suggestion the members of the public may be put off by ‘architecture speak’, Moore argued that architects could transcend any perceived gap using imagery.

“I go to some architecture lectures and I’ve got no idea what the architects are talking about, but a picture tells a thousand words,” he said. “I think people can be stimulated and really excited by images, even though they might not totally understand the concept behind it.

“We want to promote architecture generally, and even more so when we have a major event taking place,” he said. “That way, people will see an image on TV, wherever they might live or work, which might stimulate them to find out more about it. So the prime ambition of the AAA is to inform people about what’s happening in architecture and draw them into it.” BA

AAA Showcase

Highlighting the formation of the AAA, the Australian Financial Review Magazine ran a picture story in the March 2004 edition.

Article text:

A new association to promote architecture is born.

Glenn Murcutt is a name – perhaps even a face – familiar to those with even the most cursory knowledge of architecture. Stella de Vulder, on the other hand, you’ve probably never heard of.

For more than 20 years as the nationa public relatios manager for the Royal Australian Institute of Architects,de Vulder worked to promote architecture. but late last year she quit her post to join forces with Murcutt and a colleague from the RAIA, Annette Dearing, to establish the Australian Architecture Association (AAA).

While the RAIA is the professional organisation that represents architects legally, politically and in the media, the AAA will concern itself soley with the promotion of architecture per se.

“That’s what we’re really passionate about,” says de Vulder. “When you look at the contribution made by similar organisations overseas, I think we are a bit late starting this…The Chicago Architecture Foundation in the US [for instance] runs 65,000 architecture tours every year, which is a wonderful contribution to the community’s understanding and appreciation of architecture.”

At press time, the fledgling association was in negotiation to bring one of the biggest names in contemporary architecture to Australia for a speaking tour. That Murcutt has this man on his speed dial has of course helped negotiations along. The AAA plans to run two events each year with peakers of similar stature.

That's architect with an AAA

smh 12.02.2004 The Sydney Morning Herald (12/02/2004) carried this article by Harvey Grennan.

Article text:

Award winner Glenn Murcutt says this new professional group isn’t a challenge to the RAIA.

TWO of Australia ’s most acclaimed architects have started a breakaway group to the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) but everyone is being very nice about it.

Glenn Murcutt, Australia ’s only winner Archtecture’s international “Oscar”, the Pritzker Prize, and Harry Seidler head a committee of leading architects who have formed the Australian Architecture Association (AAA). The other members include Ed Lippmann, lan Moore, Alex Popov, Richard Johnson, James Grose and Wendy Lewin.

The declared intention of the AAA is to raise public awareness of contemporary architecture and good design, and to work “in parallel” with the RAIA. There will be a central media office, a think tank, international speakers and architectural tours.

The implicit proposition is that the RAIA has not done enough to elevate architectural and urban design issues among the public and media.

RAIA’s national and state public relations officers, Stella de Vulder and Annette Dearing, have departed the institute’ august offices at Tusculum in Potts Point to administer the new body.

The AAA’s website is also uncomfortably dose to that of the RAIA – www.architecture.org.au instead of www.architecture.com.au

The NSW president of die RAIA, Caroline Pidcock, says the institute is more than happy to see “another layer of debate” on design issues but hastens to point out that the institute is active in bringing out international speakers and promoting architecture to the general community.

Will there be any duplication of functions by the two bodies? “We aim to have that not happen but it is not possible to say it will never happen,” Pidcock says.

The AAA is modelled on overseas bodies such as the Architecture Foundation in the UK , the Canadian Centre for Architecture and the Chicago Architecture Foundation which, de Vulder says, runs 65,000 tours a year.

De Vulder also talks of “another layer of debate” and says the AAA is about the community “feeling, touching and touring” as a way to develop their interest in architecture in the same way they would with art, music and literature.

Murcutt, the AAA’s founding president, denies the group is “splitting” from the RAIA but does say it will cover some of the same ground, such as the issue of “untrained” council planners making decisions on aesthetics. “The more groups that tackle the Government, the more powerful it becomes,” he says. “We are not replacing the Institute but we will be lighter on our feet.” Murcutt hopes to get two international speakers a year to visit Australia and is already talking to such “names” as Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and Peter Zumthor. There are also plans for an education program in schools.

Image caption: From left, Wendy Lewin, Annette Dearing, James Grose, Glenn Murcutt, Harry Seidler, Alex Popov, Stella de Vulder, David Bare, Ed Lippmann, Manu Siitonen and Ian Moroe.

First meeting of the AAA

AAA First Meeting
Richard Johnson, Wendy Lewin, Stella de Vulder, Annette Dearing, Glenn Murcutt and Harry Seidler were present for the first official meeting of the AAA.

Black is the name and brand of the AAA new talk Series

Black is a series of talks about 21C architecture given in Australia by the world’s leading architects and presented by the Australian Architecture Association.

Black has been chosen as the name of the 21C talks series because it suggests a place crammed full of dense, interesting and enjoyable ideas – waiting to be discovered and relished by architects and non-architects who love architecture.