The Sydney Film Festival starts tomorrow June 5th 2013.

Andreas Dalsgaard’s extraordinary documentary, Cities on Speed – Bogotá Change, will be showing at the Sydney Film Festival Hub (in the Lower Town Hall) this Saturday June 8th between 12-2pm. The documentary charts how the once violent and corrupt Colombian capital was transformed into a peaceful model city. This is a story about (the transformative power of) ideas as much as it is a story of pragmatic economic and social change.

Stephen will be speaking with the film maker, Andreas Dalsgaard after the screening.

Cities on Speed – Bogotá Change  was selected for Reflecting Images at IDFA and won the audience award at IndieLisboa in Portugal.

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An excellent new book on the role of public space in Sydney was recently launched by the Historic Houses Trust, now Sydney Living Museums.

The book is written by architects Peter John Cantrill and Philip Thalis and is based on more than 10 years of critical observation and practical engagement with the way the city (especially public space) is designed and developed. The book is a compendium of drawings with texts by local historians, urbanists and architects (all of whom have a passionate interest in the city that doesn’t shy away from intellectual discussion).

Stephen Collier wrote one of the contributing essays,  titled “The Territorial Floor: The Role of Architectural Drawing”.   The essay commences with a simple observation about how thinking informs drawing (and design) by the late Barcelona urbanist Manuel de Solá-Morales (originally originally published in Perspecta No 25): “To draw is to select, to select is to interpret, and to interpret is to propose”. 

Stephen began his career in Solá-Morales’ Barcelona studio, and was saddened that he never got to see the finished book. The associated exhibition “Public Sydney: Stop Look Live” is on at the Museum of Sydney until September 8, 2013.

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Stephen recently enjoyed speaking to the creators of  Hello Bookcase, Leigh Russell and Kathy Luu. While he and Leigh sat at the meeting table and spoke about books (the passion of collecting as well as reading and scanning), Kathy wandered around the office taking a series of wonderful photos that capture the mood, colour and light of where we work. The conversation flowed easily and the photos beautifully captured some of this spontaneity.

The hardest part was narrowing down the list of favourite books to five. In hindsight the (mainly) architectural content of those books need to be counterbalanced by several more. These books reflect his PhD explorations into the relationship between identity and architecture:

The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity 
by Daniel Mendelsohn

by Robert Hughes

Van Diemen’s Land
by James Boyce

Selected Poems
by Federico García Lorca

Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth
by Gitta Sereny

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What if the British had embraced indigenous culture in 1788?

Kamberra = meeting point or woman’s breasts


The central question that populates the work of indigenous artist Michael Cook in his beautiful and enchanting series of “Broken Dreams” is quite simple: what if the British, instead of completely and summarily dismissing Aboriginal people and their culture, took a more open approach to their people, culture and knowledge systems?

This art work became our guiding motivation for the Lodge on the Lake Ideas Competition in Canberra, some of which can be seen on the Stephen Collier Architects website. Taking the image of the semi naked Aboriginal woman wearing a French sailors hat, and a parrot hovering above (referencing the artist’s own history), we created a mix of forms, both formal and informal, that are intertwined with colourful gardens of native and exotic plants.

Using Cook’s compelling series of propositions, the “what if ” of art, history, culture and identity become the ‘what if” of a distinctly Australian form of design. Conciliation in 1788 would have created a complimentary mix of architectural variations and distortions. This country would be one where the chances of an indigenous or non-indigenous Prime Minister would have been the same at every election since Federation. And Australia would now have an equal meeting of cultures and (cultural) influence.

It’s never too late to dream.

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What is up and what is down? Two thirds of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans. The antipode of Sydney is in the north Atlantic, situated somewhere off the west coast of Spain and North Africa. Of the 7 billion inhabitants that populate the earth how many could be said to be the right way up (is it just the Russians)? And does this mean that all the rest of us are either upside down or prostrate on our sides?  What would the centre of the earth look like (if it were ever possible for us to reach it and see it)?

Victor Kossakovsky’s beautiful and elegiac film ¡Vivan Las Antipodas!shown recently at the Sydney Film Festival, presents these imponderable questions by poetically observing the antipodes of Entre Rios in Argentina (Shanghai), rural Russia (Patagonia), northern Spain (a beach in New Zealand) and Hawaii (Botswana).

It ends with this wonderful image: The outline of a man standing on his hands slowly becomes apparent in the distance; his limbs are outstretched into the shape of a star figure. The camera pans around 180º and our perception of both him and the earth changes.  He is no longer standing on his hands, but appears to be hanging. Curiously, this upside down view is physically more accurate than the head to toe way of seeing things that we are used to.

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The Lavender Bay Boatshed is getting ever closer to completion. The builders continue to bring their amazing diligence, expertise and craftsmanship to the job; combining elements of both the new and the old, the rough with the smooth, polished with matte, and deftly working between the different materials of timber and steel, stucco lustro, coloured concrete, glass and glass tiles.


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As reported recently, Stephen Collier Architects and the artist Kim Connerton have made the first cut of the City of Sydney Laneways Project 2012. As the project is a collaboration, it is both natural and desirable that we lend different interpretations to what we are doing. These are based on different ways of thinking and practice. This applies to our respective starting points as well as how we imagine the work evolving. We’ve described the project from the perspective of Stephen’s influences and interests.  It’s now time to describe it from Kim’s:

The project titled, PAIRED GOLD, examines a pleasure filled space on Wilmont Lane alongside the grime and filth on George Street to both use and transcend the urban environment. Connerton’s entry point to PAIRED GOLD depicts another spatial experience that her pre-birth spatial study engages in.

pre-birth spatial study, was an installation art/architectural project shown at Gaffa in 2011, that included small scale models and photographic renderings for public art/ inhabitable spaces proposed for NYC and Sydney. The photo below is of one of the models from that exhibition.

Connerton is interested in exploring spatial strategies that can induce the feelings and experiences of beauty, such as floating and being elevated (physically and metaphysically).

We both hope we get the opportunity to do the project.

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It is no secret that the City of Sydney is trying to change perceptions about the city’s laneways. The Laneways Art Project has been running for four years and this year we’re excited to be making our own interpretation of how public art can intersect with architecture.

In collaboration with Sydney via New York artist Kim Connerton, we have been shortlisted to go into the next round of Sydney’s Laneway Art Project 2012.

Titled PAIRED GOLD, inspiration is drawn from Roni Horn’s work which subsequently became a source of inspiration (and direct acknowledgement) by Felix Gonzalez Torres. Both artists were exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 2009 in an exhibition similarly titled Paired, Gold. The pairing of Gonzalez Torres and Horn speaks of joy and loss, as well as a shared aesthetic. Ours wishes to evoke the same sense of joy, in the grittier surrounds of a southern Sydney CBD laneway, for people to reflect on the fleeting nature of beauty in their own private lives as well as the public space of the street.

Please keep your fingers crossed that we make it through to implementation.

Image courtesy of DailyServing



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blue city

Last nights architectural modelling workshop in the aboriginal caves of the australian museum was a great success. A bustling crowd of boisterous event-goers produced an architecturally diverse city in blue foam.

Rem Koolhaas’ (OMA) ‘City of the Captive Globe Project’ provided thematic inspiration as each would-be architect took on the task of modelling their ideal home.

There were some curious responses to the brief, but the blue foam and hot wire cutters turned out to be a great medium for self-expression.

Thanks again to Kaldor Public Arts Projects and their Parlour program, and Jurassic Lounge
Read more about it in our previous post

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