For the past year or more I have been working on a new project. I have been creating an architecture website for travellers called:


Well initially it seems to be aimed at travellers but it is broader than that and will hopefully appeal to a wider audience of people interested in great architecture. The idea is to add a new project every weekday and build up the projects and information into something more substantial that might be used by travellers and non-travellers alike. The site will consist of projects I have seen and photographed over the last 30 years.

Having started with architecture I decided that I also needed a site for interiors so I created a second site called:


This site similarly will showcase great interiors from around the world, although it will contain photographs from elsewhere.


Feel free to browse the sites, check the menu and information pages, and explore the projects. If you like what you see then please return as often as you like, or sign up and Follow the site, and you will receive regular updates as new projects are added.

And if you know anyone else who may be interested, then please let them know.

I very much hope you enjoy what you find.

I am currently on my way to the Venice Architecture Biennale to officially launch and promote the sites.


Archigram was a group of forward-looking, expansive-minded architects that officially existed between 1961 and 1974. The main members of the group were Peter Cook,  Warren Chalk, Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb and David Greene, and their influence has been incredibly broad even up to the present day.

David Greene, Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Mike Webb, Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton

In 2010 the University of Westminster created the Archigram Archival Project – a mammoth task that collected, digitised and assembled almost 10,000 items from many disparate locations, to expose the hidden or lost knowledge of Archigram’s work to an audience of current and future generations.

Walking City 01

The site explains:

‘The extraordinary influence of the mainly unbuilt 1961-1974 architectural group Archigram is internationally acknowledged. Exhibitions of their work have been touring major institutions worldwide since 1992, they were awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in 2002, and they are recognised influences on many of the world’s greatest contemporary architects and buildings. Yet the bulk of their visionary work has to date remained difficult to access, largely stored in domestic conditions or temporary storage. In collaboration with the remaining members of Archigram or their heirs, and funded by a £304,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, a team from the University of Westminster has formed an online, searchable database of all the available works of Archigram for study by architectural specialists and the general public.’

This is just a small part of the explanation…

Archigram Plug-in City 01

The Archigram Archival Project is a fantastic and inspiring collection of knowledge, that may well lead you to hours of stimulating, intriguing and mind-expanding exploration.

You may also like to visit the Archigram site.

ARM – 2016 AIA Gold Medal

Ashton Raggatt McDougall_John Gollings Photo ©
Howard Raggatt, Steve Ashton, Ian McDougall

On Friday evening ARM (Steve Ashton, Howard Raggatt, Ian McDougall) were announced as very worthy recipients of the 2016 Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal. With an extensive body of critically engaged architecture they were awarded and celebrated at the 2016 Australian Achievement in Architecture Awards at Adelaide Oval.

Ian and Howard attended the ceremony while Steve Ashton (absent due to illness) was connected via video link. My first photo of Ian and Howard on stage shows Howard appropriately blurred, and my shot of them watching the video presentation of their achievements has a reflected light between them – let’s imagine that it’s Steve watching over their shoulders, perhaps.

ARM have never just designed buildings, but have always engaged intelligently with every project to explore, physical, intellectual, experiential, historical, practical, artistic, graphic, technological, and cultural concerns (to name a few). This engagement was always rigorous, and always resulted in challenging projects that always elicited all manner of strong responses. Their body of work is broad in typology, rich in ideas, exuberant in expression and concerned with engaging with all comers on multiple levels.

I have had the good fortune to know ARM for about 30 years and have enjoyed engaging with them through their works, writings and conversations. I have had the good fortune of visiting a number of their projects around the country and share some of them with you here.

Storey Hall – RMIT, Melbourne

Perth Arena, Perth

Hamer Hall – Melbourne Art Centre, Melbourne

Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

Swanston Square Apartment Tower, Melbourne

This is only a small selection of the projects and ideas of ARM so you may like to have a look at the ARM website. You may also like to study the book Mongrel Rapture, published by URO, on the work and ideas of ARM  – you can find an overview of it on Vimeo.

The 2016 May/June issue of Architecture Australia provides coverage of ARM’s award and work.

Architecture Australia May:June 2016

For additional details about the 2016 Gold Medal, refer to ArchitectureAU and Dezeen.

SAS House – Room 606 by Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen designed the SAS House, a high-rise hotel with 275 rooms and airline terminal in Copenhagen for the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) in 1960.

SAS House, Room 606, Copenhagen 01_Aage Stuwing Photo

Jacobsen believed in a total design approach where everything – exterior, interior, furniture, finishes and fittings – were all designed as a ‘complete environment’.

SAS House, Room 606, Copenhagen 02_Arne Jacobsen Photo
Original Arne Jacobsen slide showing interior soon after opening in 1960.

Over the years, the building slowly lost the character and detail of Jacobsen’s design. While it is still a hotel with airline offices, and the exterior retains its original character, the interiors have been completely stripped of the original Jacobsen design, having been totally redesigned and refitted numerous times over the years.

Except for one room – Room 606. This room has been preserved and restored and now maintained with the original design, its character, furniture, fittings, fabrics and finishes reflecting Jacobsen’s intent and the quality that all the rooms, and the building as a whole, once embodied.

SAS House, Room 606, Copenhagen 03_Paul Warchol Photo

The room is available to be booked and stayed in, like any other, in the Radison Blu Royal Hotel, Copenhagen, as it is now known – look for the Arne Jacobsen Package.

SAS House, Room 606, Copenhagen 11_Arne Jacobsen sketch plans
Arne Jacobsen sketch plans

Jacobsen designed the rooms to bring the sky in – the blue-green palette on the walls heightens this effect, with the room then anchored by timber panelling up to window sill level. Furniture and fittings (this is where the Swan and Egg chairs came from) all designed by Arne Jacobsen complete the composition.

You can read a more detailed story in Icon Magazine. There is also a fantastic book published by Phaidon titled ‘ROOM 606‘ that chronicles the history of the project showing design drawings, construction images and images of the newly renovated room (some of which have been used in this post).


Sydney Opera House Competition 1956

Having yesterday visited the Sydney Opera House (yet again), showing a friend from overseas, I marvelled (yet again) at the little crack of opportunity that allowed this great work of architecture to come into being.


So today, as one who has both entered and organised architectural competitions, I would like to share with you some of the documents related to the ‘International Competition for a National Opera House at Bennelong Point Sydney, New South Wales, Australia‘ from 60 years ago in 1956.

National Opera House Competition - Brown Book 00
Front Cover. Sydney Opera House – The Brown Book, 1955. NRS 12702

The main document, known as the Brown Book, is the competition brief officially titled the ‘Conditions and Programme’. This document can be freely found on the NSW State Records – Digital Gallery.

The Brown Book is a 25 page document containing 11 full page photos, 7 pages of competition conditions, and 7 pages of appendix – Appendix 1: Extracts from the Architects Act, Appendix 2: Summary of Relevant Regulations, Appendix 3: Written Description of the Site, Appendix 4: Site Requirements, Appendix 5: Building Requirements, and Appendix 6: Schedule of Dates.

It makes for very interesting reading, and also appears extremely minimal compared to the reams of information provided for competitions these days.

The next document of interest is the Memorandum to Competitors which is a list of entrants, the announcement of winners and Jury report.

National Opera House Competition - Memorandum to Competitors

There is also a document known as the Gold Book, published for the Ceremony to Commemorate the Commencement of the Building of the Sydney Opera House on 2nd March 1959. This document contains some wonderful handwritten notes.

Finally there are copies of the Utzon Competition Drawings. Enjoy!


Paul Rudolph: 23 Beekman Place, New York

23 Beekman Place is a 5 storey brownstone building built in the 1860s on the east side of Manhattan between 50th and 51st Streets with a view of the East River.

Architect Paul Rudolph began renting a one bedroom apartment in the building in 1961, and following a real estate downturn bought the entire building in 1974 for around $300,000.

23 Beekman Place 01_Richard Barnes Photo

From that point on it became a place for Rudolph to experiment with his ideas on residential architecture. The lower 4 floors were retained as apartments with the top floor becoming a 5 storey penthouse of incredible complexity – it really has 27 different floor levels and was officially ‘completed’ in 1982. Using steel framing and concrete panels externally and shiny, reflective materials internally, including glass floors and a translucent bathtub, Rudolph experimented continually, regularly testing ideas within this apartment until his death in 1997.

In researching this piece I came across some fantastic Paul Rudolph drawings in the Library of Congress.

23 Beekman Place by Paul Rudolph_Library of Congress Image 3c23770u

23 Beekman Place by Paul Rudolph_Library of Congress Image 3c23774u

Soon after that the building was bought by Gabriel and Michael Boyd who renovated and converted it into one residence. In 2004 (for new owners) Andrew Bernheimer and Jared Della Valle were commissioned to restore and redesign the building back to the 4 apartments plus penthouse. They painstakingly documented all previous designs and set about creating a restored but reinterpreted version of Rudolph’s design.

23 Beekman Place - Della Valle Bernheimer Section
23 Beekman Place – Della Valle Bernheimer Section

The images here are from that renovation and taken by photographer Richard Barnes.

23 Beekman Place 02_Richard Barnes Photo

23 Beekman Place 05_Richard Barnes Photo

23 Beekman Place 10_Richard Barnes Photo

There is a also short article from 2006 about the renovation in New York Magazine.

In 2013 the penthouse was advertised for sale at US$27.5M, and then reduced to US$22.5M.

23 Beekman Place Real Estate drawing
23 Beekman Place, New York – Real Estate Drawing

For further information check the Paul Rudolph Foundation or Wikipedia – 23 Beekman Place.

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

Zaha Hadid passed away this week and it would be hard to not write something today in recognition of Zaha and her incredible work.


I first encountered Zaha Hadid when she gave an inspiring lecture at RMIT in 1994.

In 1999 I visited the almost-completed LF1 project in Weil-am-Rhein, then travelled to London to interview Zaha and Marcus Dochantschi, the project architect, for an article I was to write for Architecture Review Australia #68.

LF1 by Zha Hadid_ar.68_Stephen Varady review

In 2002, for inside #23, I reviewed the ‘Zaha Hadid Lounge’ exhibition at the Kunstmuseum in Wolfsburg – an exhibition of projects prepared by the City of Wolfsburg while Zaha’s ‘Science Centre’ was under construction nearby.

zaha hadid lounge_inside.23_Stephen Varady review

Both the LF1 and Science Centre buildings explored the idea of complex intertwined curving spaces. I believe these ideas came to an incredible climax in the MAXXI Gallery in Rome. Commissioned in 1999 after a competition with 273 entries, it was completed in 2009 and officially opened with collections installed in 2010. It is a complex intertwining of gallery spaces, circulation, light wells and indoor and outdoor spaces.

MAXXI, Rome by Zaha Hadid 01_Iwan Baan Photo ©

From this aerial photo you can see how the elements of the new building are woven into the landscape of the neighbourhood of existing industrial buildings on the site, both reinforcing and subverting the traditional urban geometry.

MAXXI, Rome by Zaha Hadid 01_plan_site

For me, the most fitting tribute to Zaha would be to share one of her buildings with you.

I had the good fortune to travel to Rome and visit MAXXI in 2011 and have collected this series of images that show how the building is a total journey – from the context and surrounding buildings, to the new MAXXI building itself, partly grafted onto an existing warehouse, and then all of it’s detailed parts coming together in a very cohesive and exciting whole.

You can see that the building has been considered as a total composition, all around as well as inside and outside, with beautifully composed and detailed elements, from the gallery spaces to the external fire stairs. Enjoy!

For further information, check out the Zaha Hadid Architects website, the MAXXI website and the Arch Daily and Dezeen sites.

There is also a wonderful article about Zaha Hadid in the New Yorker by John Seabrook from 2009, with a postscript added a few days ago.

MAXXI is the Museum of Art of the 21st(XXI) Century and can be found on this map.



Mark Rothko Chapel

For Easter we have a look at the non-denominational Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, USA – a project where where art, architecture, dedication and faith are intertwined.

Rothko Chapel 01

In 1964 John and Dominique de Menil commissioned Mark Rothko to create a meditative space along with a series of 14 site-specific paintings.

As noted on the Rothko Website by Susan J. Barnes:

“The Rothko Chapel…became the world’s first broadly ecumenical center, a holy place open to all religions and belonging to none. It became a center for international cultural, religious, and philosophical exchanges, for colloquia and performances. And it became a place of private prayer for individuals of all faiths”.

While you read this story you may like to listen to the Morton Feldman Composition commissioned for the opening.

Rothko Chapel 03

The project took up 6 years of Rothko’s life. Originally Philip Johnson was the architect engaged to work alongside Rothko but Rothko objected to Johnson’s ‘monumentality’ distracting from the artworks. Rothko then worked with Johnson’s supervising architect Howard Barnstone and his partner Eugene Aubry, but Rothko died in 1970 before the building was completed. Barnstone retired and Aubry invited Johnson back to complete the project which was finally opened in 1971.

The Chapel is generally open every day from 10am to 6pm.

According to Rothko Chapel Website‘The Rothko Chapel is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Come as you are, and while you’re here, feel free to meditate, view our treasured works of art, focus attention inward, or just let go of the chaos of the world for a while.’

On the 40th anniversary of the building, the US radio program ‘All Things Considered’ on National Public Radio explains a little more about the building and artworks.

For further information you can also view the Arch Daily Story or the Phaidon explanation of the space.

For directions refer to the Rothko Chapel Map.

For further information about Rothko’s works visit

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, Chicago

There are many good reasons for visiting Chicago and one of them involves taking a trip out to Oak Park and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio. Wright used his own house to experiment on, testing many architectural ideas. He built and worked in the Studio between 1898 and 1909 designing a huge number of houses and other buildings in and around Oak Park and other parts of Chicago.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio 01

On the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust Website, there are a wide range of available tours to be found that can all be booked online, starting with the Home & Studio, the Unity Temple and many others. Some of these are self-guided walking tours and some are more traditional guided tours. There is so much architectural knowledge to be gleaned from visiting the Wright Home & Studio and then in seeing his other projects in the area.

Even a tour of the Robie House, located back near the centre of Chicago can be booked through the Trust.

On 21 May 2016 there will be a Wright Plus Housewalk Tour where a number of Wright designed private houses will be open to view.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust Website states:

‘The featured homes, from the surprising Winslow House (1893-94) that foretells Wright’s mature Prairie style, to his last Oak Park commission the elegant Adams House (1913), offer a rare opportunity to experience the complete arc of Wright’s Prairie years. The Winslow House, Wright’s first independent commission, is on Wright Plus for the first time in 39 years.

Nine private residences (see slide show above), including four designed by Wright, PLUS buildings by Drummond, Van Bergen, White and Byrne – all eminent architects who started their careers in Wright’s Oak Park Studio, present the best of the Prairie School of architecture. In addition, your Wright Plus ticket includes admission to the iconic Robie House as well as the Wright Home and Studio.’

Winslow House 01

For locations of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in and around Chicago refer to this Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Map.

Roden Crater & James Turrell

Artist James Turrell went searching for a site for a special work.

In 1974 he flew over the Roden Crater in Northern Arizona and decided he had found what he was looking for, and in 1977 was finally able to acquire the property on which the crater was located.

Roden Crater - Exterior © James Turrell

‘I spent seven months flying the western states, looking for suitable sites. I slept under the wing of the plane most nights and stayed at a motel once a week. Every site that I saw was generating new ideas. In Arizona I was flying over the northern part of the San Francisco Peaks volcano field. It was 4:30 in the afternoon and the sun was about to set. All the craters were lit with this beautiful rose colored, side-raking light. Roden Crater was highlighted with this light and I landed near it. I walked up into it and thought—this is it.’ – James Turrell on how he found Roden Crater from the Roden Crater Facebook Page.

Roden Crater - Crater Bowl 04 - © James Turrell

Since that time Turrell has been planning, designing and building his Roden Crater Project. Turrell’s work has always played with sensory perception and relies very much on the experiences of the viewer – of light, and the sky in particular – so these insertions into this incredible landscape will be a culmination of his lifetime investigation into those ideas and will be his ultimate exploration into heightening the viewer’s experience of light and the sky.

Roden Crater - Crater's Eye 02 - © James Turrell

A quote from the Roden Crater Website states:

‘Roden Crater is a gateway to the contemplation of light, time and landscape. It is the magnum opus of James Turrell’s career, a work that, besides being a monument to land art, functions as a naked eye observatory of earthly and celestial events that are both predictable and continually in flux. Constructed to last for centuries to come, Roden Crater links the physical and the ephemeral, the objective with the subjective, in a transformative sensory experience.’

The crater has a number of tunnels and spaces oriented to different parts of the sky. The first 6 have been completed – the Crater Bowl, Alpha (East) Tunnel, Sun | Moon Chamber, East Portal, and the Crater’s Eye. When complete, there will be 21 viewing spaces and six tunnels.

Crater Bowl

Crater’s Eye

Alpha (East) Tunnel

East Portal

Sun | Moon Chamber

The project is not yet complete and not yet open to the public however some fundraising events have been held with ArtNews reporting on 19 February 2015 about one such event.

Roden Crater - North Space model © James Turrell

For more detailed information as well as information about how to become a supporter of the project visit the Roden Crater Website and the Roden Crater Facebook page.

There is also short film about James Turrell’s Roden Crater. The film was commissioned by LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) on the occasion of the exhibition “James Turrell: A Retrospective” on view at LACMA from May 26, 2013 through April 6, 2014.