June 11, 2014

The name Rem Koolhaas is on everyone’s lips at this Venice Architecture Biennale. As curator of this massive show he has titled Fundamentals, Rem has declared it has “nothing to do with design” and expressed his wish to disconnect with contemporary architecture altogether, focusing instead on the elements – stairs. ceilings, elevators, doorknobs and toilets – that combine to create buildings.

There’s a visceral sense of a ground swell, of an imminent shift in the way we think about architecture today. But while waiting for the dust to settle, it was great fun looking around this 14th International Architecture Biennale. It’s full of nostalgia for me, since Venice is one of the key cities that formed part of my cultural ‘grand tour’ before setting up my practice in Sydney 15 years ago. (It’s also, incidentally though not negligibly, where I bought my first-ever pair of Prada pants!) It’s also where I’ll return next year, to …

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May 20, 2014

It’s a rare thing to see an inner-city ‘green’ space sprout so majestically from what was – literally and figuratively – a black hole, a dark, dangerous no-man’s land backing up to a major train terminus. Even more special, is to see the chic tongue-in-cheek that turns that ‘green’ space for the most part bright yellow and blue. Designed by Rachel Neeson with her late-husband Nick Murcutt (one of my design teachers at UNSW), the Prince Alfred park and pool glisten under Sydney summer (and winter!) skies. Landscaped by Sue Barnsley with lush lawn and native grasses, it’s now a playful public space, upbeat, positive. Reclaimed land, indeed! Massive yellow umbrellas are a fun solution to sun-control, in lieu of stock-standard fixed roofing, and it’s terrific watching swimmers do laps in that Hockney-esque pool. In fact, the whole Prince Alfred Park is like a Jeffrey Smart painting, sprung to life – and you can’t get much …

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May 1, 2014

The Four Winds Music Festival began in 1991, an initiative of the charming seaside town of Bermagui, not far from Bega on South Coast NSW. A biannual event, it went from strength to the point where today it’s safe to say it has come of age. I was down there last weekend, so decided to take a look. At the free, opening performance the audience of locals as well as visitors from Sydney and interstate gathered on the Fisheman’s Wharf of Bermagui port, while classical, indigenous, European and Asian dancers, singers and musicians performed on a boat. It set the international, interdenominational tone of the program, and immediately stamped it with a very special South Coast identity. Highlights of the weekend included Italian cellist Giovani Sollima’s rendition of his Concerto Rotondo, totally awe-inspring. Pianist Dejan Lazic’ Mozart Quintet for Piano and Winds, spine-tingling. And both men along with the Artistic Director of the Australian …

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April 17, 2014

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is a building I know almost as well as my own home. Amazing then to see it last night, sparkling for the Buglari Art Award dinner in honour of this year’s winner, Daniel Boyd. Boyd’s work is remarkably nuanced, beautiful and haunting – a contemporary indigenous artist, he uses his family’s history to create engaging narratives about the passage of time, the phenomena of memory absence. Most often based on archival photographs, what appear to be pixelated screen prints are in fact a laboriously applied matrix of clear glue dots over charcoal drawings, which are then covered with black paint before being wiped back again – the residual black space between the dots are like the missing pieces of information in memory and history. The prize is worth $80,000 – $50,000 of which goes to the acquistion of a key piece by the artist, the other $30,000 ear-marked for …

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April 14, 2014

Seeing Alain de Botton at the Opera House was totally mind-blowing. On the one hand, walking onstage he looked like a shiny-headed geek, dressed as a philosopher would dress speaking as you would expect a Swiss, Oxford English-educated philosopher would speak. But as soon as he began, you got the sense that this was not going to be any mothballed old theoretician. De Botton’s speciality is helping us get a grip, with clarity and guile, on the everyday. This time he was in town to talk up his latest book – The News; A User’s Manuel. His basic precept it that we receive – and digest – so much news, so often, so how is it that disaster stories are often so uplifting? Why do we love seeing our politicians brought down? Why does some very important stuff get no traction compared to some very unimportant stuff that gets major play? As usual, he puts a …

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April 4, 2014

As business goes from strength-to-strength, the Tobias Partners studio keeps expanding! We’ve added four new team members this year, all from highly commendable backgrounds and practices. We’ll introduce them in two installments : here, meet Kyra and Julia…

Kyra Thomas studied architecture at The University of Sydney before completing a Masters in Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University in New York City. With a love of all things Scandinavian, she is fascinated by the manipulation of light in space. Kyra’s an avowed minimalist and is inspired by the work of Mies van der Rohe, John Pawson and the Californian modernists.

Julia Cumines studied architecture at the University of Technology (Sydney). She is interested in disaster relief work and when hearing about the East Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster, traveled to Japan to do volunteer work with Shigeru Ban and assisted with the paper tube partition structures for evacuation facilities. Julia loves Japanese architecture …

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March 21, 2014

There’s a strange hush over Sydney’s art world this morning, as everyone recovers from the official Opening Party of the Biennale last night. A couple of thousand people buzzed about the massive heritage industrial space at Technology Park, just behind Carriageworks in Everleigh. It seemed like every artist, every curator, gallerist, board member and their attendant glamour contingents were out in force in what was a massive people’s party of the arts. Ironically, not one artwork was on show – its as if the people themselves were the living installation. Oh, and the massively fabulous food, and music. The 19th Biennale is now officially launched – long live the Biennale!






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March 20, 2014

As part of the 19th Biennale of Sydney, last night the Museum of Contemporary Art opened its installation of twenty international artists spread out quite majestically over two levels. Eschewing conflict and strife, as it takes shape this Biennale seems more about the sublimely visual, those incontestable good vibes that speak to universal values of harmony, visual and otherwise. I loved Glaswegian artist, Jim Lambie’s vibrant ‘Zobop’ – a floor work constructed from multi-coloured masking tape that surreptitiously echoed the walls (and thus the boundaries) of the MCA. Another hit is undoubtedly Roni Horn’s very meditative ‘Ten Liquid Incidents’ that is an elegant followup to her almost obsessive photographic cataloguing of various waterways. Still, almost mutable, each sculptural glass ‘incident’ seems like a literally stopped moment in time. Sublime. And then there was Douglas Gordon’s gut-wrenching Phantom film installation. It seems simple enough – and intensely cropped close up of a kohl-rimmed eye projected behind …

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