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169-185 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of Perspecta. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1567182 Accessed: 29/01/2010 04:37
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This article based conversations is on between Glenn Murcutt theeditors and
In the middle of my final presentationof the design for the Mining and Minerals boardof directors,one of the boardmemMuseumat BrokenHill to the museum's bers got up and walkedout of the room. After a while he returnedwith a copy of a late nineteenth-century photographwhich showed some minersfrom the BrokenHill mines standingbeside an opening to a mineshaftwhere they had rigged some canvasto catch the wind and scoop freshair down into the tunnels. The degreeto which their solution resembledthe systemof wind-aidedevaporative cooling that I'd used in the museum struckus all. I'd neverseen this image, or even heardof such a practice,but I was pleasedto learn that therewas such a of direct precedentfor my design and that the architecture the museumwould be closely tied to both the imageryand the processesof the mining industrythat it would exhibit. I've neverattemptedto use local imagesin my design work, and I'm uninterestedin pursuinghistoricalforms towarda nostalgicend. But the coincidence has compelled me to reflecton the idea of building legibly and articulately in the twentieth century.
The landscapeof Australiais remarkable. Through the courseof my careerI've to develop a greaterknowledgeof that land and to discernthe lessons attempted that I can drawfrom it. Most importantly,I am learningof its economics in the very broadestpossible sense. It is about survival,really,and the poetry and legibility in that survivalis extraordinary. There is an integritythat operatesin the landscape.It presentswarningand providesinspiration.On the one hand, if we do something to the land, the results of that interventionwill show up, perhapsnot immediatelybut over time, and the problem that we'vecreatedwill define itself. But this legibility also provides an incrediblearrayof solutions to difficultieswe face when we attempt to occupy the land. I'm not advocatingthe mimicryof some simplisticnaturalparadigm.When I began my practice,over twenty yearsago, the architectsof the so-calledSydney School in Australiawere borrowingheavilyfrom FrankLloydWright'sideas about building and nature.We were building with a greatesthetic respectfor the land, choosing bricksof the very same color as rockson the site, keeping the build-
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dappled shade so more sunlight strikes the tree trunk. In a particular desert species,
brown barkbeneath it. It is a simple expressionof the stressesof that climate. The extremeheat from the sunlight is reflectedduring the summer,while during the subof freezingtemperatures the winter, the warmthof that light is absorbedand the tree can survive.The incredibledelicacyof the leaf articulatesthe enormousstrengthof the tree in its survival.At once, one sees the expressionof delicacyand strength. This is what I mean when I speakof a legible landscape.
The Mining Museumof BrokenHill
One doesn'tbuild buildings to look like trees. One doesn'tbuild houses to be white and brown. But one can readthe languageof this environment,which speaksof extremestressesin climate, in heat and in light. Understandingthe climate, understandingthe way in which the geometryof the earthand the sun work so that one where the winds knows where the sun is throughoutthe day and year,understanding come from and knowingwhich arehot and which are cool, is the beginning of an articulateresponseto the incrediblepower of the environment. I have come to believe that there'sno differencebetween absolutelyclearthinking and poetry,between the logistics of a projectand its expression.A wide dry creek bed in the deserttells me, for example,about rain guttersfor a house I might build there. For most of the year,I can use a gutter that is I5o millimeterswide. But four times a year,the house will need a gutter that is half a meter wide. If I use a gutter that is half a meterwide, it's perfectlylogical. Like the dry creekbed, the gutter throughoutmost of the yearwill be dry,and then, brieflyand suddenly,it will be swollen with water. that has a strengthand at the same time a delicacy, I'm interestedin an architecture and where the processthat links and modulatesthem is evident. What materials should I use?I'm not building like an ant, I'm a human being building a twentiethcenturyobject relatedto the landscape.I believe that one can producea building
3 Nicholas Farmhouse.
4 Moruya House, Glenn Murcutt, Bingie Point, NSW, Australia, I985, east elevation.
5 Moruya House, interior.
The Mining Museum of BrokenHill
that clearlyarticulatesthe man-made,that is technologicallyof its time, with materials and productsthat are readilyavailableand easilyhandled. I use a lot of industrializedcomponents and run-of-the-milliron. I use a lot of glasswith standardmetal Dark metal louvres louvresand shadesto alter the light in the building as necessary. the winter morningsand radiatethat heat into the buildheat up beautifullyduring ing, and as the day warms,you can open them up so that the building breathes. I often use wood, but I've also found that I can take a metallic materialand make its color work beautifullyin the landscape.I've used corrugatedmetal with the corrugations running horizontallyand found that the top side of the corrugationtakeson sky light, and the bottom side takeson ground light, and the resultingreflectionof the site'slight producesa luminescentabsorptionof the environment,a dialoguebetween the building and the color and the natureof the day. that continuallyacknowledgesthe physicaland cliI'm interestedin an architecture of matic character its site; that recognizesthe sorts of changesin scale we experience when we move from the inside to the outside, whetherin the suburbs,where scale is or brokendown incrementally, in the country,where the relationof a person to his as environmentgoes throughan enormous reversal one moves from the land into a building. I want my buildings to use naturallight and ventilation to the greatest extent possible, and so I adjusttheir orientationto maximizethe potential cross-ventilation from prevailingbreezes,and I shift roof lines and pitches to gain maximum winter sun and minimize summersun. My long narrowhouse plans act as verandahs,
north. House, 7 Moruya viewfrom
that architectural thresholdAustralians have inhabitedso much more comfortably than the houses to which they'reattached,and from which they'vecome to understand the land in which they live. My clients are involvedwith these buildings, and I believe they understandand have a more immediaterelationshipwith the outside world throughthem. One client who had lived for a numberof yearsin a house that I'd designed told me that she operatedthe house as one would sail a boat. And so I like to think of my buildings as legible and functional in much the same way as a boat or a glider is. I want them to show what is structure,what is infill, and what is skin. If a building is put together in a legible and articulateway,where the processof its design and productionis evident, then it can be used, pulled apart,and alteredin that way. By keeping this in mind, I've been able to build many of my buildings for about three-quarters the of most architect-designed price buildings. But aside from the immediateeconomies of building cost, I am looking for ways in which to control the deeper,embeddedcosts of building on the land. We must learnto understandthe implicationsof our decisions as occupants.It is no longer enough to use a materialbecausewe like the way it looks or becauseit's cheaper.It's absolutelycrucialto come to termswith the fact that our paints and coatingsand adhesivesmay poison our waterand air;that our choices of exotic and inaccessible materialsmay cause the destructionof a landscapein anotherpart of the world; that our relianceon the long distancetransportation materialsadds to the highof waysvehicles that consume energyand pollute the air.These are all factorsthat must affect our work especiallyat this time in history,when we can have almost anything we wish for. People in my country have difficultyunderstandingthis idea and tend to focus on the image of my buildings, making referencesto the supposedauthentically "Australian" character the forms and materialsthat I have used. This is a romantic of responseof a people who live in the most suburbanized country in the world but who cling to mythic imagesof the landscapesthat have become so distant from their lives. With architecture, with many other things, our eyes often misguide us. We as are so tuned in to form that we frequentlyfail to find the thing that generatesthat form or the idea that developsa process.If we understandinsteadwhy a thing looks the way it does, or why it works in the way it does, then we understandthe principle, and that principle, not the form it produces,is transferable. 8 Moruya view House, fom southeast.
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TheMining Museum of BrokenHill
Mining and Minerals Museum, Broken Hill, Australia In the dry red earthof the desertoutside BrokenHill I saw areas,in the plains and along the dry creekbeds,where I expectedto find a high watertable, but in fact the treesand plantswere all stunted or dead. I found it especiallyintriguingbecause along the nearbyhillsides,where there is little sign of waterin the soil, the trees grow quite well. If you look closely at the situation, you discoverthe remarkable dynamicof the place. The dry creekbedsare not signs of a rising and fallingwater table beneaththe surface,but rather,are the marksof brief burstsof intense rainfall that funnel off the dry land and inscribehuge gouges in the desert.And so, trees, at best, can surviveonly brieflyin those conditions, where thereis insufficientwater to sustainany real growth.But on the hillsides there arelargeoverhangingrocks.And the mass of those rockscollects heat during the day and holds it so that in the cooler evening air,watercondensesand providesa small but consistentsupply of waterfor the nearbytrees.The landscapehere tells us a lot about how life is sustainedthrough the interplayof extremesof heat, light, and mass. isolatedcity located in the desertof far westBrokenHill is a small, geographically ern New South Wales. It is sustainedeconomicallyalmost solely by a mining industry that has producedore from the world'slargestzinc, lead, and silverdeposits for over a century.The city is dominatedby the imagesof those mining operationsand their residue.Huge mine tailings, the mountainousheaps of earthand stone pulled which providethe mechanicallifelines to from the mines, and the giant headframes, below the city, fill the horizon. But because the mineshaftsand tunnels that lie deep these have become a mundanephysicaland economic presencein the city, and because the yields of the mines have begun to slow and the city and the industryhave come to realizethe limits of this economic and symbolic resource,the city is beginning to searchfor other ways to maintainitself. A museum devoted entirelyto mining and mineralogywould providean explanationto touristsand a reminderto inhabitantsof the force of this industryin the developmentof BrokenHill. The programprovidesfor a single building that includesexhibition spaces,an audiand torium, laboratories workshopsfor conservation,privateoffices for museum officials,and a public cafeteria.The museum, to be placed on a long rectangular block at the edge of the city center,is to createa sort of diagonalconnection betweenthe high school and the main businessareaof the town. With the existing school, nearbyrailwaymuseum, and town hall, it is to stand as one of BrokenHill's monument on its own block. The civic institutions, each placed as a freestanding for some mining machinery,most futuremuseum'ssite now standsempty except notably an abandonedmine headframe,that will become part of the museum display.The budget is low, and its constraintsare furthercompoundedby BrokenHill's extremedistancefrom any largecities or industrialcenters,over thirteenhours by truck,which will limit the rangeand availabilityof materials.
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A series of early sketches show the development of the museum design.
9 An initialplanstudy themuseum, of thefirstpresented its board directors, to of shows series courtyards a of andpoolsof waterin and around building, the in relation a diagonal to route organized across sitethatwascalledfor the in theprogram. path crosses The the through whichliesnextto the building entry, headpositionof theabandoned existing is frame.Thebuilding splitdownits into by length twohalves separated a narrowcourtyard: publicspaces the face and poolsto thenorthwest, theadministrative are to spaces adjacent thestreet, Unfortuproviding fieightaccess. easy the route theexisting and nately, diagonal placement theheadframe the of force into building a corner thesite. The of clients reviewed those constraints.
io In a sketch theviewtoward the of the and entrance, headframe its machinery shedstandas a kindof iconicsculpture at thegateto themuseum, the marking The beginning theexhibition. building of to as container begins takeshape a concrete witha lightskeletal roof.
TheMiningMuseum Broken Hill of
ii These studies early furtherdemonstrate theideaof a heavy providing therbase a malmass, shaded thedesert bya sun from the parasol-like whichis distinctfrom roof, baseandsuspended aboveit. Theheadand construction, framestrussed pulleys, cables onepossibilityfor roof's the suggest a shed structure, although simplified roof a more obvious expedient and presents solution. changing The angles thesun of thedayandyearsuggest a throughout thesection thebuilding so wayof zoning of as toproduce maximum with minilight mumheatgain. The positionof thepools at theedgeof theexhibition would spaces allow evaporative for cooling, enriching theirinitialesthetic function.
shows view I2 A birds-eye of themuseum into thebeginning thetransformation of The thebuilding'sfinalform. headframe and entry, relocated theheadof the at to publicwing,allowthebuilding settle A intothecenter theblock. curving of initibeneath headframe the passing ramp atestheprocession exhibition of spaces, earthberms whichareenclosed battered by thatactas heatsinks.Fivewindscoops, without exterior over positioned rooms additional access, necessary airflow provide for cooling.
This sectionstudy showsa reevalua-
the I4 A plan study presents efectsof these An developments. earthbermrunsthelength wall,and a pool of water of thesouthern side on thenorthern, sunny of thebuilding aidsevaporative cooling.Thezigzagging the connect pointsof linesalongthecorridor that the windscoops supportfor triangular line thecorridor alongtheexhibition spaces. are the spaces Programmatically, various with exhibinowin their future positions, end at tionspaces theentry of themuseum. at and Administrative maintenance spaces end and thecenter opposite of thebuilding whichis cona sandwich publiccafeteria, to areasbya ramp. nected thedisplay
I5 A series ofthefirst-floor ofplansketches
tionof theplan, thewidthof whichmakes ventilation it nearly for impossible natural Withtheintroducto worksufficiently. and tionof morewindscoops thereduction corridor, of theplan to a single-loaded the breezes willpassacross width prevailing of of thebuilding.Thetiltedunder-side the shedroofproduces pressure negative sufficient at breezes the the to augment exhaust those of buttress Earthberms backof thebuilding. thewintersideof thebuilding.
the shows substitution areas exhibition of earthwalls theearthberms, rammed for to container take whichallowsthebuildings on thetriangularforms thewindscoops of be that above.Thissuggests thewindscoops intothestructure thewall of integrated the than rather punching through planeof A theroof. smallsketch theelevation of of on this thewall expresses development the alteration exterior. of Theformal buildings a functional thewindscoops by isfollowed into one,in whichtheyaretransformed architect based theEgyptian on malqafs, Hassan of Fathys interpretation traditional Air principles. is to bedrawndown design enand and overa bedof charcoal water,. a highdegree evaporative cooling. of suring
Hill TheMiningMuseum Broken of
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The drawingsfor the second presentation to the museum'sboardoutline the proposedbuilding.
and the I6 Afinalplan shows headframe at to hoistas thefirst objects beexhibited and themuseums entry.Thegridof columns so aboveit areracked that therooftrusses the theroofwill extend beyond building, dockat the the a coverfor loading providing and endof themuseum an awning private also This at theentrance. move mitigates end thebluntness thebuildings elevation. of with Thethin elongatedplan itssingle-loada two-stage ed corridorfacilitates building schedule allowing thefirstbuiltstageto by and as composition, appear a completed Hill'sconstant to exposure Broken optimizes butlightbreezes.
I7 Viewof northelevation.
8 Viewof courtyard andpoolfrom entrance. cooled moistened evapand Air, by oration thepools water, of willpassintothe malqafs,whichstandat thewater's edge.
TheMining Museum of BrokenHill
Viewof entrance. shedcanopy The has become shallow a gableroof,tipped to the up northto capture sunlight the reflectedfrom thepool. Theresulting at steepenedpitch the backof theroof's underside increases the on deck negative pressure thesecond-floor so thatmore is drawninto themalqafs air and into passes theinteriorfirst-floor spaces.
20 Afinal section establishes corthe study rectgeometries thebuildings for optimal exploitation natural of lightand ventilation.
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21 Mining and Minerals Museum,
Glenn Murcutt, BrokenHill, New South Wales,Australia. a. northwestelevation b. southeastelevation c. southwestelevation d. section e. northeastelevation 22 First-levelplan.
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The proposedmuseum is more than 300 meterslong and standsat the center of the block, clearlya part of the monumentallandscape,both man-madeand natural, BrokenHill. The site'shigh watertable allows for native desertpalm treesand pools of water.It is to be a reminderof the oasis in a desertenvironment,providing an analogyto the place of the mining industryin the life of this city. A visitor to the museum entersthe building at its northeastend, continuing past the mining headframeand into the compressedearthenspacesof the first-floorexhibition spaces,which lie beneath the huge, heavymining machineson displayon the second floor,which is open to the air and visible from the street.I like to think that the sense of that weight above, the materialqualityof the rammedearthwalls, the dimly lit spaceswhere the only illuminationto supplementthe incandescentlight of each displayfalls, with cool air, in repeatedpunctuationalong the narrowcorridor from the malqafs above, might all work to give the museum-goersome sense of the of traveldown a mineshaft,where the verticaldescent is markedby the experience horizontaltunnel. periodicrush of air and light as the lift passeseach ever-deeper The building has three discretecomponents.The gabled trussroof, split at the ridge and expressedas two distinct sheets of corrugatedmetal, hoverson slendersteel columns above and separatefrom the base of the building. The floor slabsof the building are in concrete,a materialused minimallyin orderto reducethe freight costs of truckingit acrossthe desert.The red earthfor the rammed-upwalls, which is providethe building'sthermalblanketand form the basesof the malqafs, to be gathereddirectlyon the site. must be strictlymainOnly in the spacesof the museumwhere certaintemperatures for restorationof artifacts,is airtained, such as in the privatespacesdesignated conditioning used. The rest of the museum is cooled entirelyby the malqafaided and evaporative cross-ventilation cooling of pools to the north, the summerside in the SouthernHemisphere.Laterwind-tunnel testing has entirelyconfirmedearlycalculationsbasedon the velocity of BrokenHill's prevailingbreezes.The aerofoilsection of the museum providesa steadybut light flow of freshair throughthe building which are connected to a computerwhich is continuallyadjustedby anemometers ized gate in the throatof each malqaf. The building respondsto constraintsof a tight budget in both immediateand longterm costs, fulfills the demandsand needs of the clients, and, I believe, captures the essenceof BrokenHill. I didn'tdesign a low gable roof becauseit resembledthe roofs of the huge machinerysheds at the mines, but becauseit presentedan economical solution in termsof cost, throughits simplicity,and function, by creating the desiredshapesfor efficient air pressureand wind flow. If that form ties the buildbuilding type, it is becausethe constructionof the museum and ing to a vernacular the constructionof those industrialbuildingsmust answerto the same principlesof uncoveredan isoeconomy. I didn'tpropose malqafi afterarcanehistoricalresearch lated precedent,but becausethey provideda necessaryfunction and an inexpensive alternativeto costly mechanicalsystems.If they providethe museumwith an expression of the harshclimatic conditions of the place, and link it to the historicalactivities of mining at BrokenHill, it is not becauseof a romanticdesireto mimic past forms but to use form to a rationalend. I believe that if we accept the responsibiliand legibly using curties of living economicallyon the land, of building articulately of rent constructiontechnology but with an eye towardthe profoundrenewability build with a link to both the land both principlesand materials,we will necessarily and the traditionsof building on the land.
The Mining Museum of BrokenHill
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26 and 27 Mining and Minerals Museum, model
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