When you go into the MONA portal and click ‘architecture’ it’s all there in the discussion – preserving the sense of place, use of unifying natural surfaces and materials.
It’s a residence and a vineyard on a peninsula on the beautiful Derwent. And now it is a museum and other things and it is awesome and monumental precisely because it isn’t. Powerful structural details are featured instead of bare minimums hidden behind the usual plasterboard.
And most of all it isn’t tall or pretentious with acres of glass or coloured flammable styrofoam sandwich panels or crenellated with the obligatory dozens of identical concrete, glass and stainless steel balconies.
The floated HOMO (to be found ‘in the works’) idea uses similar language but it must have been conceived by someone else.
At first glance the architect’s Mark 1 concept especially looks like an old ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction’ cover and probably won’t even stand up.
Automatically the mind’s eye sees bits of glass, concrete, handrails, and tiny tumbling bodies of silvertails hiving off from beneath. The name is unfortunate enough as to hint at hoaxer etiquette, which is always to give a clue to in-crowd so they can share the joke; normally signing off their missiles with names like Terra Nullius or Mike H***.
And this one is a hip statement that tries too hard; not even pretending to be good business like the ‘Fragrance Tower’; which might resonate in close and bustling multibillion armpit Asia but here suggests industrial strength organic volatiles and little green cardboard Christmas trees, dangling from rear-view mirrors, probably exuding formaldehyde and sick-making for 15% of the population.
Initial reaction aside, HOMO is actually a very possible build. The powerful structural details are there for all to see. It’s an inverted Sydney Harbour Bridge turned upside down on a pedestal, tied together across the top with all else nestled within or suspended from the arch …
How do I know all this? Unlike other critics such as Prince Charles and Paul Keating I am eminently qualified, having built a lot of it over much of my life; most recently scuttling around with the other dumb-dumbs hanging doors and installing joinery all over the city during Sydney’s great Olympic building boom, starting with the Raffles Tower above Grace Bros …
As the seas rise and the Derwent Estuary grows to a broad and stormy harbour, the Tasman Bridge will submerge for much of its length, and perhaps drowned Sandy Bay will re-establish higher on the slopes of Berriedale and Glenorchy. Rising ever higher, storm waves smash long abandoned remnants of walls and windows while salt water strips the rebar from rotting concrete foundations.
And on some stormy night the HOMO palace itself will tip from its ruined pedestal into the sea and float - an ark, devoid of guidance, hubris, self-indulgence or sexed pairs of wannabe survivors.
If it doesn’t founder on the rocky bluffs of the Botanic Gardens it will float out to sea with the tide, past the crumbling sea stack of the Fragrance Tower where the little handfish grope their way in the deep dark below. These will survive further upstream, breathing the oxygenated river water.
Having backbones too they are better suited than bivalves or lobsters to one day slither up from the ooze to begin their long journey to take our place, while out to sea in slower, deeper waters the shales begin to be laid down from silt and topsoil scoured from the blistering land and carried away by swollen rivers, augmented by algal hydrocarbons drifting down unconsumed through the suffocating murk …
And a poem by George ...
‘Bad omen for the markets’ the old man said
Peering out the window while his guests were leaving.
‘He had it coming or he knew it all along that President Trump
And ‘twasn’t Mary Marshall’s cat ‘Foreclosure’
-all she had left killed - balump balump
Dead as mutton as she crossed the street?’
‘Hard times, so dry the soil blows away
Takes rain and growth to make it stay
And the sheep all hungry, squeezin’ under fences ‘fore they died
As if. Stuff all here or on the other side.
Should have took those January prices
‘Fore it hit the fan in Yarrawonga and all those other bloody crises.’
*George Smiley is a retired artist (with a grandson in Canada) who lives on a small holding near Stowport (North-West Coast). He occasionally gives money to Get Up and Greenpeace, keeps busy with any number of both practical and artistic projects. Presently fixing up a couple old diesel cars, reworking the action on a 12 string guitar in spite of an occasional finger joint lost to rheumatoid arthritis, and planning exploratory work on intaglio prints. “Old age takes everything eventually but it is of no consequence against the ongoing destruction of the world”. He has a blog at http://georgesmileyblog.blogspot.com.au/