SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1999
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Books


Noting new books at Architext

BELL: THE LIFE WORK OF GUILFORD BELL, ARCHITECT 1912-1992 AUSTRAL EDEN: 200 YEARS OF AUSTRALIAN ARCHITECTURE
Patrick Bingham-Hall, Watermark Press, $55.

Maybe magazines should ask articulate photographers to write about the buildings they shoot. Lenspersons get to know them intimately—not just the downpipe in the wrong place but the exact behaviour of the light across at least one and usually several days, and which spaces and forms don’t shape up in the camera’s eye. Also, they’ve scrutinised many more contemporary buildings than most architects and scholars; and some of them have studied architecture and read stacks of history. Certainly Patrick Bingham-Hall, who has photographed half-a-dozen cover stories for AA recently, holds confident and informed opinions about the quality of the buildings he exposes on film— and this book shows that he’s a good writer. Austral Eden, his first title in a diverse series of books coming up, is a wonderful pictorial record of his favourite Australian buildings; beginning with Greenway’s Hyde Park Barracks of 1819 and continuing in a relentless rhythm of one image (mainly duotones) centered on every page. Under each photo is the credit information and a couple of lines of comment in Bingham-Hall’s laconically pithy and ironic style. His introductory essay shows loose intimacy with a solid base of research across the country and back through history. The graphic design, also by Bingham-Hall, is simple and elegant but lacks the masterstroke quality which appears in his ‘hero’ photos. However, the aerial cover shot of Sydney Harbour, with a patch of sunlight precisely targeting the Opera House, is luscious

TOUCH THIS EARTH LIGHTLY: GLENN MURCUTT IN HIS OWN WORDS NEW AUSTRALIA STYLE
George Michell with photography by John Gollings, Thames & Hudson, $65.

This book is the outcome of a slight, and in key ways fortunate, mismatch between one of the world’s leading art, architecture and archeology scholars (Dr Michell, a former UMelbourne lecturer now based in London), one of the world’s leading architecture photographers (Gollings, once a fellow student of Michell’s) and a British publisher wanting to fill the ‘Australia’ slot in its popular series of glamorous volumes on national modes of domestic design ( French Style, Italian Style, etc). The outcome is much more architectural, less decorative and rustic, in its character than either the companion volumes of this series or the previous Australian Stylebooks produced by Betsy Walter and Jean Wright (a few years ago) and Babette Hayes with April Hershey (1970). As a result, Australian architecture gets a timely boost in the international mainstream design publishing market. New Australia Style begins with a much more perceptive, imaginative and linguistically athletic essay, by Michell, than is usual in the series (although French designer Andrée Putman wrote a witty and cluey intro for French Style). Gollings’ photos lack the sentimental styling and lighting strategies which are usual in interiors publications—his real skill is manipulating lenses and filters to make legendary images of forms. Again, though, the Australian architectural scene benefits from his involvement. He travelled around the country to shoot a remarkable millennial collection of houses, which will be of great interest to scholars over coming decades. The graphic design (done in London) is more mid-brow decorative (and not including drawings) than is appreciated by architects, but that will help it attract a brace of lay fans who find Phaidon books too intimidating: again a good thing for the scene here. Finally, this book establishes convincingly that Australian residential architecture is fabulous; let’s not be blinkered about its quality

INTERIOR CITIES

MELBOURNE ARCHITECTURE
Philip Goad with photography by Patrick Bingham-Hall, Watermark Press, $35.

Following the successful Sydney Architecture guidebook, UMelbourne senior lecturer Dr Philip Goad delivers a vast quantity of his scholarship to, for the first time, an ISBN-numbered volume under his name. This is the serious publication debut which Norman Day demanded during a spat with Goad in AA’s Letters columns a few years ago. Ironically, Day was the author originally commissioned to write this book: Goad took over the task in early 1998.
Although au courant readers are bound to spot a few errors, the general quality of the research, writing, design and multi-layered format is superb. With this manual, Goad confirms his reputation as one of Australia’s most valuable architectural historians and scholars—and photographer Patrick Bingham-Hall should also be commended for the voluntary photography which has made this manual possible. One on South-East Queensland comes next

COCKATOO ISLAND: SYDNEY’S HISTORIC DOCKYARD

MANUALS
Who’s Who in Property, Twelfth Edition 1999, Mahlab Information, $350 or $262.50 to members of the Property Council of Australia.

Although Architecture Australia is wrongly titled in this hefty block of listings, we suggest all architectural firms who are serious about broadening their business should own a copy. Contact details and descriptive information are given for developers, investors, finance sources, councils, the media, etc.
Forest-Friendly Building Timbers, edited by Alan T. Gray and Anne Hall, Earth Garden , $9.95.
In his Foreword, Alan Gray claims that there’s no longer any need to use new, native timbers for building. He and co-author Hall then offer a swag of product recommendations, lists of species to avoid and low-down on how to build with plantation-grown and recycled timbers. Despite the lurid cover, it’s worth putting in the product library
Notices by Davina Jackson. Architext bookshops are at Tusculum, Sydney, ph 02 9356 2022 and 41 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, ph 03 9650 3474

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