Friday Feedback #3 | Architecture & Design

Bon mots, bouquets, brickbats and balderdash from Tone on Tuesday (TOT).

ToT 128 Designing Nuclear Power.

Not long after the Federal Election I took some out insurance against the loony end of the LNP (how can you tell?) by writing about the lunacy of nuclear power. Despite pointing out the sheer idiocy of it as a sustainable solution, they pressed ahead. Little to be proud of. Clearly ToT is not read to by the righteous right.

ToT 129, 130, 131, 132, 133 and 139 on project homes.

Much of July was taken up with a survey of the importance of architects in project homes, with most comments about the extraordinary life and career of Ed Gurney. Regular correspondent Kim Jones: “Thanks for enlightening me on the work of Gurney. Prolific – absolutely! And what a repertoire. Beautiful solid buildings with plenty of variety. I have always admired the cubic stack forms.”

ToT 136 and 137 on the Building Commissioner.

Most replies are not for publication. But one good point was made by Kim Jones (again) in discussing the building Commissioner’s issues with D&C contracts: “I agree with him…D&C is a recipe for bad building. The architect is expected to inspect and provide a ‘report’, but a project manager can, and often does, sign off on the progress payment even when the architect is not satisfied with the quality of the work…Compounding the problem is the general incompetence of many of those in the project management business. Some don’t even understand how buildings are made. The limit of their knowledge seems to be programme and a balance sheet…I did like your article, but I found it depressing.”

ToT 140 and 141 on the folly of King Charles III follies.

A couple of correspondents wrote that they thought that Prince Charles had done a good job in stopping the Ahrends Burton and Koralek’s winning design extension to the National Gallery in London. To which I reply with this ArchDaily website story. Not least of the issues was his intervention leading to the demise of a great architecture firm. Have a read and see if you agree with this backhander: “Critique in the UK is far more informed and thoughtful than most of what passes for critique here in Australia.”

Kim Jones again (yes, it’s starting to look like the KJ show this week): “The former Prince’s follies are hopefully just a strange quirk of the times that have now passed. Certainly, don’t need to give more oxygen to the Terry Farrell’s of this world. However, if he had listened only to Krier’s critique of the city, while dismissing his proposed naive architectural responses, he may have fared better. Foster, the great classicist of our age, (or Rogers, the great medievalist of our age) could have set the Prince on a more constructive path and helped him to interpret architecture more thoughtfully. But now he is King, we don’t really have to worry about his meddling anymore, or do we?’

Here’s two more positive views of the Prince’s predilections: Elizabeth Farrelly, the newly-minted columnist at ArchitectureAU, does her best to straddle the fence in King Charles III urban yearnings, and a bolder assertion that the Prince was right all along can be found in the column: Carbuncles and King Charles: was the royal family’s meddling supertroll right about architecture?, by Oliver Wainwright, the Guardian’s always word-wise architecture critic.

ToT 142 Jack Greenland

By far the most responses EVER, were for my obituary about Jack Greenland, architectural scientist. I had loved my time with him; what made my week was how many shared my view.

Stephen Batey by email: “I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of Jack Greenland. I commenced Architecture in 1991 at UTS. Jack made the information presented in his lessons second-nature to all his students. It was so ingrained in us that the introduction of energy efficiency legislation such as BASIX was lamentable. (We know how to make buildings efficient – so why aren’t we? Why does the government need to force the industry to do the right thing?) Jack and his influence will indeed be sadly missed.”

Michael Davies by email: I taught Construction and Design at the NSWIT between 1975 and 1989, almost parallel to Jack Greenland’s tenure. I need to compliment you on the wonderful piece about Jack in the latest issue of Architecture & Design. It was great the way you put Jack in context with Jack Cowan, John Ballinger, and others. For the record and from my recollection, the credit for Jack’s arrival at NSWIT probably lies with Peter Middleton rather than Neville Quarry, notwithstanding Neville’s great encouragement of us all.”

Michael on another great UTS teacher: “Are you aware of Martyn Chapman’s death as well on Sunday 11 September 2022.  Martyn made an equally great contribution to teaching at NSWIT/UTS in the field of Architectural Practice, as I am sure you are aware. I was close to Martyn, more so than Jack, and he seems to have slid away with little or no recognition for the great courses he presented.”

This is Davina Jackson’s introduction on Martyn Chapman in Design and Art Australia Online: “Independent architect of various Sydney houses and stores during the 1950s and 1960s. President NSW Chapter, Royal Australian Institute of Architects 1980-82. Founder of RAIA NSW Architects Advisory Service, leading to Archicentre and arbitrator of client-architect disputes. Lecturer at NSWIT and UTS in Professional Practice of Architecture.” I’m hoping for an obituary on the UTS website for Martyn Chapman as they did for Jack Greenland.

Michael also mentions another renowned teacher, Adrian Boddy, still with us: “I figure we are the only ones left. Adrian stayed around at UTS longer than anyone else and he shares our views.  He was also very likely the best “teacher” in the establishment.” And sums it up: “If only today’s Architecture students had the education once provided, maybe the profession would not be in the mess it is today.”

Philip Thalis on Twitter And to better understand this fantastic man, here is such a warm & appreciative valedictory by architect & teacher Tone Wheeler, who knew Jack Greenland well for so long.” Followed by a link that this twitter artist has done more than a few times for ToT. Which is great since I am ‘socials-allergic’.

Kim Jones by email: I was fortunate to study architecture in the 1970’s, being taught by John Ballinger when the principles of architectural science were considered central to an understanding of buildings. It has been of great benefit to the way I communicate with my engineering consultants. (And learning structures from Ken Wyatt has been of great benefit to the way I communicate with my structural engineering consultants). If we don’t understand how our consultant team members think, then we don’t really have a team. I wonder what today’s students learn in this field of architectural science? The ability to deploy algorithms cannot really displace the understanding of principles.”

David Baggs on Facebook: “Vale Dr Jack Greenland…so sad to read… about the passing of my old mentor and jazz buddy Jack Greenland. My interest and passion for passive energy, and indeed climate issues stem from the knowledge imparted by Jack over if I recall correctly 3 or 4 years of coursework at NSWIT. He was a great man, intelligent, funny and as Tone mentions a Great communicator and eventually friend.

Professor Leena Thomas: “Jack was a generous mentor to me and I was honoured to continue to lead the environmental studies strand over these years.” And Leena has sent out many emails to staff and friends of architecture at UTS, and signposted the obituary on UTS.

Finally, in response to my lament that the Fundamentals of Architecture Science book was out of print (and no second-hand copies as owners were hanging on to them), David Baggs agreed that the book should have another life: “Maybe we should digitally re-publish the book Tone?” And some encouraging news from Leena Thomas: We actually must have some remaining copies here in UTS of Jack’s third edition – I’ll find them and let you know…Incidentally Jack did transfer the copyright of the book to me when he left – but other pressures have meant I have found no time to update the book. Will look into this.”

And a final word from me on what this outpouring of nostalgia might mean. Architectural science no longer forms a major part of architectural teaching. Despite there being ‘architectural science departments’ within schools, most now embrace digital technologies for gangly form-making over the practicalities of detail and construction. Allied to that, teaching is removed from gifted teacher / practitioners and given to post-graduate students, with little to no practice, understanding architecture only from an abstract procedural point of view.

Vale Jack Greenland and Martyn Chapman. Will we ever see their like at school again?

Tone Wheeler is an architect / the views expressed are his / contact at [email protected]