sir norman foster

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TARRAWARRA GALLERY IN THE YARRA: Art in the landscape

TARRAWARRA GALLERY IN THE YARRA: Art in the landscape

Out here in this bleached-brown landscape the wine is fine, and so are the views. Gazing across the rolling Yarra Valley less than an hour from inner-city Melbourne, the eye can take in columns of grape vines marching in orderly lines over low ridges, expensively manicured golf courses, and huge steroid-expanded homes running to many...

The Dordogne, France: Where centuries roll back

The Dordogne, France: Where centuries roll back

Half an hour out of Bordeaux I stop the car so we can gasp at the beauty of a crumbling chateau on a picture perfect hillside. Ten minutes later I do the same above a valley deliberately posing for a photograph. A few kilometres further it’s for an old stone house by the roadside. The day is clear and radiant blue, the breeze warm, and...

ALAIN DE BOTTON ESSAY (2006): The Sin of Being a Populariser

ALAIN DE BOTTON ESSAY (2006): The Sin of Being a Populariser

As someone with an amateur’s enthusiasm for architecture and design, I was disappointed to miss the recent talk by the English essayist Alain de Botton, author of the popular book The Architecture of Happiness. I call him an essayist because that is what he is: as someone who travels often and writes about it I had previously...

ESSAY ON DESIGN (2007): The Internationalism of Idiocy

ESSAY ON DESIGN (2007): The Internationalism of Idiocy

In an ideal world good design should be like fine wine and excellent food: only noticeable by its absence. But we live with ordinary chardonnays, indifferent meals, and abusive or annoyingly awful design. As one who enjoys travel I am accustomed to airline seats (I don’t care what the PR spin is, they are still uncomfortable in economy)...

THE BUILDING BLOCK OF CIVILIZATION (2005): Thoughts From Elsewhere

THE BUILDING BLOCK OF CIVILIZATION (2005): Thoughts From Elsewhere

Evening in Barcelona in a small cafe near the old Cathedral. I have spent the afternoon underground and now, over rich red wine and tapas, my thoughts have turned to the humble brick. Today I have touched these ancient building blocks. My back is resting against a wall which is perhaps a century old and so, seated by myself in an unfamiliar...

LIVERPOOL AND AUCKLAND (2009): A tale of two architectures

LIVERPOOL AND AUCKLAND (2009): A tale of two architectures

As the vessel pulls away from the pier, the soundtrack is predictable: the 1964 hit by Gerry and the Pacemakers Ferry Cross the Mersey, Gerry Marsden’s paean to this, his hometown of Liverpool. What is less expected on this short trip across the River Mersey and back is the commentary which sketches in the fascinating history of the...

EUR, Italy: The facades of fascism

EUR, Italy: The facades of fascism

The view at sunset from these steps is spectacular. Old men have gathered to smoke cigarettes and silently watch the orange orb sink below a horizon punctuated by distant spires and domes. The view the other way is more problematic. And pretty ugly. This is EUR -- Exposizione Universale di Roma -- a district on the southern outskirts of Rome...

HOW WE BUILT BRITAIN, a documentary series with DAVID DIMBLEBY (BBC DVD)

HOW WE BUILT BRITAIN, a documentary series with DAVID DIMBLEBY (BBC DVD)

Anglophiles and architects may naturally be drawn to this six-part series which comes with the subtitle "The Dramatic and Heroic Story of Britain's Architecture". But architects might be disappointed. Starting in 1066 -- which rather ignores quite a chunk of history -- this digressive series fronted by the eye-twinkling and winking...

RICHARD MEIER'S GETTY CENTRE IN LOS ANGELES (1999): Architecture, art and anger

RICHARD MEIER'S GETTY CENTRE IN LOS ANGELES (1999): Architecture, art and anger

High in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, The Getty Centre offers a commanding view. “Yeah, on a clear day you can see smog forever,” says a droll Angelino as he stares into the blue-grey gauze which lies lightly over his city on this typically perfect, dry day. That said the Getty, as it is commonly known and which...

GRAND DESIGNS: SERIES SIX with KEVIN McCLOUD (Roadshow DVD)

GRAND DESIGNS: SERIES SIX with KEVIN McCLOUD (Roadshow DVD)

Some people watch celebrity chefs on television and buy glossy monthlies with enticing recipes -- and yet still make the same six meals which come easy and never fail. Then there are others (myself included) who don't open themselves up for the criticsm of such laziness: we watch programmes like Grand Designs -- but would never think of...

GRAND DESIGNS; SERIES SEVEN with KEVIN McCLOUD (Roadshow DVD)

GRAND DESIGNS; SERIES SEVEN with KEVIN McCLOUD (Roadshow DVD)

One of the most interesting aspects of this series in which various Brits -- mostly well-heeled, but a few not -- undertake building a home of their own design is how the people involved refer to the "the build" . . . as if it is something outside of themselves. In most instances it is not: it is something which consumes their...

LOST AND FOUND IN SPACE: To boldly split an infinitive

LOST AND FOUND IN SPACE: To boldly split an infinitive

Some time in the mid-Seventies the late Alistair Cooke – in one of his patrician but always fascinating Letter From America programmes – spoke about an old editor he worked under. On a slow news day the editor would haul out a book of important events in history and scour the pages. He’d usually return with a wonderful...

Glasgow, Scotland: Art-i-tecture as far as the I can see

Glasgow, Scotland: Art-i-tecture as far as the I can see

Locals call it “the Armadillo” but it's a rather obvious name for the striking building by the River Clyde, once the heart of Glasgow shipbuilding. With a suspicious similarity to a more squat Sydney Opera House, the Armadillo huddles almost fearfully in the shadow the enormous, now redundant, Finnieston Crane, a muscular...

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