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Glenn Murcutt Monograph

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The new Murcutt monograph is a priceless record of his faultless projects, says Patrick Lynch.

Glenn Murcutt, Architect. 01 Editions NSW Australia. 184pp. AUD $1,650 (£758).

The work of ‘Australia’s most famous architect’, 2002 Pritzker Laureate Glenn Murcutt, is presented in an unusual format. The large book, Glenn Murcutt, Architect, is accompanied by eight folios, each on a different project, with detailed descriptions, photographs and scaled construction drawings. It is so expensive (AUD $1,650 or £758) that only certain architects, also born around 1936, could have reasonably hoped to find this in their Christmas stocking.
The book is written by the most important critics alive – with essays by Kenneth Frampton, David Malouf, Phil Harris and Juhani Pallasmaa – and it is offered from a position of quiet confidence and sincerity. Murcutt is 72 years old and at the top of his game. Proposals for a cultural centre, museum
and an as yet unbuilt hotel are of the same high standard as his magisterial houses, which appear as fresh and timeless as anything produced by an architect working today.
Frampton suggests a variety of references for this uniquely Australian architecture – Greek, Japanese, Italian – but as Murcutt points out, the variety of climates in his enormous country enables him towork in different ways in a habitat he understands. Pallasmaa references Murcutt’s early life
in New Guinea, spent around skiffs and aeroplanes alongside his ingenious and adventurous father. He made his first aeroplane when he was 12, and architecture, agriculture and aviation are fused in his designs for volatile weather conditions, such as his aerodynamic design for the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre in Riversdale, New South Wales (1999), where the ultrathin eaves profile protects against sun and wind-blown rain.
Pallasmaa draws out the poetry in this aluminium and timber architecture, stressing that Murcutt’s houses are ‘the tools of dwelling to meet the practicalities of life,’ but in a Bachelardian sense they are also ‘instruments with which to confront the cosmos’ and ‘create human horizons for the reading of
geography, landscape and natural phenomena’. This technical agility and phenomenological aptitude is combined with the ability to situate human actions within the ‘archaeology of human culture,’ Pallasmaa claims.
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