Cue: Electric guitar opening track
After 10 years of presenting a weekly RRR radio show on Architecture and the built environment, The Architects: Simon Knott, Christine Phillips and Stuart Harrison are calling it a night. Before they mute the microphone and close the show for one last time next Tuesday (9 December), they took some time to answer some questions from one of their biggest fans.
Red + Black Architect – Many people will be wondering, why now?
Simon Knott – For me practice is busier than ever, I have a growing family and other stuff on my plate… we are all time poor! It’s been a lot of work for the team to curate, produce, promote and then host a show each week – emails, websites, tweets and all the stuff you need to do.
R+BA – Who was your favorite interview?
Christine Phillips – I really enjoyed the interview we did with Bernard Tschumi, not just because he is an architect who radically transformed the way we thought about and designed architecture during the 1980s and 1990s but because of his ongoing passion and pursuit to create an architecture that is engaging and considerate of the way people inhabit architecture, and this really came across in the interview. I also thoroughly enjoyed our interview with Australian landscape architect, Richard Weller, who Is now Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Richard had just published his book Boomtown 2050 when we interviewed him and I found his views refreshingly radical. You won’t hear too many architects and landscape architects supporting the car city in this day and age but Richard argues there is room for the car in the future city and what we need to be doing is considering ways that we can reshape what we have. That man has vision and is a brilliant communicator!
Stuart Harrison – Rory and I interviewed Teddy Cruz years ago and it was great to see someone working through a different strand in architectural endeavour, he was an energetic, smart and political operator and it was great to talk at his level for a little while…
R+BA – What was the most unexpected thing about doing a radio show about architecture?
SH – That it worked.
R+BA – Do you have a favorite moment from the show?
CP – Without a doubt, it was our live-to-air outside broadcast from Venice in 2012, our 340th show. Doing a live overseas broadcast was something RRR had never embarked on but they were so amazingly enthusiastic and supportive of this pursuit. We had gone through a lot of prep leading up to Venice and Stuart had become the expert on how to use the ‘tie line’ machine that made it all happen. Rory, Stuart and Simon did most of the hard prep work while I deliriously attended to my new young baby daughter, and they were all amazingly supportive during this time. Rory turned up to Venice injured after constructing a beautiful flagpole for our radio ‘trolley’ and we all worked together on the finishing touches, sticking labels onto our portable radio transmitters and setting up the trolley.
It was my first trip to Venice but to also be broadcasting from the Venice Biennale, architecture’s most prestigious international event, was quite something. We were broadcasting from the deck of the Australian Pavilion that overlooked the canal in the Giardini and it was the last time the Philip Cox designed pavilion was going to be used before being dismantled to make way for the new DCM one. On the morning of the broadcast, there was a continuous flow of Prosecco, the sun was shining and it was gloriously hot and that moment on when we finally went to air was pretty unforgettable.
R+BA – What is the story behind the iconic rock anthem that is used to open the show?
SH – We were using an Beastie Boys track for the first couple of years, then we asked architect Marcus White who was lead guitar (lead everything) in the local small-scale stadium cock-rock band SPG to write a theme song for the show, which was great and hilarious.
R+BA – Looking back over the ten years, how has the landscape of Melbourne Architecture changed?
SH – The landscape of Melbourne architecture has for one thing got a stronger Landscape Architecture scene which is great – firms like Site Office, TCL, Aspect and others have really shown how important ‘the space in-between’ is, the ground and the public realm. In many ways landscape has been able to expand its role whereas a lot of architects have had to fight to keep theirs. It many ways it’s harder than ever to practice architecture, with a conservative risk-averse and capacity obsessed procurement environment. But it’s not all doom and gloom – my generation of architects has been collegiate and acted together rather than competing with each other, I think we see there is a bigger issue at play outside of individual gratification and glories. So on one hand I think it’s a better profession now, but harder than ever. For the public, which in the ends is all that counts – we have ten years of great projects in Melbourne that have shown the depth and diversity of the Melbourne architectural scene and that is a great thing.
R+BA – Guests on The Architects are always asked who their favorite architect is. So Christine, Simon, Stuart: Who are your favorite architects?
SH – Nice one – and yes this is a hard question as our guests often say. For me – Jørn Utzon stands tall, not only for what he did in Sydney (where he designed possibly the best building ever made) but a body of great work in Denmark and around the world (his holiday house in Majorca is a work of considered brilliance). But there are so many others – in terms of Australians – Timothy Hill and Kerstin Thompson as current practitioners and then of course Robin Boyd for everything he did in the wider world of practice. Internationally Alvar Aalto, Louis Kahn, Rem Koolhass, Toyo Ito (who we did get to interview!)…. it’s hard when you are a pluralist, there is a lot to love.
CP – Yes, I’m with Stuart, there’s a lot to love but my mixed bag of the day would include Gaudi, The Griffins, Robin Boyd, Nervi (slightly outside the field I know), Sou Fujimoto, Kristin Green and Timothy Hill. There are many, many contemporary Melbourne practices that I adore to bits and have been enormously influential on my thinking, but in true spirit of ‘The Architects’, I must keep this list short.
SK – So hard – but Boyd, Kahn and Herzog & de Meuron.
R+BA – What is happening for your last show next week, Tuesday 9th December?
SH – We are doing a final live broadcast, from Riverland at Federation Wharf in the city. The OBs (outside broadcast) were have done have been central to our development as a show and so it will be great to finish with one. We hope we will be joined by many of the architects we have interviewed over the years along with our listeners who have been an amazing support. Everyone is welcome to come down, from 6pm. And I can’t thank RRR enough for the support they have given us, not just in the risk they made in supporting a show like ours in the first place, but for their ongoing support and enthusiasm for show.
R+BA – Congratulations to all of you for what you have achieved over the last 10 years and thanks for your time.
The Melbourne Architecture scene will not be the same without our weekly fix of news, reviews and interviews from The Architects. Their ability to advocate for architecture and put built environment issues in front of a public audience, has substantially contributed to the culture of Architecture within Australia.
End: Electric guitar with massive reverberation and thunderous applause
Architecture is for Everyone
The question I’ve been dying to ask Stuart, Simon, Christine and Rory is whether they considered succession? The Fantastic Four have left an indelible mark on Melbourne architecture, but their legacy could live on through a new generation of broadcasters.
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