Le Corbusier made white buildings famous and the trend found its way to the US where Eisenman and others found it irresistible right up to the end of the 20th century. Robin Gibson’s Queensland Art Gallery, Ken Woolley’s Fisher Library at the University of Sydney (his State Office Block is another) and the High Court of Australia by Colin Madigan in Canberra are examples of Australian architects who like to work in concrete.
It is a great material to work with and, of course, if it was good enough for the Romans… The facility of being able to shape a building or structure any way you can imagine has got to be empowering. See matching concrete planters. The trouble with concrete is that that it doesn’t have good tension, so steel is called upon to allow the concrete to be pristine and shapely… Good job, Steel. Nice to meet you under (and we do mean “under”) these circumstances. For just under the surface of every concrete building (or slab) lies a veritable forest of steel reinforcement rods. It just happens that engineers have the happy privilege of figuring out how big, how many and where and we’re glad to have them do it.
A Stranger in a Foreign Land
Seeing a white building without any flare is like sitting down in a fine restaurant at a table missing its candles, napkins and wine glasses. It’s just not all the way “there” somehow. It’s amazing to see how concrete can be manipulated and many people, outside of the world of architecture, can appreciate its utility and beauty as a given. When you think about it, though, all alone, you realize that it’s akin to Uluru: anomalous.
The Ties that Bind
Concrete doesn’t need much, but the difference is spelled out in contrasts. The severe lines of building and platform against the feathered lines of Australian ferns and soft, hanging plants is just enough to make concrete at home in the earth.
In this example, the lines are quirky… like the owners, perhaps? It’s an interesting structure and sits confidently, particularly with the concrete tiles that stretch out into the grass, making the house look intentionally precocious.
The tall fern, not yet roof height, are the perfect foil for the hypertensive roof line. The stone table with greenery to dress it adds a little earthy weight to the setting. This whole design just shows you how well concrete meets green.