Tag Archives: architecture

Chit chat worth listening to

Pecha Kucha visited the Brisbane Powerhouse again last night, with 11 speakers presenting loads of neat ideas. For those not familiar with Pecha Kucha, it is an event where designers, artists, architects, or other creative people are given 20 seconds per slide to present 20 slides on their designs, thoughts or ideas. Each speaker gets 6 minutes 40 seconds of fame.

There were quite a few thought-provoking ideas that came out of last night’s event (Volume 24) but one speaker that I particularly enjoyed was Yen Trinh. It became apparent that Yen’s name is very fitting, as she has a yearning and passion for improving society. Her presentation ’20 wishes for Brisbane’ listed  20 awesome ideas for ways we could improve Brisbane based on her previous experiences in other countries.

Some of my personal favourites were:

  • City-wide putt putt golf: the course exists all around the city on streets and laneways, and each hole is designed by a different person/group.
  • Pop-up drive-in movie theatres: drive-in movies that pop up in suburban shopping centre carparks, where the space goes to waste at night time.
  • Cooler street furniture: including hammocks, recliner chairs and movable furniture.
  • Someone like Candy Chang: whose projects include the very cool ‘I wish this was‘ sticker.
  • Front yard cafes and friendlier neighbourhoods: Suburban Grind is a community building project travelling around Brisbane, setting up in people’s garages and serving free cafe style coffee in an effort to bring neighbours together.

Very cool! Can’t wait to see some of these projects up and running!

What would you like to see in Brisbane? What existing space would you redesign?

Yours in creative ideas,


Design considerations

I chose this TED Talk to share with the Brio Group team this morning as I liked how Thomas Heatherwick’s London Architect firm considered their designs in a holistic approach. Not only did they consider the impact their designs have on the existing natural and built environment, but they also considered how it affects the audience which are not persay the people working or residing in the buildings but also the general public and passers by.

Heatherwick Studio conceptualises beautifully creative buildings that invite participation and provoke feelings/moments.

I hope you enjoy this TED Talk as much as we did.

Another TED Talk which I discovered and loved, was by a woman of my own heart… Jessi Arrington buys and wears only second hand clothing to reduce her impact on the environment [high 5 sister!]. She has a fantastic personality and rocks in her colourful outfits! She says, “If you believe you’re a beautiful person inside and out, there is no look you can’t pull off!’ Here is another feel good TED Talk…

Yours in awesome TED Talks!
Amber van Sloten

The Pixel building proves to be Australia’s greenest building

Melbourne’s new Pixel building, the first carbon neutral office building in Australia, has achieved the highest Green Star score ever awarded by the Green Building Council of Australia.

Pixel achieved a perfect score of 100 points under the Green Star rating system for building design, whereas 75 points is the benchmark for 6 Star Green Star. Pixel gained an extra five points for innovation, which puts them at the top of world’s best practice. Included in Pixel’s five innovation points were points for carbon neutrality, a vacuum toilet system, the anaerobic digestion system and reduced car parking. The water initiatives in the project mean the building could be self sufficient for water – in this context, the project is water balanced as well as carbon neutral.

The designers of Pixel are all Victorian firms: architects studio505; sustainability and services engineers Umow Lai; and the structural engineer VDM Consulting.

The building features a new type of concrete which halves the carbon in the mix. Melbourne University designed the ‘living roof’ which re-introduces Victorian grassland species to the Melbourne area, and includes tracking photovoltaic roof panels. The multi-coloured sun shade system on the exterior of the building will provide the maximum amount of daylight into the office space, protecting it from glare and heat in the summer. While smart window technology ensures windows will open automatically on cool nights to enable air flow into the building. Electricity is generated by roof-mounted wind turbines, designed in Bendigo.

To learn more about the Pixel building, visit their website.

Now that we have shown the world how it is done, let’s hope we start converting existing buildings.

Yours in sustainability,

Turning torso building proves sky-high twists

One of the world’s most recognisable skyscrapers, Turning Torso is a building in Malmo, Sweden, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The 190 metre high tower’s design is based on a sculpture by Calatrava called Twisting Torso, which is a white marble piece based on the form of a twisting human being. After a long and sometimes difficult building process, the 54-story tower was officially opened at the end of August 2005.

It is the tallest residential building in the EU, and is situated overlooking the Oresund Straight. The nearby Oresund bridge linking Malmo with Copenhagen in Denmark has enabled Danish commuters to take the train or drive to their home in Sweden.

Turning Torso has been called the saviour of Malmo, a shipbuilding town with no ships to build. Its presence has led to the dockside area being redeveloped as a modern housing precinct.

The building was constructed in nine segments of five-story pentagons that twist as your eye is led up to the 54h floor.

The topmost segment is twisted ninety degrees clockwise compared to the ground floor. Each floor consists of an irregular pentagon shape rotating around the vertical core, and the entire structure is supported by an exterior steel framework. The two bottom segments were designed as office space. Segments three to nine house 147 luxury apartments.
This distinctive style is now being copied in an even taller building in Dubai.

What do you think of this innovative design?

Yours in architectural design,


Australian Art Deco Architecture










Think about art deco architecture and buildings like Manhattan’s Chrysler Building or The Rockefeller Center usually spring to mind. It’s unlikely that the strip of shops including Myer and David Leees in Bourke Street, Melbourne, or Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) will be at the top of your list. They are great examples of this particular style of 20th-century architecture.

On a world level, Australian cities rank quite highly as far as the volume of art deco architecture goes and stylistically they’re pretty well up there, too.  Art deco architecture is a term that’s often bandied about, particularly by real estate agents.  It can be misunderstood, but can also be quite inclusive and we celebrate all styles.

Generally,  curvaceous houses, painted white and with features such as portholes and steel-framed windows fit into domestic deco. As for larger buildings – anything from offices, factories and flats to pubs and parking garages – they’re often colourful and asymmetrical, with large cantilevered balconies or a tower, and with minimal but stylised ornament.

Many people date the start of deco as the 1925 Paris Expo, others believe it was first seen more than a decade earlier and came about as a reaction to the excesses of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and a response to new materials and technologies. As to whether art deco architecture is fully appreciated, we’re getting there, but it’s a battle to get people to understand its beauty. There was a view for a long time that anything built after 1900 wasn’t of any value. Fortunately that’s changing.

Yours in design,


Grand Designs – another look

Our old mate Kevin McLoud is back revisiting his old mates from the successful TV series, Grand Designs, to see how they are getting on after living in their dream homes for a few years.

I caught the episode that revisited the couple of architects who decided to build next to the railway line in Islington in North London. The site was a large one by London standards, it had been a factory or workshop, but the fascinating part of the whole episode was the design of their home / office.

Because the railway line ran on the boundary where the office was situated, they set the structure on springs to absorb the vibrations from the passing trains.

They soundproofed the wall facing the railway by building it completely of sandbags mortared with cement, then clad the rest of the structure with quilted fabric.

Just to extend the quirky design theme further, they decided to build the home part of their design, separate from the office, out of straw bales on a wooden frame.
The walls had curves, which are achievable with bales, the outside cladding was a mix of corrugated steel and polycarbonate, this to make a design feature of the straw which was clearly visible through the corrugations of the polycarbonate.

The curves inside were lined in huge sheets of plywood, looking wonderful with what looked like a waxed finish, and the whole site was designed to look back down into a garden which linked the structures, providing an oasis and also growing food for the residents.

I could not help but wish we could all have the freedom to design our homes to suit ourselves.

Yours in Design,


Green Roofs

ACROS Fukuoka, Japan.
ACROS Fukuoka, Japan.
Millenium Park, Chicago
Millenium Park, Chicago
Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn, Germany.
Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn, Germany.
School of Art and Design, Singapore.
School of Art and Design, Singapore.


A green roof in Beijing.
A green roof in Beijing.

Having attended the always inspiring Pecha Kucha night at the Brisbane Powerhouse, I was intrigued by landscape architect, Sidonie Carpenter’s introduction to the concept of ‘green roofs.  As the presentation time was limited, I was compelled to research the topic further and this is what I discovered…

Green roofs are a phenomenon that has taken off in many countries around the world and is recognised as an important response to climate change. A green roof system is an extension of a building’s existing roof which involves a high quality water proofing and root repellent system, a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweight growing medium and plants.

There are two types of green roofs: intensive roofs, which are thicker and heavier to support a wider variety of plants, and extensive roofs, which are lighter, easier to maintain and covered in a light layer of vegetation.

Other than their aesthetic value, there are many proven benefits such as:

  • Increasing air quality and helping lower air temperatures, which aids in the reduction of the “Urban Heat Island Effect” and helps combat climate change.
  • Aiding in biodiversity in urban areas by providing refuges for wildlife.
  • Saving water – green roofs can significantly reduce the volume of run off rainwater. They can also reduce the impact of flash flooding.
  • Providing insulation which then reduces the energy consumption of a building, because the temperature inside is more constant and comfortable.

Millennium Park, in Chicago, is one of the largest green roofs in the world, at more than 24 acres. Fukuoka City in Japan have an amazing building called “ACROS Fukuoka” where one side looks like a conventional office building with glass walls, but on the other side there is a huge terraced roof that merges with a park.

In North America, the benefits of green roof technologies are being increasing understood as the green roof industry moves from novelty to common practice. In Europe green roof technologies have become very well established since the 1980s. This has been a result of government legislative and financial support. Perhaps it’s time for the cities of Australia to catch on?