A monthly collection of bon mots, bouquets and brickbats directed to Tone on Tuesday (AKA TOT).

World Trade Centre

Two readers responded to the discussion of the original World Trade Centre. My mention of Philippe Petit’s high wire walk between the twin towers prompted loyal reader Sue Barnsley to mention the SBS On Demand documentary on this ‘artistic crime of the century’. Absolutely worth seeing. On the other hand ‘nameless’ sent brickbats that I didn’t show the ‘Gothic arches’ of Minoru Yamasaki's design.

Here’s a photo to answer both observations: Petit on the high wire, and in the background, towards the end of the construction, the delicate curves of the top end of the mullions that Yamasaki so seamlessly integrated into the base and top of the towers.


Suddenly submarines are back in the headlines. I've written twice about the foolishness of relying on submarines for defense, or for anything else. TOT 33, on the ‘Piece Corps’, looked at how we could fund a civil defense force by abandoning the obscene costs of the then proposed French subs.

In TOT 72 on ‘Anzac Daze’, I rubbished the idea of submarines as a poor design choice for an effective form of defense. The biggest threat that we face is not military, but climate change. Again, I was arguing for a civil defense force; to reorient our military towards the vessels and airplanes that can help out in the increasingly brutal results of climate change: floods, fires and cyclones. The best examples in the last 50 years are the Navy's success during Cyclone Tracy and last year’s black summer bushfires.

For the submarine ‘swapsie’ the three countries, Australia, the UK and the USA, have adopted the acronym AUKUS. But it should be in the order of might: the US, then the UK and then the A for us. Spelt USUKA, and pronounced You Sucker. Much more appropriate.

The nuclear option

You really don't need submarines in this day and age, and you doubly don't want nuclear ones. It’s not just the downsides of accidents, possible terrorism, risks of failure and cost blow outs. Let alone the unfriendly fire against our nearest neighbours, the Kiwis who've long banned nuclear.

More fundamental is the design failure of nuclear subs. Both conventional and nuclear submarines use hybrid technology: a diesel or nuclear reactor to power an electric motor that drives the submarine. Whilst you can turn a diesel engine off for ‘silent running’, a nuclear reactor has to run continuously, or it melts down: it needs pumps for cooling water and dumps huge amounts of heat back into the ocean.

This raises two problems: the enemy can hear those pumps running on their sonar; and the vast amounts of hot water discharged rises to the surface, leaving a thermal plume that can spotted from planes with thermal imaging. You’re not getting anywhere near the South China Sea before being spotted.

Morrison and Dutton bang on about ‘whatever it costs for defense’ attitude. If only they could address climate change with the same vigour, instead of pandering to Barnaby’s nonsensical demand to ‘show me the money’. They are so illiterate about design, innovation and the future that they have no idea that the modern technology they think they are buying is the equivalent of being sold the Brooklyn Bridge. Only now have they’ve forfeited their deposit for the Eiffel Tower they were sold.

Schools’ ventilation

Beating Covid is now focusing on ventilation issues which we discussed in general back in TOT 42. When hotels, particularly Tri-Arc hotels, (former Travelodges) failed to prevent Covid spread we discussed it in TOT 66 here, and we discussed the need for dedicated quarantine facilities in TOT 78 here. Now the focus is on poor ventilation in schools as the most vulnerable becomes unvaccinated young, in the most efficient super spreader space imaginable.

There's a long history of schools being designed without regard to the thermal or air comfort of the occupants. The answer is large amounts of fresh air, not recycled through the building. Simple idea, complicated design solution. Unlike swapping naturally ventilated single cabins for complex air conditioning systems in hotels, changing AC schools for fresh air is problematic. Your local examples sought for a future TOT column please.

Derek Wrigley

For TOT 84 I wrote a recollection of my friend, Derek Wrigley. A&D magazine subsequently published an obituary by Laura Box, which you can find here, describing the very fine work of this lesser known, but wonderful Australian designer.


Finally, a call out for readers to send in their favorite TLAs (three letter acronyms) from the design planning and building industries. It would seem that we are greatly enamored of the TLA: the PFC, drawn on CAD, made by CAM, for an ILU, that will go to AIA awards. I'm researching the shorthand that we all use on drawings, looking for the handiest, and the most idiotic. So far, my favourite is a CDU, a Chemical Dispensing Unit - soap holder to you. Got anything that can top that? The email address for TOT is below (there’s another TLA).

Tone Wheeler is principal architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW and is President of the Australian Architecture Association. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and are not held or endorsed by A+D, the AAA or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Sanity is preserved by reading and replying only to comments addressed to [email protected]