Social Sustainable Spaces

I really enjoyed Kevin McLeod’s conversation with Margaret Throsby earlier this week.

In addition to admiring his style in Grand Designs, I have been fascinated by his Grand Tour and his visit to Dharavi. (The Dharavi program led me to explore edgeless spaces.)

I was particularly interested to hear Kevin explore ideas about social spaces and listened carefully to his brief mention of Hab Oakus. I liked Hab Oakus’s manifesto which includes …

We will:

  • draw on landscape and history to create an architecture which is strongly rooted in context, both physical and cultural
  • create communities which will appeal to young and old alike; where people grow up, have a family and grow old
  • conceive our projects within the context of community-wide initiatives from sourcing local food to sustainable means of transport
  • make places which are a pleasure to live in and a joy to behold.

HAB is short for Happiness, Architecture, Beauty. This approach is another discovery for me on my interest in personal learning environments.

It has prompted me to think about how educational and sport contexts can embody the possibilities that:

We build houses that make people happy; that keep people warm in winter and cool in summer and generally comfortable and cheerful all year round. We work with brilliant architects and landscape architects to make places that look great and work well, and have lots of outdoor space for people to play, chat, lie in the sun, throw a good party, grow their own food.

Photo Credits

The Triangle, Swindon

Northway, Oxford

Thinking About Space: Links and Magic

I spend some part of each week in the Teaching Commons at the University of Canberra.

I meet all sorts of people there.

It is great space for conversation, working collaboratively and working in shared and sometimes noisy space.

Today I had the opportunity to chat with Danny Munnerley about the evolution of the Teaching Commons and its relationship with other spaces on the University campus (including the soon-to-be-completed InSPIRE Centre).

As is often the case our conversation turned to ‘edgelessness’.

Driving home today I listened to two interviews on Radio National’s Artworks program that extended my conversation with Danny about place and space.


In the first interview, Michael Shirrefs spoke with Jacques Martial who, since 2006, has run one of the largest arts precincts in Europe, the Parc de la Villette on the north-east boundary of central Paris. Jacques sees la Villette as a place of links as well as being a designed space. It is a bridge between cultures and on entry you become part of the Parc in a place different from ‘normal life’. In exploring the relationship between space and cultural narrative Jacques discussed the work of the architect of la Villette, Bernard Tschumi, and the philosopher Gilles Deleuze.


In the second interview, Suzanne Donisthorpe talked with Brigita Ozolins about her Reading Room show at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. The Reading Room is:

an immersive, interactive environment about the magic world of books and reading. The gallery walls are painted red and are lined with thousands and thousands of books. There are comfy chairs and couches so you can sit back and listen to over 60 people from all walks of life in Tasmania reading a passage from one of their favourite books, or you can pick up a book and start reading yourself!

Space as Linking and Magic

I have a sense of space as offering filaments of connections to memory and practice.

I like the possibilities for links and magic suggested by Jacques and Brigita.

I wonder what would happen if we had a generation of designs of space for teaching and learning entrusted to performance artists. Brigita’s PhD, for example, has explored how “installations that focus on viewer experience” offer “the possibility of developing new narratives about our relationship to language and knowledge.” Such installations “incorporate already existing materials, cultural signs, objects and ideas associated with institutional practices of collecting, manipulating and disseminating information.”

What a great day of narratives that linked and bridged spaces in Canberra, Paris and Hobart!

Photo Credits

The Mercury, 11 October 2011

Parc de la Villette

Home is where the hut is


Radio National’s Bush Telegraph had a great item yesterday (23 June) on Huts in the Wild.

Greg Muller interviewed Dianne Johnson about her new book on Huts.

Dianne has been interviewed by Radio National’s By Design program too.

In her Bush Telegraph interview, Dianne made some fascinating observations that helped me think further about my changing sense of space and place. She found a great ally in Greg in the interview. He too was passionate about huts.


Amongst the points Dianne made in her interview were:

  • Being “struck dumb” by the beauty of the Waldheim Chalet on Cradle Mountain
  • Huts as liminal spaces  that mediate between the built landscape and nature
  • Huts are spare and sparse: they are not designed as stores (unlike sheds)
  • Huts offer enchantment and are imagined, mindful and slow spaces
  • Huts are creative spaces within which to think and reflect and on some occasions take on demons
  • You must not stay for a long time in huts and avoid Martin Heidegger’s experience of overstaying
  • You are the honoured guest in a hut. It is a place of respect and hospitality.
  • Huts are egalitarian, they are inclusive. Each has its own distinctive portal.
  • Each of us has a sense of our wild spaces and our hard country. These are places of wonderment that energise the spirit.
  • Huts tend to be built in magnificent places.
  • Huts are temporary and  raise issues about preservation. Part of the experience of a hut is its ephemerality … ‘hutness’ is about coming from from the earth and returning to earth.

At the end of the interview Greg asked Dianne if she had a favourite hut. She mentioned Dixons Kingdom Hut.

Place and Space

I have been thinking a lot about space and place. My recent journey started whilst contemplating Everywhen. Developments around Commons spaces at the University of Canberra have accelerated my reflections.

Dianne and Greg have helped me travel further in my thinking. Given the essential characteristics of ‘hutness’ I wonder if I ought to stop thinking about research centres and units and work to develop huts for ideas and practice. It would be wonderful to develop a way of being that stimulated the imagination, enhanced sociability and celebrated liminality.

Such huts would not be places of permanent residence. They would be way stations that had varying configurations of people and ideas that were nourished by the place.

Photo Credits

Wallaces Hut

Davies Run (Tasmanian Huts Preservation Society)

Dixons Kingdom Hut (Tasmanian Huts Preservation Society)