The good news is that the Australia Council for the Arts has announced plans to build a new Australian pavilion in Venice, the bad news is that it plans to choose a design based on an invited competition. This is an invitation to mediocrity, which is coming out of our ears at the moment. A new biennale pavilion would seem to be the ideal excuse for a big public competition, which in my opinion should be open to artists as well as architects. As a brief, a biennale pavilion is not exactly the Large Hadron Collider. Australia was lucky to score one of the last sites left in the Giardini, and what gets built there ought to be be surprising, delightful and provocative. Australians love their sheds, and an open competition would be an opportunity to build the Ur-Shed, the mother shed, as it were. If you agree, then please sign the petition set up by OpenHAUS.
The question of Canberra remains, if not the most urgent, one of the most interesting in Australian urbanism. The city was shaped by its time, sited to placate a rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne which still exists and a threat of Russian invasion which now seems unlikely. For all who have ever found themselves haunted by the place, either in the form of nightmares or dreams, the launch of the CAPIThetical, “a competition for a hypothetical Australian capital city,” is exciting news. CAPIThetical is timed to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the capital design competition in 2012, and is backed by the federal and ACT governments, the Australian Institute of Architects and a gaggle of universities and professional organizations.
The people of New South Wales have been anticipating the upcoming state election almost since the last election four years ago, never a good situation. As regular readers of our dispatches from Sydney know, the soon to be defeated Labor Government has for the past sixteen years, with its inimitably bland, shiny-suited glee, trashed poor old Sydney. A place which with the slightest effort could be the most beautiful city in the world has instead deteriorated into a kind of Los Angeles without a Raymond Chandler, a Melbourne without intricacy, a Singapore without ambition.
One of the most urgent tasks facing the next state government will be the reform of NSW’s broken planning system, a system I saw in action (if that is the right word) during the disillusioning two years I spent in a cubicle at the NSW Department of Planning.