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The PM’s Reading Room : Week 06

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Ryan Robertson

Political architecture

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Swanston Academic Building - Design Hub review

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Extroversion


International precedent

Political Architectur ARIRANG MASS GAMES North Korea

AIATSIS

Canberra, ACT ARM

NUREMBERG RALLY

Nuremberg, Germany Albert Speer

THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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re THE REICHSTAG

Berlin, Germany Norman Foster

MELBOURNE SHRINE

St Kilda Road, Melbourne ARM

VIETNAM MEMORIAL

Washington DC, USA Maya Lin

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ARIRANG MASS GAMES North Korea

Using people can provide the most powerful of architectures. Communist state North Korea doesn’t usually freely admit foreigners across their borders, except to show their unity and strength through sheer number in the mass games. It is a statement of conformity, but also resoluteness and pride that they actively seek to exhibit. The highly regimented performances are a manipulated exhibition of cultural values which dilute the individual into the whole.

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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AIATSIS Canberra, ACT

Juxtapostion. Drawing together of buildings with potent architectural symbolism to create a new singular entity. The new building manipulates the understood historical and contextual meanings of the referred buildings in order to pursue a new architectural definition with vigour. In particular, AIATSIS shifts colour palettes and uses metaphor to give hints toward the new meaning. The knot motif figuratively ‘ties’ these manipulated external references together.

THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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NUREMBERG RALLY Nuremberg, Germany

Known as the ‘Cathedral of Light’, Albert Speer, using annual rally of the Nazi Party created a monolithic fortress made purely of light. It is the immense scale and the context of the installation that provides it such substantial political weight. The white light pierces the black of the night sky with such force that the beams could be likened to stone columns demarcating the largest political chamber the world has seen; and therefore the most powerful. The light continues infinity upward with ethereal qualities, suggestive of totalitarian control.

THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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THE REICHSTAG Nuremberg, Germany

The architecture of the Reichstag is about learning from the past and humility and what goes with it. It does not seek to disguise, conceal or remove dark elements of the countries past, but makes a plain example of them, and in the new glazed cupola offers hope for the future. Foster dealt with “issues of identity, history, memory and symbolism”. The new Reichstag symbolises a “German future neither overshadowed by, not willing to forget the national past.” It harnesses an inherent weakness in humans; humility, and forces us to confront that weakness, and then allows us to ascend (literally) past it.

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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THE SHRINE St Kilda Road, Melbourne

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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VIETNAM WAR MEMORIAL Washington DC, USA Political architecture is not solely about buildings. The earth as a form-giver can provide a powerful built statement. There are no signs, no statistics or other information, just the names and the purity of the descent into the earth. The sense of isolation heightens the sensory experience. There are explicit political references, too. The two axis’ “coalesce into a panorama buttressed by symbols of American liberty — the imposing tribute to Abraham Lincoln and the obelisk that forms the Washington Monument”. But in between, the Vietnam Memorial is a “humble and transcendent admittance of battles lost”. It plays to our sense of fear, remorse and loss.

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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The Swanston Academic Building is a vigorous and chaotic, yet rhythmic and choreographed conglomeration of contemporary urban spaces, definitively about ideas. From the exterior, the façade oscillates around the site and is quite unapologetic in seeking to take advantage of certain vistas of the surrounding city; nearly every aspect has some sort of aperture. In this sense, the building appears confused in its zeal for addressing its context. Equally, the façade of brightly-coloured anodized aluminum panels seeks conversation with activity on the street, but perhaps too overtly for a response. Outside at ground level SAB is willing to accommodate its users, with expansions and contractions along the footpath. There are a few unexpected delights; a ground level café on A’Beckett Street, a series of bulbous rain-diverting covers over the main entrance, and a neat alcove for the sought-after bicycle parking space. THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

On the inside the building is no less stimulating. There are a myriad of spaces: different shapes, variously furnished, garnished with bright colours and a forest of textures. Where the occupant asks a question, the SAB invariably responds with a selection of answers. It seems that internally the SAB seeks to provide not just flexibility and variation in the learning environment, but also simulation designed to inspire. SAB morphs the traditional notion of the lecture theatrebased educational institution into the RMIT ideology of the campus within the city.

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BUILDING REVIEW

1. Public face 2. Bike parking 3. Street level cafe 4. Entrance rain cover 5. Materiality delineates space 6. Public face THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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5. EXOVERSION


The RMIT Design Hub stands on the corner of Swanston and Victoria Streets with a calculated nonchalance towards its iconic location. It holds the corner and both street edges with its sheer nine floor façade of 600mm sandblasted glass discs, uncompromising in terms of generosity to the public realm, unlike the SAB. The anonymous translucent discs present the façade to the street with a uniformity that seems to offer little in the way of engagement with the surrounding urban environment. Similarly, from within the building views are moderated by the discs and; offset by 700mm, a glass curtain wall. The façade is in effect a mediation device, intended to draw attention to itself with an air of restrained reverence. THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

Both the interior and the exterior use a limited palette of materials; steel and glass predominantly, which seeks to project a purity of form in the building. Public space on the exterior is limited to a sunken courtyard accessed from Victoria Street which leads to the rear of the site. In this sense it is almost hidden from ‘public’ viewsheds, and is very much subservient to the monumental form of the building above. The space is un-landscaped and lined dutifully with the same bluestone of Melbourne’s CBD footpaths.

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BUILDING REVIEW

1. View to outside 2. Steel grating walls 3. 700mm offset facade 4. Sunken courtyard 5. Glass disc facade 6. Public face THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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The sum of parts in the Swanston Academic Building, and in the Design Hub derive clear ideologies that are close to opposites. The SAB actively seeks to engage the surrounding urban environment, and its intimate interior spaces hint at a shift in the methods and modes of a tertiary level learning environment. It provides flexibility and choice to its users, and promotes the interests of the individual. On the other hand, the Design Hub’s abstract façade and sparing material palette does not lead itself to urban sociability. The spaces of the Design Hub are monumental in their proportions and the programs pure in their intentions; there is little flexibility offered here. The objective of public space afforded by Design Hub is moot and perhaps not relevant in terms of being ‘public’ space. The building is highly refined and as a result, requires its users to have a very regimented purpose. THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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EXHIBITION

FUNCTION COLLECTION COLLECTION FOYER

ADMIN CAFE

COLLECTION

FUNCTION EXHIBITION

ADMIN MEETINGS

IT / AUDIO VISUAL

MASSING STUDY 1

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FUNCTION MEETINGS

EXHIBITION COLLECTION

ADMIN

FOYER CAFE

EXHIBITION COLLECTION

MEETINGS

FUNCTION ADMIN IT COLLECTION

MASSING STUDY 2

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ADMINISTRATION

AUDIO VISUAL SPACE

EXHIBITION SPACE

CAFE/RETAIL

FOYER

FUNCTION ROOM

COLLECTION

MEETING ROOMS

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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THE PM's READING ROOM // 06

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HARGREAVES STREET (NORTH) ELEVATION

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END WEEK SIX//

Ryan Robertson_PM Library_Wk6  

Ryan Robertson_PM Library_Wk6

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