In the presence of a masterpiece

Every once in a while as I walk through a building that I have never visited before, I am overwhelmed by the feeling that I am in the presence of a masterpiece. This is what I sensed last weekend during a visit that was part of an architectural tour of Melbourne. Adding to the sense of wonder was the knowledge that my colleagues and I were among the first to experience a building that, when complete, is bound to grace the cover of every architectural... Read More


A few years ago I attended an architectural conference in Melbourne. Students from the University of Melbourne School of Architecture conducted a guided tour by bus of their cities newest marvels. The Ashton Raggatt McDougall designed Shrine of Remembrance Visitor Centre, completed in 2006, was on their programme.  It is a new insertion sitting below the Shrine on the city side. Back on the bus, a refined English architect I had been sitting next... Read More

Melbourne surprises

When I was at university in the sixties, I wrote an essay about sex in architecture. It wasn’t about bedrooms, it painted a bigger picture. My metaphor was the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, a biblical story in which the fertility goddess Ishtar removes an article of clothing at each of the seven gates leading to the underworld. Of course there is such a thing as architectural strip tease, and Professor Toy took my essay seriously. In real life,... Read More

The Ugly Truth

Two modern buildings in Melbourne, both of which I have visited and admired, have been named by recent surveys as among the world’s ugliest. Great emotion can be generated by the appearance of buildings. Reference Prince Charles for instance. He turned up as a royal person at the Royal institute of Architects conference in London a few years ago. He opined that ‘when Hitler bombed London, he had the decency to leave just piles of rubble. ... Read More

A tale of two cities

Last week, inspired by John Key’s ambitions, I caught up with Australia. Or to be more precise, Melbourne. It’s been said  that Auckland and Sydney are hedonist sisters, whilst Wellington and Melbourne are more the Brontes. Physically, whilst one city may one day shake itself to bits, and the other may burn to the ground, what interests me the most is the urban possibilities that younger Wellington can learn from its older sister.  (Even... Read More