Opinion

Architects’ monstrosities a soul-destroying sight

The Gold Coast University Hospital, which was recently completed.
The Gold Coast University Hospital, which was recently completed.

I AM feeling a lot better now. I've just eaten a lovely sand crab in an air-conditioned hotel room with a view towards the ridiculous Surfers Paradise skyline.

This skyline includes something called Soul, one of the more recent grand erections in the middle of the new Surfers.

It's a funny building, probably conceived by testosterone-inspired architects hell-bent on designing a shape few structural engineers would readily recommend.

It has no obvious spiritual significance beyond offering a chance for the rich and self-indulgent to live Nearer My God to Thee.

"Soul", and I quote from its website, "stands alone. It is the first and last of its kind soaring 77 storeys above a matchless beach."

We're told: "Life here is all about barefoot luxury. Soul means relaxed sophistication, casual elegance and effortless style."

What's more, we are assured: "Only at Soul do you arrive at an elegant porte-cochere to be greeted by friendly staff always on hand…."

And, if that wasn't enough to make the spirit soar: "The showpiece lobby with its gleaming glass balustraded staircase and towering ceiling welcomes you home..."

I shouldn't be cynical.

I've only briefly looked at the outside from an adjacent traffic jam, craning my neck to get a glimpse of a really rich person looking through those success-reflecting windows.

I probably share my pessimism about architects, and marketing people, with other structural engineers.

It's not that we don't admire them; of course we do.

It's just that we don't understand them.

It's usually left to the poor old structural engineers to build the monstrosities architects dream up.

They have to work out the stresses, get the loads right, put the steel and concrete in the right places and make sure things don't fall off when the wind blows.

Even when it looks hideous they have to grit their teeth and do their best to find suitable mathematics and a believable computer program.

Few people will admit to wanting to live or work in conventional rectangular boxes.

You only have to look at some of the daft houses that people build when they are in front of a television camera.

Smart, shape-obsessed architects are winning hands down and the engineer's life isn't going to get much easier any time soon.

There is a limit though.

I only have to visit the skyline that is in front of me, or the indistinguishably similar developments north and south of it, to realise there should be more to "success" than easy access to fast food outlets, a flashy funny-coloured house and somewhere near the beach to exercise the dog.

There are only so many architect-designed monstrosities that a bloke can take.

Then there is the modern obsession with using deep blues, deep reds, deep greens, when we long for pastel shades.

Not so very far from where I am this very moment enjoying a scotch (one, perhaps two, only), there is a new expression of the architect's ability to confound.

It's the new, very new, Gold Coast University Hospital, somewhat pessimistically positioned next to a Garden of Remembrance.

A fine hospital no doubt, its designers presumably had a reason for painting it blue and grey.

Not only that, it has its own adjacent car park.

This is indescribably green; various shades, all in rectangles, slitted, slotted and startling.

Go to Google's image search function, type in Gold Coast University Hospital car park and brace yourself.

I tried hard not to notice it on my trips past it in recent days but have failed completely.

It is a health hazard and confirms my suspicion that many of our very best architects are either colourblind or deliberately provocative.

Hopefully I'll be back in Toowoomba by the time you read this. God, I love that place….

Topics:  blog, opinion, professor peter swannell, toowoomba



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