Sunday, 18 October 2015

MacMansions on exhibition

Australia is represented at the Chicago Architecture Biennial by two young architectural collaborations, each stressing their research-based exploration of alternative practices.  Of particular interest to me is the project by David Neustein and Grace Mortlock, founders of Sydney-based otherothers. 

The opening review by goes to the heart of the problem, even while it oversimplifies the project:

"Turns out, America isn't the only place with a glut of over-sized suburban homes. Australians actually have the largest average home size in the world, which may explain why it took an Australian practice, otherothers, to create such an elegant solution to extraneous space. By building a covered courtyard within the frame of the home, the house-within-a-house concept downsizes in an intelligent way, reducing costs while adding new types of outdoor space."

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Glass adventures

My admiration for glass as a material increases daily.  Which is not to say that I think all applications of this extraordinary material are equally virtuous.  But then again, virtue has never been enough to define good architecture.  Heightened emotion might be closer to the mark, and glass has a great way to create some pretty extreme emotions. 

Apparently death-defying transparent floors at great heights are not altogether new.  But I have to say this one, on a slender suspension bridge in China, makes more sense, than most.

Brought to you by,with a text reflecting their usual casual approach to technical detail, the picture gallery is enough to suggest the awe inspiring thrill that the original timber planked bridges must have inspired in generations of tourist pilgrims.

My previous post about glass was the proposed swimming pool spanning some 25m between luxury apartment blocks at Embassy Gardens in London.  It interests me to speculate why I feel so strongly that there is an ethical as well as aesthetic comparison to be made between the two projects.  Yet the contrast comes sharply to mind, in spite of the fact that I made a case for some virtue in the London project.

The London pool is an impressive but perverse piece of material engineering.  But it is fair to ask: Why hold up many tons of water in mid air, for a haptic experience probably indistinguishable from an infinity edge pool conventionally supported?  And let's face it, the pool is only a rendering at the moment, promoting a developer's real estate sales.

In contrast, the Chinese suspension bridge is an elegant technical response to context and history, and guaranteed to maintain the thrill for the entire journey.  It ticks the boxes for a great use of glass in architecture.