Category Archives: Research

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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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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