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Wizard of Oz

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A first-rate lecture by ex-AA and Bartlett teacher Peter Davidson kicked off a short series of joint RIBA/V&A events on Sunday afternoon.

Australian-born Davidson, with Don Bates, won the competition to design Federation Square in Melbourne, completed to massive acclaim last year after extraordinary political and critical battles.The lecture did full justice to the complexity of the story, the architectural and engineering elements of the project - which is about the same size as Piazza San Marco - and the extraordinary nature of the fractal geometries that have informed the facades and structures of the site's two buildings. Among other things, Davidson recounted the story of how the architects used a certain Australian sandstone for the first time on a public project, which involved digging a quarry and building the road to get to it; how, after a change of political power, they conducted a six-month fight with the client; and how they used the mathematical discovery of Professor John Conway to exploit the geometries of the 'Conway Tile' to produce a rigorous architectural template within which individual designers could express their creativity. Davidson and Bates were contemporaries of Foreign Office Architects. Both worked closely with Jeffrey Kipnis, the former head of the graduate school at the AA. A comparison of Federation Square and Yokohama with their approaches to folding and intersecting planes, would be well worth the effort.

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