5. Criticising architecture.

As I have said before, Melbourne lacks any serious architectural criticism. Apart from one eclectic series on pay TV and The Architects on RRR, there is none.  Nothing in The Age, nor The Australian, and only design generally in The Saturday Paper. I see the main job of the AIA (the Australian one, not the USA one) as promoting and explaining architecture to the intelligent public (but apart from the self-congratulary annual Awards), that it neglects to do. 

Classical and popular music, literature, art, theatre, dance, crafts, even poetry are all reviewed seriously, but not architecture. The AIA should be ashamed.

Years ago, this was not so. There was a weekly article in The Age by they director of the Small Homes Service (Robin Boyd, Neil Clerehen and then Jack Clarke). Neil and Norman Day continued this practice intermittently.

It is a task that has to be done by an architect, or someone with deep professional knowledge of architecture, and who is fearless to evaluate the work of their peers, as in the other disciplines. Journalism is not enough. 

 Architecture in Melbourne is worthy of serious regular analysis and evaluation.Like so many things Robin Boyd initiated, this has lapsed.

Sadly, tonight is the last of The Architects shows. Will anyone replace them?

Tuesday 9 December 2014, THE ARCHITECTS FINAL SHOW live from RIVERLAND

ALL WELCOME - come down from 6pm! Broadcasting 7-8pm, 


4 What do fashion and architecture have in common?

This is a response to Alan Davies's posting on his blog that fashion and architecture have much in common.

ALAN DAVIES | NOV 17, 2014 8:48AM | http://blogs.crikey.com.au/theurbanist/2014/11/17/what-do-fashion-and-architecture-have-in-common/

Alan Davies’s is still one of the two only blogs I follow. I disagree with him only sometimes, particularly on the viability of public transport in Melbourne, but I virtually always disagree when, like The Age art critic, Robert Nelson, he ventures an opinion on architecture, a field well beyond his expertise. Both feel free do this, and I welcome them to attempt it, because they are stepping boldly into a vacuum: inexplicably there is NO public discourse, explication, or criticism of architecture in Melbourne.

Davies proffers the view that architecture and fashion have much in common: my view has long been the opposite. He first proposes that both valorise appearance, both have a function; both derive their form from ideas. Their difference is merely in scale, that architecture is bespoke, architects are free not to worry about weight, or movement, or even climate control. He even somehow finds confluence between fashion and bicycle design!

Davies is wrong: both architecture and fashion are bespoke. Haut couture is as unique as a work of architecture. But their premises are entirely different. Architecture is design for a client’s brief, a budget, permit constraints, tied to a specific site and its context. None of this applies to fashion. In my view, architectural design evolves from these determinants, as well as the architect’s own ethos, evolved incrementally over a lifetime of reflection and production. None of these matter for fashion, which only must be strikingly reinvented annually: very year there must be a new look, each year a whimsical fancy. If it offers ideas rather than mere sensation, they escape me.

I certainly agree with Davies that the ‘Wearing the City’ esquisse was frivolous, pointless and most unworthy of Monash, which with some justification, now aspires to be Australia’s premier Architecture School.

Richard Peterson, Architect.


3 Sexual & Gender Gloss

Many people, including until now, me,  are confused, uncertain, or concerned not to offend regarding terms to use in relation to people of diverse genders. This is my attempt to clarify some terms that may be used.[1]

Gender - someone’s identity that may include binary identities such as: male and female, and non-binary identities such as androgynous and gender-queer.[2]

 Sexuality - someone’s determined sexual attraction, whether: heterosexual (physically attracted to a different e gender), homosexual (to the same gender), bi-sexual (to more than one gender), or asexual (not sexually attracted).

 Queer - preferred by many as a generalist, non-specific, more inclusive and friendly term, especially by younger people.

 Transgender - a person whose birth sex differs from the gender they identify as.

 Cis (or cisgender) - a person whose birth sex is the same as the gender they identify as.

 Trans - is a broad inclusive non-specific term for transgender people (including male to female, female to male, not specified, gender-queer, or bi-gender). Others, perhaps older, may also include cross-dresser, and transvestite within this term.[3]

 Transman (female to male), or transwoman (male to female).

 Gender-queer - a term used by some people who identify as neither male nor female. They see gender not as binary, but as a spectrum that ranges from masculinity to femininity. Most gender-queer people identify somewhere in between, or outside of masculinity or femininity.

 Non-specified - someone who is neither he or she, or may or may not be 'gay,' or 'homosexual,' which they may or may not wish to disclose. Sexuality is unrelated to gender and many transgender people may be heterosexual, or asexual. Sexuality may change with the transitioning journey, or by taking hormones.

Intersex - a biological, or medical term regarding someone’s number of chromosomes and/or hormone imbalances.

Rainbow (and rainbow family) - a symbol of diversity, and the queer movement. It has also had symbolic meaning for the monotheistic religions, particularly Judaism, of the subsidence of the Great Flood, of hope, and as the symbol of the international cooperative movement since 1921.

The best-known version of the rainbow flag was popularized as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride and diversity by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker (b1951-) in 1978. When he raised the first Rainbow Flag at San Francisco Pride on June 25, 1978, it had eight colors, each with symbolic meaning: hot pink: sexuality, red: life, orange: healing, yellow: sunlight, green: nature, turquoise, or magenta: magic and art, blue: serenity and harmony and violet: spirit. Magenta and pink were later deleted.

Gender neutral pronouns are used by many gender-queer people, eg:  they, their, or them instead of binary pronouns such as she, her, or hers and he, him, or his. Some see this as rather clumsy expression, but to me it is probably no more so than ‘Ms’ was 30 years ago.

 A person who presents as male in appearance must (without them advising otherwise) always be addressed as 'he' (and will probably use the male toilets) and if appearing female, as 'she,' (female toilets) regardless of assigned birth sex, or sexuality.

People must always be addressed as they themselves wish, just as for some time a female chairman may have preferred to be addressed as the chair, the chairperson, or the chairwoman.

Any person may differ from any other in their sexuality, gender, or terminological preference.

Some older gay activists still insist on insulting young queer activists by their lack of inclusivity, despite their having often included sex-workers, and earlier, the women's movement.

 Out - someone who has publicly disclosed their sexuality, or non-apparent gender. It is very offensive to out someone who has not already done so themselves.

 Sexual preference - a meaningless term, and pejorative to some people including me, because it implies a choice in a person’s sexuality, which does not exist.

 Transsexual - a uncommon and outdated term that is now often replaced with transgender.

 'Tranny' - is pejorative, demeaning, and must never be used, except perhaps by transgender people themselves as an internal and generally endearing term.Drag queen (male comedic performer appearing, often exaggeratedly, as female), drag king (female comedic performer appearing as male), or transvestite (or cross-dresser, someone who enjoys and relaxes in clothes of a different gender). Both of these are unrelated to sexuality, as anyone of any sexuality, including heterosexual people, can be a transvestite.

 So, if in doubt use the term 'queer.'

 GLBTIQ - is a common acronym in Australia for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, intersex and  gueer (or questioning). In USA, GLBT is still more common.

 SSA, SGD, or SSASGD - same-sex attracted, sex and gender diverse.


- In Australia, the accepted term for homosexual until c1972.

 - Theatrical, flamboyant, or otherwise fabulous.

  'Miss God' (a term invented by W H Auden in the 1950s), for himself as the all-knowing being.

[1] I want to thank Lee Taube for their extensive sage advice, and editing of this posting over many email exchanges.

[2] Interestingly in 1976, gender still only referred to a grammatical term. Refer: J B Sykes, Ed, The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Oxford (1911) 1979.

[3] Trans* - with the initial capital and the asterisk was used by some for a time, but is not now. www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/gender-neutral-pronouns-when-they-doesnt-identify-as-either-male-or-female/2014/10/27/41965f5e-5ac0-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html

2A More Clifton Hill Shot Tower news

Since my posting 2, Renae Jarman, Manager, Heritage Register and Permits,  Heritage Victoria, Department of Transport, Planning & Local Infrastructure, has clarified that the Shot Tower does remain outside of the project area, and that the Performance Requirements approved by the Minister for Planning for the project includes the following (in summary):       

- To protect structural integrity of known historic sites and values (CH4)       

- To undertake condition assessments of heritage buildings or structures prior to     commencement of construction and particularly in the vicinity of the following registered heritage sites, including H0709 Shot Tower, Alexandra Parade, Clifton Hill.       

- Undertake vibration monitoring during tunnel construction in proximity to these sites, and monitor their condition during and post‐construction for settlement and structural integrity disturbance as a result of the proposed works. Take remedial action, if required, to the satisfaction of the Executive Director, Heritage Victoria.       

The Shot Tower therefore must have a condition assessment completed prior to works and be monitored during works.    

The full approval is available on-line here: http://www.dtpli.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/229956/Ministers-Approval-Decision-and-Reasons-web2.pdf   I thank Renae for this clarification. This is all very reassuring news!


Posting 2: Clifton Hill Shot Tower

2 (94)-124 Alexandra Parade, Clifton Hill 3068, E of Gold Street, cnr Coopers Lane.

Land title: Vol 8384, Fol 960.

This is the tallest and arguably the finest shot tower ever to be built in the world, and should be nominated to the World Heritage List.

It is gravely threatened by the proposed East West Link, for which contracts have already been signed.

Built 1882 for Richard Hodgson, Alfred Hudson and Simon Hughes, but bought by Walter Coop (who built the Melbourne Central Shot Tower) in 1896.

It is 76.5 metres high, with a small furnace on top vented by a 3.6 metre chimney at the NW, giving a total height of 80.1 metres. It resembles a very tall chimney, or a minaret, is load-bearing pressed red brick with 2 decorative cream brick bands and a wider plinth drum as base. It has round-headed windows staggered to avoid weakening the structure, and Internally jhas a spiral stair.

It is an unsupported structure and vulnerable to any foundation movement, eg: blasting, rock drilling, or mechanical vibration. Its footing is likely to extend 1-2 m out from the walls, probably on bedrock basalt, but it is not known how continuous the foundation is, as there are variations in the basaltic flow and floaters with lacunae of reactive clay between in this area. The tower is now in perfect structural condition, despite no maintenance in living memory. Its situation on the flat basaltic plain is very striking and is visible for some distance from several directions.

Nigel Lewis, Conservation Architect (refer below), has used an inclinometer to determine that the tower’s height is 76.5 metres + 3.1 metre chimney = 80.1 metres. The only comparable shot tower in the world is the 1828 Phoenix Shot Tower, in Baltimore, USA at 71.4 metres, but the Clifton Hill tower is a far more refined design.

A part from the Royal Exhibition Building dome, the Clifton Hill Shot Tower was probably the tallest structure in Australia when built in 1882; until 1930, when City Hall, Brisbane, 85 m high, was built.

A complete geotechnical investigation is needed to understand the ground condition within 10 metres of the tower, and to ascertain the pattern of basaltic flow. Any alteration to the water table due to tunnelling or excavation could alter the ground drainage patterns and induce subsidence.

A structural analysis of the tower is also needed in relation to the work processes anticipated, particularly in relation to explosive weight of blasting, drilling and ground-borne mechanical vibration described in the Heilig & Partners report (below). 

The project area boundary and the Alexandra Parade sidetrack are immediately contiguous to the Shot Tower on Cooper Lane and Alexandra Parade, so the Tower will be subjected to the highest anticipated levels of vibration. The Heilig & Partners report individually mentions several properties of lesser heritage significance, but they hardly mention the Shot Tower at all.

The tunnel’s Hoddle Street vent stack is to be of similar height to the Shot Tower and close to it and so it should be designed to relate to it visually, but preferably relocated to a site of lower cultural significance.

The massiveness of the roadworks, particularly the Hoddle Street Flyover, will severely degrade the cultural context of the tower, unless carefully designed.

The Victorian Heritage Register report incorrectly states the tower height at 48.7 metres, confusing it with the Melbourne Central Shot Tower, which is in fact that height, and the National Trust citation, even more incorrectly, gives its height at 160 metres.

Neither report mentions the tower’s international significance.

There appears to be no Conservation Management Plan for the tower. This must be prepared, including a full international comparative analysis to determine its designer and its significance in world terms.



Allom Lovell, City of Yarra Heritage Review, 1989. Listed, but no assessment.

VHR, HO709, since 1988, only to 1.6 metres around the base. Citation sheet.

NT Classified, B3798, 1978, revised 3.8.1998. This file includes a report by Richard Braddish, 1998 on ‘Shot Towers of Australia.’ Citation sheet.

Nigel Lewis, Conservation Architect, personal submission regarding the East West Link to the Linking Melbourne Authority, 11 April 2014. This has been particularly useful in preparing these notes, and Nigel is to be congratulated for submitting it.

Heilig & Partners, East-West Link- Eastern Section Tunnel Vibration & regenerated Noise Assessment, 2013.


Historic heights comparison

Minarets at Barsian (34 m, 1097 AD); Sarban in Isfahan (1130-55, 48 m), Ali Mosque Manar, Isfahan(1118-57, 48 m); Vabkent minaret, Bukhara, Isfahan (1196-7, 39 m), the Islom-Hoja, Uzbekistan (56 m), and the Jam minaret, north of Bukhara, Afganistan  (62 m, 1150), are cylindrical brick and comparable, but smaller. All probably derive from the wondrous Lighthouse (or Pharos) of Alexandria, built by the Ptolemy dynasty between 280- 247 BC and 120-137 m tall, and gradually destroyed from 680-1496.

Taroona Shot Tower, Hobart, Joseph Moir designer, stone (1890), 48 m.

Coop Shot Tower, Melbourne Central  (1890) 48.8 m

Australia Australian Building (built 1889, now demolished) 55.7 + 5  = 60.7 m

Orica Deer Park Shot Tower (1953), steel framed, with a lift, 63 m.

St Ignatius, Richmond (1867-94 and spire 1927).  65.3 m

(Tallest C19 other structure in suburban Melbourne).


Manchester Unity Building (1932),                              64.0 + 10 = 74.0 m


T & G Building (1928)                                                   68.6 + 22 = 88.6 m


Royal Exhibition Building (1879)                                  65.2 + 40 =105.2 m


ICI Building (1955-58)                                                  70.1 + 39 = 109.1 m


St Patrick’s Cathedral (1858-99, spires: 1936-39)      103.6 + 41 = 147.6 m

Shot towers in Perth; and Blackwattle Bay, Glebe, Sydney, have been demolished.

Richard Peterson, Architect, 2 November 2014.


I just realised that another brush by Gough on my life was no-fault divorce, which we were early beneficiaries of. Not something I sought, but it shrank that unpleasant hurdle.

1 Gough

I cannot imagine a person of my Boomer generation who has not benefited from the life of Gough  Whitlam. I saw Arthur Calwell talk at Melbourne University. I admired aspects of him, but he was not impressive: I could not imagine Labor returning to power after 20 years with him as leader. Frances and I were at an election party in a big mud brick house in Eltham when Philip Adams' 'Its time!' campaign succeeded and Whitlam was elected.

I had already benefitted from at least 2 of his immediate reforms: I had completed 6 years of free (on a scholarship) university education and I escaped my compulsory call-up for military service (as unfit for an unknown reason). But his establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission provided me with generous fee income for 23 years, my cultural life was immeasurably  enriched by his munificence, there were no wars while he was in power, and Medicare paid my medical bills, to name a few.

I left Australia after Whitlam had been in power for 6 months: the colourful politics came in my absence, so I have only a positive, if not glowing, view of his administration. I was astounded when walking into Charing Cross Station, on my way home one day I saw the London Evening Standard poster proclaim: 'Queen's man sacks PM.' I had no idea what it meant until I bought the paper on the station new-stall. 

My copy of Barry Jones's, Dictionary of World Biography, 1998 is signed by both  Malciolm             Fraser and  Gough Whitlam, at the launch in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria. This was the first time that Fraser and Whitlam had appeared on the same platform together since The Dismissal, clearly engineered by Jones.

i designed and built a house for a minister in Whitlam's government: Dr Moss Cass, Minister for the Environment, who succeeded in placing the Great Barrier Reef, as Australia's first place on the World Heritage List. Such was my political naivety that I was shocked with the brutality with which he criticised Whitlam, his former leader.

But, I assess political leaders by their achievements,  Most leaders are happy to have achieved one thing in their time: so far Abbott has achieved nothing positive, Menzies achieved only 2 things (Commonwealth Scholarships and the Columbo Plan) in 23 years.  Whitlam's achievements are greater than any other Australian leader, and despite the attempts of both subsequent Labor and Liberal governments to dismantle them,  many still survive.