Piecemeal driven architecture

As I said the other day, the shortlist for the Harbour Competition have been announced. There were 137 entries in total. The results are up on the competition page – but in a move that have only been designed to stifle open discussion, it is only possible to take a look at the winning schemes by downloading ENORMOUS pdfs of each A1 panel. I am not talking about 2mb downloads either, I am talking about files sizes in the range of 15-18mb and upwards to 80mb for the delight of seeing panel 2 entry. An 80mb download when – as demonstrated below – a jpeg 600 pixels wide would suffice.

Anyway, the mammoth download reveals schemes by the following shortlisted entries:

Lets go through them one by one shall we?

Showed all the intellectual rigour of carpet bombing, submitting FOUR separate entries. It worked for them; they hit their target only to murder a few innocent diagrams along the way. To be fair, shortlisted entry was the only scheme that tackled the scale of the site successfully and I hope that development of their scheme in the second stage does not result in a loss of clarity of their diagram.

Should I say as the office is known post-Pritzker. This scheme represents a bland, real estate driven, masterplan; a series of twisty buildings that bear no relation whatsoever to the immediate site, with a tower to the south. At first glance they appear to connect to the existing street pattern above Hickson Road, but on further inspection it is obvious that there is no thought in their placement; some meet the end of a street, some butt into the front of a

What this entry did have was a model made from a 3D printer/router/whatever – something that NO office in Sydney has. Modelcraft, the state’s pre-eminent modelmakers don’t even have one. Instantly signalling the LA credentials of the scheme.

I understand had been negotiating with themover the weeks preceding the judgement of the competition to come out to Australia to give a talk. What fortuitous timing that he win a place on the shortlist! He can hardly decline now can he?

Are the local underdogs and proposed the most politically correct solution; a generous harbourside park with a series of smaller blocks connecting to the old street pattern to the east. Hardly inspiring and hard to criticize. “Don’t mind us, we’re just the largest development in Sydney, move along now”. A similar model has been built further south down the foreshore at the King Street Wharf development to mildly forgettable success.

Oh yeah, wrote the brief for the site too…

The most blatantly cynical to the development minded on the jury by literally stamping the words ‘Self Funding’ on their model. But then, they also had ‘Heart of Government’ inexplicably written in the water on their model so perhaps they were recycling the model from a previous competition?

Blowjobs for the developers aside, their proposal puts the building mass to the south, a crazee technicolour park in the middle leaving the northern point for a beach. The beach is a gimmick, and I am surprised the jury went for it. Nobody swims in the harbour and for good reason: it is murky and there is no surf. I guess it may be the type of beach that Lord Rogers is familiar with back home, but in Sydney we have enough actual beaches readily available to swim in to be suckered into theme park attractions.

That and a strange wedge of land that looks like some kind of Japanese transport interchange. At the north of the site. With three roads running under it and two over the top.

Me: Can you see what I’m talking about?
You: That bit to the north?
Me: Yeah, with three roads running under it. And two over the top of it.
You: What is that meant to be?
Me: I don’t know


Overall I find the shortlist uninspiring. Apart, no one took on the enormous scale of the site with any gusto. None turned the corner in this important part of the harbour with any conviction.

There were no big ideas only piecemeal, real-estate driven solutions.