TCP. the Australian Eijibassy I'llilcliiig in Washington DC;
below, 17 I Coll;I\s Street. Melbourne
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111is way we nave a skin Inat works willI 111e building's orientation, and with its functions. " Whittle striaied architecture in Manchester and the Southern California Instihite of Architecture before
"It was the best-performing
contribution can be difficult. In a 2004 publication celebrating its Isd" anniversary, Philip Coad, professor and deputy dean in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne,
stressed the firm's profound jinpact on Melbourne, making his way to Bales Smart in Melbourne via a stint with Herzog & De Meuroii ill Basal. He leads tlie office building in the country: argtiably Australia's most varied architectural city. The practice 11ad often been identified with the Melbourne office Philip Vivian helms the Sydney office - from its home at one of 111e practice's most a light-filled workplace with establishment, Coad wrote; but just as often it had been a champion of "aesthetic progress and the avant-garde". important legacy buildings. TITis is an elegant 1958 There is probably no better example than the early (for tower clad in a glazed curtain, one offhe firstcommercial views Into greenery. At1stralia) rationalist-modernist tower in which I'm btiildings of its kind in Allstralia, all Nicholsoii Street. standing with Whittle. Looking across the skyline "At 20 storeys it broke the neightlimitiii Melbourne towards the twin sandstone prongs of 35 Collins Street at the time, " Ile says as we SLITvey a skyline clustered (designed by Bares Smart in collaboration with I'M witli Bales Smart buildings froin every era. "MeIbotime, which at the time was a coherent Victoriant-eraj city, Working in Gothic revival, Second Einpire, Neo- Pei), I note one of its newest contributions, 35 Spring was so concerned with neight 11niforinity Inat the tower Classical, Scottisli Baronial and Italianate styles, 111e Street, nearing completion on the corner of F1inders could only be built Ilere, just outside the grid. At the firm of Reed & Barnes defined Melbourne's booin Lane. A medium-rise residential tower with a warpandlime it represented the best-performing office building arcliitecture. A1nong its contributions to the inner- weft aluminum-framed heade, it is designed to evoke in the country: a very beautiful light-filled workplace 11th all fabric are 1/1e Independent Church on the corner tile nearby garment trade. of Colliiis and RiisselI Streets, 111e adjacent Scats As Whittle sees it, the firm has expressed a with views into greenery. " Bales Smart has enjoyed a continuous corporate life Church, the Royal Exhibition Biiildiiig (site of the continuous commitment to the public realm and to since its founder, Cornwall-born losepli Reed, inaugural federal parliament in 1901), 'rrades Hall in humanistic ideals. "What was important as far back as the creation of the State Library in 1853 was a library established an architectural firm in 1853 and promptly Lygon Street and 111e Melbonrne Town Hall. won tlie competition to build tile peaimented Now, after Lintold generation al baton clianges, the with added exhibition and conference facilities; with MeIboiime Public Library, now the Slate Library of firni has expanded from its Melbourne power base to the creation of a truly public space to engage with a Victoria, witl, its procession of Corinthian columns. In take on an increasing number of national and changing world. It was very idealistic. The firm's 1862 Ile forged a parinership with Frederick Barrier. international projects. Trying to assess its long terni founder was interested in democmtising knowledge, 46 .
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r Clockwise from left. the interior and exterior
of The Royal Children's Hospital. Me IboLime; the amuin of the ACT govern!nent office building and Constitution Place. Canberra . ,,. ,. ,.
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creativity and science aria bringing that process under the roof of a very strong civic building, It was really about the creation of a new type of society. "
In the post-war decades the firm under OSborn MCCutcheon decided it was time to embrace the
architectural language of modernism with its own often 1110pian - ideals of social betterment. Batss Smart retains something if this idealistic tone, even though these ideals find differentlbrms of expression. "Our practice still has a connection to ideals tlIat lie beyond the scope of mere building, " insists Whittle, the design director for Melbourne's new Royal Children's Hospital, winner of the 212 World Architecture Award for health. "If you shoot forward to that project, you see
"Our practice still has a connection to ideals that lie
beyond the scope of mere building. "
practice was never, says Vivian, engaged with postmodernist pastiche. Alla it is not, now, concerned with "highly stylised forms" or swizzle stick towers Asked to nominate one of his favourite contemporary
architects, he proposes Luridgaard & Tranberg, designers of the Royal Danish Playhouse on the harbourftont. His modernist hero is another Dane: 111e
whimsical functional ist Ame Iacobsen, best known
outside architecture circles for his much imitated Egg Vivian's design for Canberra's new Constitution Place development bears comparison with the new Australian embassy in Washington: both are capital city legacy buildings on sites saturated in a wider national significance. Where Whittle's Australian embassy
it was designed to completely deinstitutionalise the expression today in a concern with the way architecture strongly evokes the Australian landscape, Vivian s traditional healthcare model by bringing in the public affects the brain. We still believe that architecture can Canberrabuildingprojectis enriched by an engagement as well as mixed-use functions such as hotels and retail, be vimious; it can improve people's lives. "
with Walter Burley Criffin's Canberra masterplan.
connecting with the Melbourne zoo and aquarium, While Whittle is keenly interested in the way When Vivian spoke at the launch of Constitution Cultural and natural experiences - landscape and light architecture and design affect mood and wellbeing, Place earlier this year he invoked the practice's proud - are blended together to create a machine for healing. " Sydney director Philip Vivian, when we meet in Bates heritage of civic architecture and its connection to the Whittle's Tiff on the old Corbusian modernist Smarts Surry Hills offices, is focused on the "layers" "poigiiant moments that have shaped our nation". More Inaxim, "A house is a machine for living", again involved in a considered contemporary building: the than 130yeaisago Reed & Barnes were shaping boomtime
highlights the idealist grain running through the firm's interplay of the rational, contextual, human and poetic. Melbourne in a kaleidoscope of styles expressing the long corporate history. "Tl, e sense of idealism expressed Bales Smart regards itself as a boutique firm that city's optimism* and their most optimistic btiilding of all with the State Library of Victoria and domed reading does big work. With five directors who are equal housed the first fedeml parliament. The practice has room Ia later Bales Smart additionl, as well as the painers, and 250 architects in two offices* it attempts to never, it seems, lost its determination to express the s in I
exhibition building in the late 19'" century, finds maintain a studio Tather than a corporate ethos, The of the moment in buildings designed to last an age. . w, .E