The history of southeastern Asia, Australia and Oceania in the twentieth century was dominated by the Second World War and by post-war quests for decolonization and independence. While Thailand remained a monarchy throughout the period, and the previous settler-colonies of the British Commonwealth like Australia and New Zealand were proclaimed dominions in 1901 and 1907 respectively, and then peacefully achieved legislative independence in the 1940s, almost all other countries in the region experienced internal conflict at the same time as European colonial powers struggled to retain control of these colonies in the face of global and regional conflicts.
During the First World War, German New Guinea (the northern part of the island) was captured by Australia, which it then administered as well as British New Guinea (southern part, renamed as Papua after 1905), although with separate administrations. In 1949 these areas were combined and the territory became known as Papua New Guinea. But it was the Japanese invasion of Indochina in September 1940, Malaya in December 1941, and the fall of Singapore – along with the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history – in February 1942, that were the catalysts for the final chapters of colonial rule in the region. The Philippines, which had been an American colony from 1898, saw General Douglas MacArthur and the USA forces escape to Australia in 1942, with the archipelago then achieving post-war independence in 1946. Japanese forces also overran the Dutch East Indies, today known as Indonesia, and this occupation effectively ended Dutch rule in March 1942.
Despite the Japanese surrender in September 1945, war in the region did not cease. In the First Indochina War (1946–54), the Vietnamese fought the French and managed to expel them in 1954, before the political division of the country into North and South Vietnam. The Vietnam War ensued, with South Vietnam (supported by the USA, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and other anti-Communist allies) being pitted against North Vietnam (supported by the Soviet Union, China and other Communist allies), and over its long duration, from 1955 to 1975, this war also extended into Laos and Cambodia. Most notorious of all, perhaps, was the brutal American bombing of Cambodia.
Elsewhere in the region, hard-won independence became the pattern, although this was often declared by indigenous populations but not always acknowledged officially for several years. The liberated nations included: Indonesia (proclaimed in 1945, only acknowledged by the Netherlands in 1949); Philippines (1946); Myanmar (1948, but which experienced a coup d’état in 1962 and then a military dictatorship which only formally ended in 2011); Laos (semi-autonomy from France in 1949, and full independence in 1953); Cambodia (1953); Malaya (1957, and which became united with North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore in 1963 to become Malaysia); Singapore (expelled from the Malaysian federation in 1965); Samoa (independence from New Zealand in 1962); Western Samoa (under German rule until 1920, then a British mandate from 1920 to 1946 before being administered by New Zealand and gaining independence in 1962); West Papua (a Dutch overseas territory from 1949 to 1962, then ceded to Indonesia); Fiji (1970, becoming a republic in 1987); Papua New Guinea (1975). After the defeat of US-led forces, North Vietnam and South Vietnam reunified in 1976. Only in Oceania has France continued from 1946 to retain territorial rights over New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
In geographic terms, Southeast Asia lies within the warm, humid tropics. Its climate is hence hot throughout the year, and monsoonal with wet and dry seasons. Only North Vietnam and the Myanmar Himalayas have a subtropical climate and experience a cold winter with snow. Parts of maritime southeastern Asia, especially the archipelagoes of the Philippines and Indonesia, as well as Bougainville, Tonga and New Zealand, sit within the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ and are subject to heavy seismic and volcanic activity. In 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, wreaked havoc and major loss of life in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, but particularly in the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, where more than 150,000 people perished. The islands of the Pacific Ocean that constitute Oceania – Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia – experience a tropical climate, while the two major islands that constitute New Zealand have a temperate climate. Its North Island has active volcanoes such as Mount Ruapehu, which is 2,797 metres (9,177 feet) high, while the South Island’s highest peak is Aoraki/Mount Cook at 3,724 metres (12,218 feet). The continental landmass of Australia has a full range of diverse climatic and geographic conditions ranging from tropical savannah in the north, arid and desert conditions in the centre, Mediterranean climate in the southwest, and subtropical through to temperate conditions along the full length of the eastern coast, including the island of Tasmania at the south.
Belief systems and ethnicities across Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania are multiple and diverse, indicative of centuries of migration and colonization. In Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, the main religion is Buddhism, while in Malaysia and Indonesia it is Islam, although other religions are recognized. An exception is the Indonesian island of Bali, which is predominantly Hindu. Catholicism has a presence in those countries that experienced French colonization such as Vietnam, Cambodia, New Caledonia and Tahiti. In the case of Indonesia, Dutch presence through the first half of the twentieth century ensured both Protestant and Catholic beliefs gained some, albeit limited, traction. In 2010, Christianity accounted for around 10 per cent of the Indonesian population. In Singapore, four religions are practised – Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity – with most Christians being of Chinese origin. In Australia and New Zealand, most of the population identify with Christianity; but these numbers are declining as, with increasing migration from Asia in the third quarter of the twentieth century, affiliation with non-Christian religions has risen. In Papua New Guinea, many combine Christianity with traditional indigenous beliefs and practices.
Replacing colonial rule with democratically elected governments was the norm during the twentieth century, and some countries created entirely new capital cities such as Canberra (1913 onwards), as planned by two American architects, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony, who emigrated to Australia. A more recent example is Putrajaya in Malaysia (1995 onwards), near to Kuala Lumpur. With the increase of air travel after the Second World War, cities like Bangkok and Singapore became major regional economic hubs, while global tourism grew as an economic mainstay for various Pacific islands. Under the three-decade prime ministership of Lee Kuan Yew (r. 1959–90), Singapore became a leading financial centre not just regionally but also internationally. Likewise, Sukarno (r. 1945–67), first president of newly independent Indonesia, and his successor Suharto (r. 1967–98), sought to modernize their country. Jakarta, which possesses one of the world’s physically largest metropolitan areas, has grown exponentially, reaching an estimated population of 10 million by 2014. The formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967, with the aim of fostering economic growth amongst its eventual ten members, contributed greatly to the region’s increasing global economic and cultural significance by the turn of the twenty-first century. Australia and New Zealand’s economies grew steadily with increased migration and strengths in agriculture and mining. The two countries strengthened their military ties with the USA through the signing of the ANZUS Treaty in 1951, although New Zealand was then suspended from ANZUS in 1986 when it established a nuclear-free zone in its territorial waters. At the same time, questions of sovereignty and identity for Māori peoples in New Zealand and Indigenous Australians became contested facets of everyday life at social, political and cultural levels.
The design and production of buildings across the region after 1900 were influenced by a great many factors, of which the most notable were those of available resources for construction materials, the specific functional requirements of newer and non-traditional building types that often demanded new and inventive responses to local construction practices, and the variety and complexity of the architectural culture in different countries. Each of these key aspects will be analysed in this section.
Traditional building materials such as brick, stucco and timber were commonly used in residential, institutional, commercial and agricultural buildings and infrastructure across the region, but from the early decades of the twentieth century, developments in reinforced concrete enabled longer spans, larger internal volumes and improved fireproofing. In Melbourne, the domed reading room (1911) designed by the firm of Bates, Peebles and Smart for the State Library of Victoria, whose ribs employed a patented system of steel reinforcement (known as the ‘Kahn bar’) developed by the American engineer Albert W. Kahn in 1902, had for a time the world’s largest reinforced-concrete dome. In market buildings in mid-1930s Phnom Penh, Cambodia, by Jean Desbois and Louis Chauchon (Key Buildings, fig. 99.1), or Semarang, Indonesia, by Thomas Karsten, the use of reinforced concrete columns, beams and roofs provided vast shopping spaces as an alternative to the typical street-based market. Concrete transformed buildings for infrastructure such as Clifford Pier (1931) by Singapore’s Public Works Department, graced by a series of concrete arched trusses, while in Geelong in Australia, the Dennys Lascelles wool stores (1910, demolished 1990) contained remarkable reinforced-concrete bow-string trusses spanning nearly 60 metres (200 feet), creating what was claimed to be the largest concrete-roofed space in the world – almost 0.4 hectare (1 acre) in area – without visible support. Rooflights above created a flood of natural light onto the tables where wool and fleece were auctioned. In New Zealand, the need for earthquake-resistant construction ensured broad professional expertise in reinforced-concrete building design, exemplified by Peter Beaven’s Lyttleton Road Tunnel Authority Building in Christchurch (completed in 1964), which also revealed parallels with contemporary Japanese architecture. Concrete also became associated with the embrace of Modernism generally across southeastern Asia. Buildings with giant cantilevering roofs and brises-soleil (sun shades) like the Singapore Conference Hall and Trade Union House by Malayan Architects Co-Partnership (1965) and Dewan Tunku Canselor (Grand Hall) at the University of Malaya (1966), as designed by Kington Loo of BEP Architects, were signatures of independence and emerging regional identities. It was a post-war design approach that is generally called ‘Tropical Modernism’, representing attempts by various architects to adapt Western forms of modern architecture to suit the climate and formal language of the region.
In regard to other industrialized building materials, the use of iron and steel became ubiquitous, beginning at the most basic level with profiled iron sheeting used in different ways and which, for decades, had come out to the colonies as ballast (see Corrugated Iron in Australia). In the twentieth century, more sophisticated steel construction came to be used. The Sydney Harbour Bridge (1923–32), still the world’s tallest steel arch bridge, had John Bradfield as its engineer but its non-structural concrete and granite-faced pylons were the designs of Thomas Smith Tait of Sir John Burnet and Partners, a leading London practice with Scottish roots. After the Second World War, experiments in steel focused on the aesthetic potential of the material’s tensile properties. Melbourne’s 1956 Olympics Swimming Stadium by Kevin Borland, Peter McIntyre, and John and Phyllis Murphy, with William (Bill) Irwin as the engineer, had V-shaped steel trusses held in tension by stepped and sloping seating plates, which were tied to the ground by steel rods along each side. The open-air Sidney Myer Music Bowl (1959) in the same Australian city – designed in this case by the firm of Yuncken Freeman Brothers, Griffiths and Simpson – featured a draped tent-like steel cable structure that was sheathed in aluminium-covered plywood and propped up by two giant cigar-shaped steel columns.
Despite these developments in concrete and steel technology, older vernacular techniques persisted across the region, in large part outside of metropolitan settings – and sometimes at huge scale, such as for agricultural production as part of the global economy. Indicative of the large-scale privatization of agriculture, trading and shipping for export was Indonesia, where indigenous peoples constructed huge timber-framed sheds with palm-thatch roofs (c. 1915–20) for tobacco drying on plantations in Sumatra that employed indentured native workers from Java, Malaya, Singapore and China. In the Australian state of Victoria, the Murtoa Stick Shed (Grain Store No.1) of 1941, a vast cathedral-like temporary storage facility for wheat during the Second World War, constructed of 560 mountain-ash timber poles, is the largest rustically built structure in the world. The building was also representative of changes in wheat storage, handling and transport, moving away from merchant trading (in individual bags) to bulk handling on vast export ships. Decorative and craft-based vernacular techniques thus tended to be in decline due to the importation of industrialized building materials across southeastern Asia, Australia and Oceania. Yet from the mid-1960s, many traditional building features were revived within the context of growing international tourism in the region. As a reaction to visually prominent high-rise Modernist hotels that rose above the level of palm trees, such as in Bali, a counter-movement back to the vernacular was pursued, albeit largely focused within a series of boutique hotels designed by Western architects and intended for wealthy Western tourists.
Everyday houses in southeastern Asia in the early years of the twentieth century conformed largely to vernacular forms of the past – that is, the native bungalow or kampong dwelling. So too did the so-called ‘black and white’ houses of Singapore from around 1910–40, designed for British public servants, as well as royal residences such as the golden teakwood Vimanmek Mansion (1901, by Phra Rajayodhathep) in Bangkok in Thailand, the timber-pole and nail-free framed Istana Sri Menanti (1902–08, by Tukang Kahar and Tukang Taib, with M. Woodford) at Negeri Sembilan in Malaysia, and Istana Kenangan (1931, by Encik Sopian) at Kuala Kangsar in Perak, Malaysia. Meanwhile, in Australia and New Zealand, influences from Californian bungalows transformed everyday Arts and Crafts houses into a suburban vernacular that would persist through into the 1970s. A move towards high-density settlements proceeded largely through government initiatives in Australia and New Zealand, via state-based housing commissions. There were exemplified in Wellington by the Modernist low-rise concrete Berhampore Flats of 1940 by Gordon Wilson. Elsewhere, in Cambodia, La Cité Sihanouk (Sihanoukville), which was built from 1963 to 1965 to designs by Vladimir Bodiansky and Gérald Hanning (as consultants to the United Nations) and a local architect, Vann Molyvann, represents one of the most convincing examples of the rationalism of the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) ( Chapter 91)applied to urban design. Around 300 housing units, each with excellent cross-ventilation and planning sensitive to local custom, were laid in two parallel, multi-storey rows separated by a landscaped park. Better known, and with greater impact at an international level, was the bold programme of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board, where from 1960 onwards, a profusion of high-rise slab apartment blocks inspired by the work of Le Corbusier (see Chapter 91), often designed in series as complete urban precincts and with ‘wet markets’ selling fresh food at their base, transformed the island-state into a tropical Modernist paradise.
Distinguished educational buildings from the earlier part of this period included Newman College (1918), a Catholic residential college for the University of Melbourne by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony (Key Buildings, figs. 99.3 and 99.12), and the Aula ITB (Institut Teknologi Bandung) in Java, then in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), opened in 1920 to designs by a Dutch-Indonesian colonial architect, Henri Maclaine Pont (Key Buildings, fig. 99.4). Municipal architecture was well represented by the likes of the Municipal Offices Building in what was then Rangoon in Burma, now Yangon in Myanmar (1926–33), built in two contrasting phases, with the second phase, designed by U Maung Tin, a Burmese architect, making references to traditional Buddhist architecture (Key Buildings, fig. 99.13).
Statements of political independence in the region found their grandest and original expression in parliament houses in Kuala Lumpur (1957–63) by William Ivor Shipley (Key Buildings, fig. 99.5), in Waigani in Papua New Guinea (1984) by Cecil Hogan of its Department of Works and the overseas office of Australian firm, Peddle Thorp Architects, and in Canberra in Australia (1980–88). This latter building, a Post-Modernist masterpiece, was won in international competition by a US practice headed by Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola, who later became a naturalized Australian; the Canberra scheme was carried out in association with Australian architect Richard Thorp. Common to each of these parliament houses was an interest in an expression of Indigenous forms either in formal terms or in structural techniques, materials or commissioned works of art. Following the 1987 coup, the Fijian government moved from its axially planned 1939 Art Deco headquarters into a new parliament house, completed in 1992 to designs by a local firm, Vitia Architects, in conjunction with the government’s own architect. It reflected traditional Melanesian motifs in its fale/vale (traditional house) roof form, Pacific timbers and masi ceremonial cloths throughout the interior.
State-sanctioned places of worship also became important markers of independence, most particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia with striking and original reinterpretations of the mosque. The National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara) in Kuala Lumpur of 1965 by Howard Ashley, Baharuddin Kassim and Ikmal Hisham Albakri, with its white ceramic tile-clad jali-screens and blue-tiled and folded parasol roof over its central area, was a decidedly Modernist composition in a tropical setting. By contrast, the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta – designed by Frederich Silaban in 1955, but then constructed from 1961 to 1978, and still the largest mosque in southeastern Asia – was criticized for its modern Arabic style. In response, the former president, Suharto, initiated a programme of mosque building that followed the traditional Javanese triple-roofed profile (see Chapter 70).
In the first half of the twentieth century, office buildings across the region generally followed European models in form and style. However, after the Second World War, almost every commercial city centre came to be defined by American-inspired office skyscrapers. By the mid-1950s, the glazed curtain-wall office building became common, as exemplified in Australia by ICI House in Melbourne (1958) by Bates, Smart and McCutcheon, and – at its most aesthetically refined – the former BHP House in Melbourne (1972), designed by Yuncken Freeman Architects and drawing clear inspiration from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (see Chapters 91 and 102). Exceptions were those tall buildings which consciously deferred to climate, such as John Andrews’s King George V Tower in Sydney (1970–76) with its entire façade shaded by a space frame of plexiglass ‘sunglasses’, or Harry Seidler’s sequence of evocatively curved and shaded speculative office towers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, all of which aspired to a reinterpretation of Brazilian Modernism. At the same time, grandiose graphic and symbolic statements appeared, including the 52-storey OCBC Center in Singapore, finished in 1976 to a deliberate height of 197.7 metres (649 feet) by the US-Chinese architect I.M. Pei, working with a Malaysian company, BEP Akitek. It was then the tallest building in Singapore, and indeed southeastern Asia, and earned the nickname of ‘the calculator’ due to its two semicircular concrete cores, which framed and supported three giant banks of glazed offices that resembled keypads. The culmination of this recasting of the southeastern Asian metropolis came in 1996 with the Post-Modernist expression of Cesar Pelli’s Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, rising 451.9 metres (1,483 feet), with its twin towers planned on overlapping Islamic geometries and clad in stainless steel. Ranked officially as the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004, Petronas Towers still remain the tallest twin structures anywhere. A very different formal arrangement for a large office building was pursued by John Andrews in the Cameron Offices (1969–76; Key Buildings, fig. 99.6) in Belconnen, one of Canberra’s new satellite suburbs. This design rejected towers in favour of low-rise linear blocks with reinforced-concrete portal shading, open-air elevated ‘streets’, and courtyards variously landscaped with indigenous flora. Also notable was the ziggurat-like San Miguel Corporation Headquarters in Manila, the Philippines (1984; Key Buildings, fig. 99.16), which incorporates lush tropical gardens that are reminiscent of local rice terraces.
In terms of leisure activities, cinemas like the Capitol Theatre (1924) in Melbourne designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony, or the Civic Theatre (1929) in Auckland by the firm of Bohringer, Taylor and Johnson, or the Metropolitan Theater (1931) in Manila in the Philippines, by Juan M. Arellano, brought not just a sophisticated medium of entertainment but also new and exotic geometric styling and ornament from diverse sources – blending American, Spanish Muslim, and even indigenous details. Buildings for entertainment reached their apogee as iconic urban landmarks in the abstract forms of Manila’s Theatre of Performing Arts (1969) by Leandro V. Locsin and Associates, the globally renowned Sydney Opera House (1957–73; Key Buildings, figs. 99.7, 99.8 and 99.14), designed by Jørn Utzon but finished off by Hall, Todd and Littlemore, and then, much later, the Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay in Singapore (1994–2002) by a local practice, DP Architects, working with Michael Wilford and Partners in Britain. If such buildings denoted a new form of aesthetic civitas, so too did those places intended to symbolize a form of indigenous reconciliation. In New Caledonia, the forms of the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Nouméa (Key Buildings, fig. 99.18), opened in 1998 to Renzo Piano’s design, make explicit reference to the tall vernacular Kanak ‘Grand Hut’ designs (see Chapter 70), but in this case super-sized; while in Australia, cultural centres related to local Indigenous populations at Tower Hill in Victoria (1962–70), by Romberg and Boyd, or that at Halls Gap in the same state (1990; Key Buildings, fig. 99.17) by Gregory Burgess, or at Yulara, near to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory (1995), again by Burgess, simultaneously allude to humble domestic structures and landscape forms of much greater scale. In each of these cases, important symbolic roles are performed through the creation of evocative forms, yet broader concerns of affordable housing, satisfactory living conditions, equity and recognition for Indigenous people across the region continue to remain unresolved.
Throughout the region during the twentieth century, albeit in differing ways, the need to deal with the consequences of European imperialism loomed large (see The Colonial Legacy). In Australia, a revival of interest in its colonial past was promoted by the books and drawings of architect-painter William Hardy Wilson, who also developed theories about how to blend the architectures of East and West. This undercurrent of respect for the colonial past underlay later Modernist-influenced histories of Australian architecture written by Robin Boyd and James Freeland. Modernist ideals were promoted across the region by colonial and ex-colonial departments of works and also by European émigré architects and educators. In Malaysia, for instance, the German art historian Julius Posener exerted modest influence from 1956, while in Australia, Viennese influence came through architects and educators like Fritz Janeba, Karl Langer and Ernest Fooks up to the 1980s. In New Zealand, Ernst Plischke and Henry Kulka were important figures during the same period.
However, by the 1960s, questions of internationalism versus local identity came to preoccupy local architecture cultures across the region, expressed often not through the institutional setting of the architectural profession but through independent groups intent on fostering local architectural discourse. The earliest and oldest of these was the Wellington Architectural Centre, established in Wellington in New Zealand in 1946. This provided a background for the remarkable Chapel of Futuna, in Wellington (1961; Key Buildings, fig. 99.9), designed by a Hawkes Bay Māori architect, John Scott, which included explicit references to the wharenui (the traditional Māori meeting house). In 1960s Sydney, architects like Ken Woolley, Michael Dysart and Peter Johnson developed a low-key domestic language using clinker bricks (blackened and often misshapen through over-firing) and unassuming forms sensitive to the landscape, a pattern later identified by historians but in reality experienced across the whole of Australia. In Christchurch in New Zealand, houses, apartments and university buildings by Miles Warren of the practice of Warren and Mahoney signalled a measured local Modernism, while the free-form, white-plastered, deliberately vernacular – and often fanciful – houses of Ian Athfield suggested eclectic interests ranging from colonial architecture to that of the Greek Islands and Japanese Metabolism ( Chapter 98). His own house in Wellington, built gradually in stages from 1965 onwards, is an excellent example (Key Buildings, fig. 99.10).
In the mid-1970s, the embrace of Post-Modernist ideas, a different kind of international influence, also became common. In Australia, Edmond and Corrigan’s Church of the Resurrection at Keysborough in Victoria (1976) celebrated the everyday architecture of the suburbs, in the mode of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in the USA (see Chapter 102). This overseas influence was then extended in major urban works like Building 8 (1994), by Edmond and Corrigan, and Storey Hall (1995) by Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM Architecture), which were both part of RMIT University in downtown Melbourne. In Thailand, meanwhile, the 1986 ‘Robot’ Building in Bangkok by Sumet Jumsai, designed for the Bank of Asia, suggested Pop-influenced ideas with its overt formal references to computerized banking and robotic toys. At the same time, emerging ideas on place and tropicality in the early 1980s saw the writings and buildings of William Lim and Tay Kheng Soon in Singapore, and Ken Yeang’s Menara Mesiniaga (1992), a strikingly circular low-energy office tower in Subang Jaya, just outside Kuala Lumpur. Another outcome, stemming from the rise of global tourism, were the boutique hotels designed by the likes of architectural practice WOHA in Singapore, Peter Muller and Ed Tuttle in Bali, Duangrit Bunnag in Thailand, and Kerry Hill in Bandung, Bali and Langkawi. The most formally dramatic of WOHA’s hotels is the exuberantly planted PARKROYAL on Pickering, situated on the edge of Singapore’s business district and opened in 2013 (Key Buildings, fig. 99.19). In terms of private houses, the regionally responsive dwellings of Andra Matin in Indonesia, Jimmy Lim Cheok Siang and Kevin Low in Malaysia, and Glenn Murcutt, Troppo Architects and Gabriel Poole in Australia, all stand out. Other notable – yet also controversial – recent projects are the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban’s memorable ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ in Christchurch, New Zealand (Key Buildings, fig. 99.11), erected to replace an older cathedral that was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake, and the apartment block in Melbourne by ARM Architecture (2015; Key Buildings, fig. 99.20), whose façade creates a giant portrait of a celebrated Indigenous community elder, William Barak. By the start of the twenty-first century, this discourse and the design quality of buildings across southeastern Asia, Australia and Oceania had reached a level of independence that completely sloughed off its hitherto colonial mantle.
Part of a much larger complex designed by the American architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony, the L-shaped northern wing of Newman College is the second-largest building in Australia completed by this gifted husband-and-wife partnership. Built from 1915 as a Catholic residential college for the University of Melbourne, the Griffins’ design was a direct challenge to the stylistic models of Oxford and Cambridge colleges, which had previously dominated the Parkville precinct. Named after nineteenth-century theologian Henry Newman, the college was designed to relate geometrically to the central point of the university campus. Two embracing, L-shaped arms of student rooms over two storeys defined two quadrangles. At the centre of the composition was intended to be a chapel. At each corner of the L-shapes was a stupa-like rotunda: one contained a dining room, the other a library. The dramatically long cloister, the walls faced in Barrabool sandstone, the pointed voussoirs and battered walls, and the dining room rotunda with its exterior of pinnacles and concrete flèche – and its interior structure of expressed ribs forming a cross – combined medieval romanticism, innovative reinforced-concrete construction, and symbolism that transcended Christian imagery to provide a universally applicable language of knowledge and faith.
Designed in Bandung in 1919 by an Indonesian colonial architect, Henri Maclaine Pont, who had been born in Batavia to Dutch parents, the West and East Halls – termed aula – of this first-ever Technical School in the Dutch East Indies, were symmetrically located on either side of the campus’s main axis. As such, they comprise one of Indonesia’s most significant examples of regionally influenced institutional architecture. Each aula was designed as a cluster of five conjoined buildings each with its own roof clad in sirap (ironwood) shingles and inspired by traditional vernacular roofs of Minangkabau, a highland region of West Sumatra. It was a design choice questioned by another Dutch colonial architect, C.P. Wolff Schoemaker, who objected to the choice of such roof forms for the culturally different island of Java, whereas the more celebrated Dutch architect Hendrikus Berlage welcomed the building in 1924 as the beginnings of the search for an Indo-European style. Both of the halls here are in fact a hybrid of Dutch and local West Sumatran and Sundanese styles, and Maclaine Pont was also a scholar of Javanese construction, publishing Javaansche Architectuur in 1923 as an analytical study of that island’s representative building types. The West Aula (Aula Barat ITB), which is today the more intact of the two, has a distinctive modern structure: an elaborate exposed frame of laminated teak timber held together with exposed black-painted bolts and metal straps, and describing a catenary arched form rising to more than 10 metres (33 feet) high in its central volume. Outside, open verandas of rock-faced timber columns encircle each aula. Now these buildings form part of the renamed Institut Teknologi Bandung.
The Municipal Offices located in what was then central Rangoon in Burma – now Yangon in present-day Myanmar – represented a departure from the typical British colonial architecture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Instead of a transplanted Neoclassicism, the second stage of the design, at the insistence of Rangoon Municipal Council, incorporated elements of Burmese architecture. Hence the first section (1926–27) was designed in reinforced concrete by a British architect, A.G. Bray, containing the council chamber and offices and indeed presenting a Neoclassical façade to the street. However, the second section, also designed by Bray, in 1928, was ordered to be more ‘Burmese’. U Maung Tin, a Burmese architect employed by the local municipality as an engineer, reconfigured the design to match the importance of the adjacent and venerable Sule Pagoda (c. 450 BCE) in downtown Rangoon. The decorative schemes of its interior reception spaces and the principal façade onto Dalhousie Street saw the introduction of the older timber forms of northern Burmese Buddhist architecture, such as tiered roofs (known locally as pyatthat), ornamental latticework, and the traditional iconography of peacocks and serpents – but translated now into concrete and ferro-cement.
As a key part of a masterplan to unify and extend the main business district of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, the Central Market (Phsar Thmey), which was begun in 1934 and completed in 1937, was reputed to be the largest market structure anywhere in Asia. Designed by Jean Desbois, a French architect resident in Indochina at the time, and inspired by the ribbed and domed reinforced-concrete structure of Leipzig Market Hall (1929, by architect Hubert Ritter and engineers Hubert Rüsch and Franz Dischinge), the Central Market comprises a domed octagonal central space – 45 metres (148 feet) in diameter and 26 metres (85 feet) high – with four radiating wings. Shade and natural ventilation are achieved by the largely open projecting wings with their stepped roofs and zigzag grilled vents, and the similarly stepped and screened roofs of the central dome. As part of the competitive documentation/construction process, a second designer, the Saigon-based architect Louis Chauchon, was engaged. His involvement saw slight modifications to the dome’s shape and structure, and to the elevations of the radiating wings. Elsewhere in Indonesia, a hypostyle (colonnaded) hall arrangement of reinforced-concrete mushroom columns and polygonal skylights was also used to great spatial effect by a Dutch engineer, Thomas Karsten, in his design for another market building, the Pasar Johar (1933–39) in Semarang in central Java.
A symbol of Modernism equated with Malaysia’s newly gained national independence in 1957, the parliament building in Kuala Lumpur was the initiative of its first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman (r. 1957–70). Designed by Australian-born and English-trained architect William Ivor Shipley within the Malaysian Public Works Department, the complex sits within an abstract Modernist landscape of sweeping lawns, parade ground, reflecting pools and formal planting on a 6.5-hectare (16-acre) site previously known as West Folly Hill. Composed asymmetrically, it has an eighteen-storey office tower with its own floating first-floor podium connected to an adjacent three-storey podium building enclosing a courtyard. On axis with the tower and located within the courtyard is the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat), which rises above the podium as a pleated concrete shell structure of eleven repeated folds. The resulting eleven pinnacles represent the initial eleven states of Malaya (which later increased to thirteen with the formation of Malaysia). Variously interpreted as a ‘Malay House roof’, this was however not the architect’s original intention. The smaller chamber of the Senate (Dewan Negara) is contained within the three-storey podium. Both tower and podium are clad externally in a grillage of distinctively shaped and modelled precast concrete spandrel sunshades – each of them 3.3 metres (11 feet) high and 1 metre (3 feet) wide – that form a large-scale jalousie, the name for an Islamic screen, for each part of the building. In effect this makes it one of the most prominent examples of ‘Tropical Modernism’ in Southeast Asia.
Dramatically situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour and adjacent to Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House sits as three collections of curving white shells that appear to float above an architectural headland consisting of a massive podium that steps down externally to the south as a grand public stair. Beneath the shells are the stepped auditoriums of a concert hall and an opera theatre. Won through international competition in 1957, the design by leading Danish architect Jørn Utzon was the realization of his theoretical ideas of ‘platforms and plateaus’, matched with a strong personal interest in repetitive structural systems – such as the shells’ precast concrete ribbed construction as derived from Chinese dou gong timber bracket systems ( Chapter 37), and the glossy white and matt cream glazed ceramic tiles – to show how Modernism could be enriched by cross-cultural influences, in this case, China.
The building, although since becoming iconic of its location and of Australia, as well indeed of a globalized Modernity, was beset with problems as its construction proceeded. Delays in design development, arguments over cost, documentation and deadlines, and political intrigue following a change of government in 1965 led to Utzon’s resignation from the project in 1966 and departure from Australia, never to return. The project was then completed by the Sydney firm of Hall, Todd and Littlemore, led by Peter Hall, who successfully determined new solutions for the north-facing steel-framed glass walls beneath shells and designed the acoustically complex interiors of both auditoriums in time for the building’s opening in 1973. In 1999, in a curious further twist, Utzon was re-hired as a design consultant. The ‘Utzon Room’ was duly opened in 2004, and then, in 2009, a variety of minor internal refurbishments designed by Utzon and his son, Jan Utzon, were completed.
Located in Karori, a suburb of Wellington, the Chapel of Futuna is celebrated for its blend of Māori and Pakeha (European) architectural ideas. Designed by a Hawkes Bay Māori architect, John Scott, the chapel – named after the Pacific Island of Futuna, where the missionary Peter Chanel was martyred in 1841, and to whom it is dedicated – was commissioned and constructed by the brothers of the Society of Mary. At the centre of the chapel’s square plan (radical for its openness in the period before the modernizing Second Vatican Council of 1962–65) is a hewn timber pole that references the central posts of the wharenui (the traditional Māori meeting house). Exposed branch-like timber members, which are typical both of New Zealand’s timber Gothic tradition and its rural woolsheds, support a complex series of steeply pitched roofs (that is, with two hips and two adjacent half-gables – in this case originally clad in asbestos cement shingles), which can also be seen to relate to the entry porch of the wharenui. The chapel’s walls are a mixture of exposed concrete block and in-situ concrete. In parts, these walls are finished in a roughcast render, which, in addition to the stone altar and timber pews, some commentators have suggested show the influence of Le Corbusier. A Wellington-born sculptor, Jim Allen, designed the chapel’s coloured Perspex windows and crucifix.
Described by the art historian Paul Walker as one of ‘New Zealand’s last modern architects’, Ian Athfield, from the late 1960s, used domestic vernacular references and the striking topography of Wellington’s steeply sloping sites to create compositions that, on one level, seemed to be free-form Metabolist/Pop compositions, while on the other, were reminiscent of highly romantic ‘modern’ Mediterranean villages. His own white-plastered house and office in the mid-1960s continued to grow on the side of a hill in Khandallah in Wellington like a never-ending architectural doodle for more than twenty years. Beginning with just a small living/kitchen/sleeping space, Athfield then added a bedroom wing (1969), studio and observation tower (1972), swimming pool and architect’s office (1982), along with frequent later additions. The house, with its cave-like interiors of white walls and brick floors, and dynamic picturesque exterior, epitomized Athfield’s concept of architecture ‘having no beginning and no end’. His projects were highly influential within the New Zealand context right up to his death, and will probably continue to be so.
This commission for Australia’s largest office building brought home the expatriate architect John Andrews, from Toronto in Canada, where he had been based since 1958. Located in Belconnen, one of Canberra’s new satellite suburbs, Andrews argued against an earlier masterplan that consisted of towers. He proposed instead a vast interconnected series of nine low-rise office slabs that employed extensive use of precast and in-situ reinforced concrete, column-free workspaces, shading structural portals, and open-air elevated ‘streets’, with each slab separated by differently themed courtyards – as designed by American-born Canadian landscape architect Richard Strong – that sought to reflect the variety found in Australian landscapes. The scheme was a proposition that not only aligned with then-popular conceptions of the ‘mat building’ to produce urban-scaled community spaces and experiences, but also had an explicit ecological agenda that was socially and environmentally sensitive. In Australia, this building, which housed 4,000 public servants and is frequently described as a megastructure, was radical but ultimately influential, thereby giving rise to a series of similar ‘mat’ office complexes in Canberra as the national capital. Despite the demolition of six of the nine wings between 2005 and 2008, the Cameron Offices still retain the giant concrete sculpture Optical Galaxy by a Canadian artist, Gerald Gladstone, and contain refurbished offices and student housing.
Located on farmland on the northern coast of New South Wales, the Marie Short House is the earliest of a series of much-publicized houses designed in the 1970s and 1980s by Glenn Murcutt, which celebrated corrugated iron as a marker of Australian identity and brought the Sydney architect to international attention. The house comprises a pair of long linear rectangular blocks, almost like railway carriages, laid side by side but slightly slipped in plan. The block for daytime living faces north, and the other for sleeping faces south. Each pavilion was planned with six structural post-and-beam timber bays with their last two bays (at opposite ends to each other) defined as their respective entry porch. These verandas are semi-indoor and semi-outdoor spaces, carefully shaded from the summer sun. Simple gable roofs sheeted in corrugated iron, along with glass, timber, louvres and flyscreens, form the material palette of these paired pavilions within the exposed landscape. Formally, there are debts to the planning precision of the notable Modernist Mies van der Rohe and the mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles architect Craig Ellwood, but more particularly to the untutored and climatically sensible architecture of indigenous agricultural buildings, such as the corrugated-iron-clad barns and woolsheds that are a common feature of the Australian countryside. In 1980, Murcutt extended each pavilion by three bays, increasing the house’s scale but not altering its iconic image.
The rice terraces found in the central Cordillera of the Philippines inspired the ziggurat-like form of this headquarters building for the San Miguel Corporation – famous for its production of Pale Pilsen beer – that is located in the densely built-up area of Mandaluyong in Manila. The tiered balconies of the eight-storey office building are edged with flower boxes overflowing with greenery, and the entire complex is set within lush tropical gardens designed by the Filipino landscape architect Ildefonso Paez Santos Junior. Unlike its surrounding context of high-rise corporate office towers, this landscape-inspired building designed by the three Mañosa brothers (Manuel, Francisco and Jose) was a precursor to later commercial buildings in neighbouring southeastern Asian metropolises that took indigenous themes as their design cues. Examples include the chiselled form of Hijjas Kasturi’s Menara Maybank Tower in Kuala Lumpur (1989), which was inspired by the handle of a kris, the traditional Malay dagger, and his 77-storey skyscraper design for Menara Telekom (2001), also in Kuala Lumpur, which draws its distinctive curved form from a sprouting bamboo shoot.
Located at Halls Gap in Victoria’s Grampian Mountains (known in the Aboriginal language as Gariwerd), the Brambuk Living Cultural Centre was designed by a Melbourne architect, Gregory Burgess, in association with members of the Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali, the local indigenous peoples. Brambuk means ‘White Cockatoo’, and the intention was to create a place where visitors could experience, through building and landscape, the richness of Aboriginal culture. The building’s sensuous curving timber walls recall the permanence of 8,000-year-old stone dwellings found locally, while its roof form reflects the undulations of the mountains behind: it could also be read as cockatoo wings or a huge Emperor Gum moth, but in corrugated iron. Outside are earth berms and a ceremonial ground. Inside, the building has, at its centre, a gathering place marked by a massive stone open fireplace, whose chimney rises like a tree beneath the billowing roof. The chimney supports five of the axial ridge and roof beams, thus making sense of the overlapping curving geometries of the ground plan. Flanking this entry space are separate theatre and display spaces housed in near-circular rooms, while a gentle ramp encircles the chimney and leads to upper galleries lit by eyelid dormers that punctuate the roof. Elsewhere in this dimly lit volume, exposed poles of grey box wood (Eucalyptus microcarpa) support the exposed beams, and the whole effect is that of an echo of the dark forest nearby.
The result of an international competition held in 1991, the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre on the Tinu Peninsula outside Nouméa was a gift to the Kanak people from the French government. It was named after Jean-Marie Tjibaou, the leader of New Caledonia’s pro-independence movement who was assassinated in 1989, and who had always hoped for an institution that might celebrate the linguistic and artistic heritage of the indigenous Kanak people. Working with an anthropologist, Alban Bensa, the celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano designed a complex of ten circular, near-conical pavilions (cases) based on the forms of the traditional ‘Grand Hut’ of the Kanak chiefs. Laid out along 250 metres (820 feet) on the gently curving ridge of the peninsula that was planted with Norfolk Island pines, the pavilions are arranged symbolically in three groups or ‘villages’, all connected by a series of covered walkways, outdoor rooms and gardens. Each case is defined externally and structurally by a curved outer face of laminated timber ribs or staves that faces the windward side of the Pacific Ocean, while the open, lower side of each of the cases faces onto the lagoon. The ribs are joined by timber slats and, at their lower level, special computer-controlled louvres aid ventilation: the whole appearance becomes one of a woven surface. Within the conical cases are rectangular exhibition, administration and studio spaces that have a double roof system, specially designed to allow monsoon winds to pass unchecked between their two layers.
Occupying a long and narrow site on the edge of Singapore’s central business district, this high-rise ‘hotel-as-garden’ was designed by Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell, who are the directors of the successful Singapore-based architectural practice WOHA. At ground level, there is an ‘urban veranda’, whose soffit is like the underside of a series of laminated, undulating contour sections, like a carved-out cliff landscape. Above, across the face of the tower, a series of densely planted tropical sky gardens, also dictated by topographic geometries, cantilever out and erode back strikingly at every fourth level. The main swimming-pool level – a three-storey volume completely open to the elements – sits above the five-level podium below. Further above is a tower consisting of twelve levels of hotel bedroom suites, with each floor laid out along open-air corridors in an E-shaped plan. The overall effect is as if a commercial tower block had been taken, hollowed out, eroded, and then planted with greenery as a way to ‘replant’ Singapore’s otherwise relentless commercial high-rise landscape.
In 2011, a series of earthquakes shook Christchurch and severely damaged its old Anglican cathedral (1864–1904), designed by the famous British Gothic Revival architect, George Gilbert Scott (see Chapter 79). The spire and part of the tower was destroyed, and the rose window progressively collapsed. As a transitional arrangement, a structure designed pro-bono by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban was erected several blocks away. Collaborating with local firm Warren and Mahoney, Ban conceived it as a giant A-frame of 60-centimetre (24-inch) diameter cardboard tubes forming a long nave-like volume and sitting above side walls of shipping containers. The cardboard tubes, braced laterally by laminated timber beams and spaced 5 centimetres (2 inches) apart to let in daylight, are covered by a polycarbonate sheet roof. Instead of a rose window, the end wall is a triangular lattice-timber frame infilled with multicoloured stained glass. In form, some might read it as a contemporary but steepened version of the wharenui, the traditional Māori meeting house. Yet the building sits within Ban’s oeuvre of ‘disaster architecture’, where the inventive and resourceful uses of cheap materials like paper and cardboard are signature elements. Designed for concerts and religious services, the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’, as it is known, seats nearly 700 people. As construction commenced in mid-2012, controversy raged over the potential demolition of the original cathedral, the diversion of diocese funds for a temporary cathedral, changes in design concept, and cost overruns. Ban wanted the cardboard tubes to be structural, but local cardboard of an appropriate thickness was not possible, and nor was it acceptable that the cardboard be imported. Furthermore, it had been decided in the interim that Ban’s structure would be permanent. The Transitional Cathedral opened officially in August 2013. The original cathedral site remains mired in a political and funding stalemate, while its cardboard cousin has arguably become one of New Zealand’s best-known buildings.
One of Australia’s most controversial buildings in the early twenty-first century for its giant-scale representation of the face of William Barak – the last traditional elder of the Wurundjeri-willam clan – across its façade, this 32-floor residential apartment building in central Melbourne is unusual for its direct engagement with Indigenous issues in the contemporary city, as opposed to more conventional responses that relate to landscape and Indigenous art. The building, designed by the 2016 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal-winning firm of ARM Architecture (Ashton Raggatt McDougall), is located at the northern end of Swanston Street, Melbourne’s ceremonial axis. At the other end is the classical ziggurat/temple form of the Shrine of Remembrance (1927–34), the city’s First World War memorial. It is a potent juxtaposition. Despite the architects’ close consultation with Barak’s family and the broader Wurundjeri community, the use of a figural image of a deceased Indigenous person polarized opinion across various communities. The architects intended that acknowledgment of the history and presence of Aboriginal nations on the land now occupied by Melbourne be open and transparent. The multi-storey image formed by the multiple and different white balcony profiles was derived digitally from a photograph of a sculpture of Barak by contemporary artist Peter Schipperheyn. Set against a black-glazed high-rise building, the projecting balcony panels – which are up to 6 metres (20 feet) long and 2 metres (7 feet) high – are made from a surfboard-like composite material comprising a foam core, fibre mesh and external skin coating of vinyl-ester. The brightly coloured northern and western façades are treated like a topographic map; they also resemble heat maps. The podium façade has a grid of portholes, some of which are filled with fibreglass discs that in Braille spell out: ‘Wurundjeri I am who I am’.