A Fed-Square Shaped Hole

The super-mineral that was to become Federation Square is craned from the earth, silencing an ancient songline.

Coiled about our continent exists an ancient songline. Unmatched in duration and ancestry, it is fabled to stretch back across the ocean to forgotten lands. Where it reaches the fatal shore, exact location uncertain, mythology begins: sliding up the shifting sandbank, through the spinifex and over the primary dunes and off into the drylands, the songline gently proceeds to turn on itself and so describes the genesis of a great, ragged spiral, first following the coastline then ever inwards to the centre, tracing the many sites of tribal occupation – separate yet connected.

An ancient songline coils about the austral continent
An ancient songline coils about the austral continent

Where it passes over terra firma, the melodic contours of the songline are known – said to emanate from the very land itself. Yet these are merely the closing phrases. How far it casts back from the continent’s edge, both temporally and geographically, is uncertain. Some believe its beginnings can be heard by travelling against the spiral’s grain like a skipping record needle, treading softly and with ears pricked. Others claim to hum the likeness of its origins, their murmurs beckoning the ocean winds to blow their ancient song.

In 1998, construction commenced on Melbourne’s Federation Square as a monument to commemorate a century of colonial federation. In that same year, the land that sang itself into existence lost its breath. Indeed, the ancient song of our continent suffered an irreparable offence. A hole the exact size and shape of colonial federation was dug from its ground, sending a chthonic whipcrack through the land like a spring uncoiling, casting the many nations of our ancestors into silence; millenia of an ancient songline stilled.

Fed Square Shaped Hole
A hole, the exact size and shape of colonial federation scars the land.

The hole, in fact, was the shadow of a single rock craned from the earth, its scalene skin of zinc, sulphides, silicates and sandstone shrouding structural veins of iron ore. No ordinary rock, but a super-mineral composition of such improbable magnificence that it had been chosen to commemorate the foundation of a great modern nation. Complete with its every crag, crack and shimmer, in time it would be honed and hollowed, its silicate sheets polished to admit the light that now fractures over the stream of visitors to Federation Square.

The great landmark before it was blasted from the ground.
The great landmark before it was blasted from the ground.

For now the nation’s misplaced heart keeps beat by the banks of the slow-moving Yarra Yarra. And while the world admires this crystalline monument, somewhere the red earth weeps its ruddy tears, the land’s people left to tend a gaping wound – quietly, anonymously and all but forgotten – as the great uncoiling accelerates, each day a little stronger, a little faster, turning madly on the strains of a fractured melody; mother earth twisting widdershins.

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Competition Winners

A Humble of Hills Hoists – Brad Wray

G&C are pleased to announce the joint winners of the Jimmy Watson’s Canopy design competition.

We would like to congratulate both Mikhail Rodrickwith the coherent and sly ‘Jimmy’s Pendulum,’ as well as Brad Wray of Branch Studio Architects, with the laconic ‘Humble of Hills Hoists.’

A full listing of results outlines other placed entries, as well as listing commendations and judges comments. We encourage all to peruse them – there are some gemlike and wonderful ideas in these projects.

The response to this (very) short notice competition has been heartening and suggests an alternative, and far more enjoyable, avenue for the critique and unpacking of planning submissions, as well as a broader discussion around our shared architectural heritage.

Well done to all who entered – you should all have a well deserved glass, or flagon, or a rundlet or tierce, of wine.

Frank + Patricia

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Shadows: Open Competition to Design Awnings at Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar

Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar by Romberg and Boyd, 1968

… There’s a scene in that wonderful book by George Johnston – “My Brother Jack.” And it’s got Dave Meredith sitting outside at some retsina soaked tavern on a little Greek island; shaded by vine-leaves, cooled by a soft Aegean breeze. There’s food and booze and the long laziness of self-imposed exile. But this being David Meredith, despite all of this …. he’s complaining. He finds a lot to complain about, this character. This time, in this paradisiacal setting, it’s actually about class. He’s been cornered by a drunk English toff, who’s complaining as well – complaining that nobody understands what it’s like to be the youngest son of a youngest son. It’s about primogeniture, you see? And this pisses Meredith off – he snaps at this sunburnt peer; saying, and I paraphrase, ‘Yeah, well, you’ll never know what it’s like to be the younger son of a Melbourne tram driver…’

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Flinders Street – Lost & Found

This office’s unrealised project for the Air & Water towers (1977). We had considered dusting it off for the recent Flinders Street design competition.

The following piece by Frank Godsell was originally published in the September issue of the Critical Australian Review of Architectural Criticism (Australia).

When Elly – our eldest daughter – was seven, she disappeared into the bowels of Flinders Street station. I was not initially worried; our family has a cross-generational knack for spatial awareness; an unerring ability to locate ourselves whatever the terrain. Confident that she’d be able to orientate herself and fold herself back down to our schedule, I left the station and spent an hour or so at the National Gallery staring at the space where the Weeping Woman used to be.

But an hour passed, and Eleanor didn’t re-appear. Continue reading

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SOMA Towers – Archive Material

The following is a guest editorial by prolific critic and reviewer, Simon Harrison – originally published in Critical Australian Review of Architectural Criticism (Australia).

One of the three proposed CBD towers – Courtesy of G&C + Wolfgang Sievers (1971)

…Yes. I agree. It is entirely possible that future generations will regard our actions with contempt. But, gentlemen, we need to steel ourselves against such fears. In the end, we must do what is required to maintain the Australian way of life, the safety of our cities and the prosperity and strength of our great nation. It may be monstrous, but it must be done!”

Lieutenant General Alexander Seddon, Transcript, Australian Commonwealth Police Wiretap. September, 1970

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The Refugee Family Unit (RFU)

The following article, written by architecture critic Simon Harrison, originally appeared in Architecture Review Asia Pacific issue 124: Architecture & The Body, published in March/April 2012. G&C’s design statement for the RFU’s can be found here.
Luna Park to be retrofitted as a refugee processing centre.

The day will come when rising sea levels will enable Australia-bound asylum seekers to sail right into the nightmarish maw of Melbourne’s Luna Park. Here, within the fortified bounds of the famed Scenic Railway, it is proposed they should acclimatise to urban life before being processed for integration into the Australian suburbs. Of course, unless you’re seeking asylum from New Zealand or Tasmania, Melbourne may seem an impractical entry point. Nevertheless, under a new refugee management proposal, there may be no other way in.

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One of the crawlers that would comprise the new Capital (1973)

The recent Capathetical Competition has sparked interest within the firm, and led us, once more, back to the archives.

Ideas of Australian identity and Australian ownership are becoming increasingly tortuous. Our major cities are some of the largest in the world – not simply in terms of gross area, but in population. A long-standing debate has centred on our continued ability to provide sustainable stewardship of our natural resources; on the actual ‘carrying capacity’ of our territory. The entire debate is idealogically coloured – the lowest population estimates are couched in a vision of a hyper-fragile landscape, ill-equipped to handle even two-dozen million on the fertile coastal margins – the high estimates appear to be hangovers of the late-colonial era; positing a nation of a hundred million; a global player and a bulwark against expansionist attitudes from the nebulous asian north.

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The Pinnacle

Design Architect: Frank Godsell
Project Team: Frank Godsell, Dmitri Massinof

You think Laika was lonely?

Pinnacle at the close of its first decade.

Spare a thought for poor Gagarin – twenty days in a tiny, claustrophobic capsule, with only a purloined balalaika for company. Twenty days before that first, almost inaudible report as another metal bauble nosed its way into the crooked gap between the steel sphere of the life-support capsule and the eight-faced jewel of the retro-rocket.

The Amerikano, Alan Shephard, in the tiny conical flask of Freedom 7. He punched through to Gagarin’s cosy coffin in a matter of minutes. Neither of them were de-orbiting – spot welds and oxy-acetlyne cuts would work well enough to hold in the air.

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Tadosa – Cities on the Edge

Not all of our projects are local. For the last month, we’ve been working alongside a number of parties in the curation and framing of a body of research into ‘edge’ conditions in ‘edge-states.’

The liminal (and near) nations of Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Somaliland have a chequered history of collaboration. Drawn together by a shared inability to gain all but the most cursory recognition from the UN, and consolidated into a sort of loose body of mutual co-operation and support, they remain marked by stark political, geographic and demographic differences. Transnistria is defined by a heavily industrialised economy, but mounting debts and a slowly dwindling population; Somaliland is marked by rapid population growth and some of the few functioning public institutions in the broader Horn-of-africa region.

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The Circle City – Archive Material

Detail of concertina join and segment control tower

Somewhere, mouldering away in the State Government Archives, are row upon row of near-featureless filing cabinets, dating from the glory-days of the Melbourne Metropolitan Tramways Board. For the main, they contain little more than the dull minutiae of everyday, bureaucratic activity – minutes, missives, memos. But one cluster holds something dramatically different; thousands of tightly coiled wax paper documents.

It’s this latter collection that we really should be thankful for. While G&C’s local archives are prey to the exigencies of conversion – of transfer from blueprint to any number of mutually incompatible software formats, on any number of broken or compromised media – this collection preserves the original blueprints of the trams and systems that have colonised our city for the last century.

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Press Release – The Melbourne Wall

In rapid response to recent ‘Occupy Melbourne’ demonstrations, prominent Melbourne architects Godsell & Corrigan have been engaged to reconstruct a relic of the city’s urban past – The Melbourne Wall – in order to contain growing civil unrest in the city’s inner suburbs.

Beginning on Friday 21st October 2011 as a police barricade, riot-squad officers were quickly replaced with temporary mesh fencing and will soon be superseded again by a triple-brick wall of the highest architectural order.

The beginnings of the Melbourne Wall formed quickly in response to 'Occupy Melbourne' protests

What started as a peaceful demonstration quickly escalated into full-blown conflict as Lord Mayor Robert Doyle instructed riot police to forcibly remove protestors from the city square. Some commentators suspect Mr Doyle of orchestrating the conflict in order to lay the foundations for his vision to reconstruct The Wall.

Speculation of this nature begins in December 2008, when Mr Doyle made a call to arms on Radio 3AW to keep the ‘bogans’ out of Melbourne, saying ‘I don’t want the city to be a bogan magnet’. Many wondered at the time what measures he would take. Now, with mounting pressure to contain an unruly mob, he may have found the perfect reason to build the long-awaited ‘Bogan Wall’.

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The Melbourne Wall

Design Architect: Frank Godsell
Project Team: Patricia Corrigan & Frank Godsell

In response to the growing civil unrest sparked by the ‘Occupy Melbourne’ demonstrations, Godsell & Corrigan have been engaged by local government to create a wall that will ensure ongoing peace in the City of Melbourne. In these uncertain economic times and in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution, we feel a new kind of wall is required – a wall that not only divides, but one that inspires the city’s disenfranchised.

The proposed plan for the new Melbourne Wall

Indeed, the new Melbourne Wall will be a beautiful instrument of division within the urban landscape. Drawing influence from the masters of German Brick Expressionism, the Wall employs a decorative Flemish Bond to bring texture and life to the greyest corners of Melbourne.

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Circle-City Tram

Design Architect: Patricia Corrigan
Project Team: Frank Godsell & Patricia Corrigan

June, 1980. Melbourne’s city circle tunnel, grossly over-budget and years overdue, finally approaches completion. Sadly, this belated finish would also put paid to one of the city’s most novel additions to the public transport network.

Engineer's Specifications - Cortocelleli Partners, 1978

In late 1978, Godsell & Corrigan had been invited to design an interim tactic toward the provision of a ‘city-circle’ – a method of transport that would anticipate and formalize approaches for the slowly approaching city-loop. Their solution was – and remains – one of the strongest and simplest urban gestures to ever be employed at an infrastructural level; a 6 kilometre long interconnected chain of carriages, an endless, continuous tram encircling the city centre.

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The Australian Pavilion – Venice

Design Architect: Frank Godsell
Project Team: Patricia Corrigan & Frank Godsell

In close consultation with the Australasian Arts Council, Godsell & Corrigan have designed the next incarnation of the Australian Pavilion in Venice. This project continues our interest in the confluence of natural and man-made artefacts, drawing inspiration from the sprawling roofscapes of McMansion suburbia to create an icon reminiscent of the monolithic heart at the centre of our great nation: Uluru.

The New Australian Pavilion along the giardini canal in Venice

Our pavilion concerns itself equally with both the beautiful and the grotesque, pervasive as they are in the Australian psyche. It captures the country’s natural splendour and its mythology, yet doesn’t forget the expanding suburban waistlines that threaten to crowd our natural treasures. Dangerously, it examines the hypothetical moment when Uluru itself is colonised by suburban interests. Not a project of optimistic speculation, but rather a careful look at who we are today and what it is we may become; a fitting backdrop for our nation’s artists and architects to examine the most pressing issues of our age.

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Press Release – Australian Pavilion, Venice

An Australian Annexe to the U.S. Pavilion

In a limited design competition between the two directors of Godsell and Corrigan, the Australasian Arts Council has arrived at a winning scheme for the new Australian Pavilion in Venice.

Each year, the pavilion will be used to exhibit Australia’s most talented artists and architects as part of Venice’s alternating art and architecture biennales. The existing pavilion, generously designed by Cox Architects in 1988 for no fees and with very limited resources, has become outdated, underperforming as a venue suitable to represent Australia’s world class talent.

In recent years, the AAC has come under increasing pressure to run an open competition for all Australian architecture practices to consider what our future pavilion might be. However due to fading vision, the AAC’s jury decided to limit the competition to just two practitioners with an established track record.

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Reconstructive Icons

Design Architect: Patricia Corrigan
Project Team: Frank Godsell & Patricia Corrigan

Unused Scheme - 2006

Following the collapse of the 9th Apostle in 2005 – despite common assumptions, there were only ever nine sandstone stacks – the Board of Victorian Regional Tourism toyed with the idea of reconstructing the crumbled monolith. Building upon existing religious nomenclature, and contemporary fascination with what would prove to be Australia’s first Catholic Saint, an ill fated proposal to reconstruct the edifice in the likeness of Mary McKillop was floated.

It was, for very obvious reasons, quietly shelved.

G&C prepared this image, alongside a much more serious proposal for a short term eco-hotel that would sensitively re-assemble the ruined structure.

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