I have written 100 articles over two years, and upped stumps last week. Some have asked, before I go, to summarise the 115,000 words. And I’m happy to oblige, with an index below. Before I do, let me describe the premise of the columns, which is two-fold.
Firstly, design infuses every aspect of life, although it is not often discussed that way. Most design press is self-referential, discussed within narrow lines. I wanted to widen the discussion, into areas not often thought of as design, or with a different view of the design process.
Secondly, one most interesting aspect, so rarely linked to design, is politics. And many of these columns are decidedly political; mostly ‘left’ leaning because it is only the ‘left’ that has a shown even a glimmer of interest in design. Although I redesigned the idea of ‘left’!
The key area for design to address right now is sustainability. And it has occupied many columns:
- Who defined sustainability? Answer here. And hint, it’s a woman coining ‘spaceship earth’.
- The ‘third wave’ of sustainability (the first is moral encouragement, the second is regulation and the third is the use of lifestyle as a motivator)
- What six steps can lead us to a more sustainable life?
- The failure of autonomy and autonomous houses. And the need for community.
Then a series on passive solar houses:
Politics and design
Often politicians use the word ‘architect’ when they mean a making a policy. I wanted to turn the tables and use design to analyse policies and politics.
- Left and right are inadequate to describe politics, design offers us the chance to see politics in 3 dimensions. If we can have greens on the social, wet, left, then we can have crimsons on the conservative, dry right.
- Protests are so 20th C, the climate strike and architects declare are passed their use-by date.
- Evolution, not revolution, done piece by piece, via a ‘Piece Corps’, a take on JFK’s great idea.
- One version is the use of the military in civilian disasters, discussed as ‘Anzac Daze’.
- Words are swords, which I examined in the ways indigenous names could be deployed, and how nouns and verbs can be used interchangeably in design.
- Not to neglect some massive failures when politics fails design: by not building quarantine facilities, but pouring unconscionable waste into the Australian War Memorial and the Sydney Football Stadium.
Most of my practice is focused on various forms of social housing, so you’d expect that a big proportion of the columns on that topic, and most can’t disguise my frustration with the way politics discriminates against the lowest two quintiles of our society.
It’s one thing to design well, but another whole fish kettle to build well, the subject of several columns.
Teaching and Learning
Having spent 20 years full time and twenty years part-time in architecture schools I’ve experienced the good and the bad, sometimes finding it hard to divine the two.
A number of issues of practical issues of practice intrigue me: the use of feasibility studies to start any project; the process in practice; how architects are sidelined; admitting you can be wrong; objectionable objectors; and whether droit de suite could apply to architecture.
Bushfires and Ventilation
Two contemporary topics of the last two years have been the bushfires (designing and surviving and most importantly looking to indigenous fire techniques) and ventilation (the con in Air Con, the failure of ventilation in quarantine hotels, and how it can be improved).
Industrial Design and E-Vehicles
I have written another thirty columns under the pseudonym of +one, all on industrial design, and some ideas leaked over into Tone on Tuesday including the issue of repairing fake Eames chairs, good goods, and seeing history through 100 objects. The e-vehicles included bikes, the failure of American juggernaut cars and the NY Yellow taxi.
Current events seen through design
Several current events demanded design attention: The inauguration of Joe Biden (the beauty of saying farewell to design-disaster Trump, and the failure of the USA); the Tokyo Olympics, events and temples, buildings and objects; and the fall of Kabul, but the articles (1,2,3) on design for Covid have not worn all that well. Too much too soon.
I wanted to mark the passing of some of my favourite designers during the last two years including overseas luminaries: Charles Jencks, Christo, Edward de Bono and three articles on the hidden talents of graphic designer Charlie Watts; and the local architects, all of whom I knew: Brian Klopper, Dirk Bolt, Marr Grounds (so good I wrote twice) and the remarkable Derek Wrigley.
Happy reading, I’m off to do a little catch up myself, there’s a pile of new works to devour.
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].