Event Reviews 2011

Sydney Architecture Festival at Penrith

As part of the Sydney Architecture Festival, Penrith City Council co-ordinated a day of talks and tours to celebrate Penrith’s built environment.

After a warm welcome from the Mayor of Penrith, we began to ponder some important questions - have you ever imagined how Sydney was in the past?  How did urban planners predict the growth of Sydney?  What will Penrith look like in 2051?

Bob Meyer from COX Architects presented a remarkable history of Sydney’s city planning and the future of Penrith.  Sydney’s population will be greatly increased by 2051.  Inevitably, Penrith will bear a large part of this increase, 57% of Sydney’s population is  predicted to reside in Greater Western Sydney, including Penrith!

Craig Butler from Penrith City Council then encouraged the attendees to imagine different opportunities for "Penrith In the Future".  Craig outlined an innovative project involving  artists to collect & interpret community needs to facilitate new collaboration with engineers/planners/architects in a process to invent solutions for more complex & fast changing issues.  The contemporary art project initiated by Penrith City Council, and presented at The Future of Penrith/Penrith of the Future Exhibition at Sydney Opera House provides a new perspective to conventional planning methods.


Inner West Spring Houses Tour

Like the shenanigans of students; cramming bodies into a telephone booth ... how many people can you fit into a small inner city house at one time?

With three houses on display, the IWAN Spring Houses Tour offered the unique opportunity for almost 70 people to find that answer and, more importantly, to delight in a showcase of architectural design.  What they discovered was that these three very different houses all shared a subtle sense of space, a deftness of layout and amenity, an inherent beauty and respect for their surroundings.

For the many architects who see the Inner West Houses Tour as an annual pilgrimage, the tour is instructive and reaffirming.  For the competing number of the interested public,  it is an exciting glimpse of the joy of exemplary house design and a chance to look at other people’s houses.

Thanks to the brave house owners who agreed to open their homes, and a special thanks to Shaun Carter for achieving the difficult job of cajoling the owners and their architects into agreeing.


Reviewed by Festival Organising Committee member, Howard Smith


Faces on The Wall

It might just be the last time that anyone will see these strange faces, staring from the living room wall of a converted 1880’s tea rooms in Petersham!!

The discoverer, conservator and curator of this collection of ink and charcoal characters is about to draw a curtain across a passion that has been his core diversion for the past decade.

And it was this passion that was the special pleasure for the ‘full house’ in that Petersham living room ... to hear John Sutton recount the first revealed face and his journey to uncover and preserve an unlikely piece of history, a glimpse of social comment more than a century old.

Let’s hope the new owners will continue to watch their telly every night, undisturbed by General Gordon, Ned Kelly, and others less identifiable and, of course, the chook!

Thanks to John Sutton for agreeing to open his home and for his inspiring description.



Reviewed by Festival Organising Committee member, Howard Smith


The Wilkinson Lecture with Andres Jacque

"Architecture is Rendered by Society"

“The project failed at the moment the corruption became transparent”.  This off-the-cuff comment made in an impromptu conversation on transparency and politics prior to the Wilkinson talk set the tone for the evening.  This sort of astute observation is typical of Jacque’s work which is an open conversation on architecture and politics. 

In his talk “Architecture is rendered by Society” Jacque’s explored the notions of political and collective domesticity.  His discourse explored architecture in atypical areas including construction sites and share-houses; looking at the beautiful and the banal.  He spoke of several understandings of domesticity that revolved around the collective, the fragmentary and political concepts of home.  Homes are engaged in multiplicities.  There is a collective narrative that forms from people’s social network that underpins where they feel at home.  Compared to the singular experience of “Little House on the Prairie” where the family’s domestic life revolved around the single house, today’s modern life/family engages with multiple places.  This idea was explored through the experience a single mother in Madrid whose notion of home was not limited to her 40sqm apartment, but rather extended to include her office, the downstairs café and apartments of friends and relatives.  Thus the city itself becomes a big fragmented house.  This idea of domestic life fragmenting into the city is not just limited to one’s social network, rather it is being outsourced.


Architecture on Show at Surry Hills Library with Richard Goodwin

Arch_on_showRichard Goodwin entitled his talk for the Festival ‘De-natured Contingency: The New Engine of Sustainability’.  For an audience of largely non- architects (and architects!) on a warm Saturday afternoon, this could have been ambitious.  However, Richard varied his content from the academic and esoteric to the anecdotes not to be repeated outside of the room.  He presented himself as a hybrid practitioner: part artist, part architect, part academic.  He discussed his current architectural thinking based on his work, research, teaching and experience in all these areas.

Richard’s university education in architecture was based on an approach of functionalist modernism, his early experience with Bruce Rickard and others was in what he called organic modernism, and while he is quick to say he has not dismissed this, his work has seen a distinct progression from the ‘form follows function’ mantra.  With current technology and design and production techniques he argued that geometry is no longer.


Reviewed by Festival Volunteer Jacqueline Connor


Architecture on Show - James Stockwell at Penrith Library

Arch_on_showJames Stockwell entitled his talk ‘Combewood to Kinetic: An Evolution of Climatic Architecture.’ F or the local audience, Combewood was a well known historic house of State significance, built by the Woodriff family.  Indeed the town of Penrith was built on the original land grant to Captain Daniel Woodriff from 1804.  James raised the idea that the architect may have been Sir John Sulman - the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute awards the Sulman Award for excellence in public buildings in his name each year.  He pointed out the features of the house which responded to the extremes of the local climate, its orientation, the wide verandahs and louvred shutters to the French doors.


The Future of Penrith/Penrith of the Future

future_of_penrithThe importance of this event was demonstrated from the beginning, with a sincere welcome to country by Michael West on behalf of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, who have a 50,000 year history and geographical boundaries of Sydney Harbour in the east, the Nepean River in the west, the Hawkesbury River in the north and the Georges River in the south.


Australian Architecture Association Bar Tour

3The tour kicked off at Customs house, with 13 of us assembled to embark on the much anticipated Sydney Bar Tour, led by the dynamic Kate St James and Robert Morley.  We started at Customs House itself, by ascending to the top floor  to Café Sydney, (we were the perfect size group as we could all just manage to fit into a lift together wherever we ventured).  The Restaurant and Bar occupy an interesting space in an inventive fashion; by designating a different area to each side of the internal courtyard.  The décor was rich and vibrant, whilst providing a perfect environment to reflect the most spectacular view from the restaurant.  However, despite our rumbling tummies, we moved onto the next venue which was located in the Rocks – the Argyle.  This beautiful historic building, has barely changed over time and the Bar has been sensitive to keeping it this way, with only its fun and eclectic interior decorating to bring it into the 21st Century.


Page 1 of 6

You are here