Rowan Moore, in his work Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture, notes that “most people know that buildings are not purely functional, that there is an intangible something about them that has to do with emotion” (16). Emotion is critical to why and how we build. Indeed, there is a basic human desire to build—to leave a mark on the landscape or on our society. This issue of M/C Journal unpacks this idea of emotion, examining the functional and the creative in the design process, for a range of building projects, from the tangible: building transport infrastructure, exhibition centre, or a new-style museum; to those building projects that are more difficult to define: building an artwork, a community, or a reputation. In addition, this issue looks at how we also ‘unbuild’ the world around us. In the feature article Aleks Wansbrough critically takes up ideas of ‘build’ and ‘unbuild’ through an examination of how the role that the death of Man, which follows the death of God, has had on the idea of creation, and how Man is unbuilt in three works by three different artists: Francis Bacon’s “Study of a Baboon” (1953), Jan Švankmajer’s Darkness, Light, Darkness (1989) and Patricia Piccinini’s “The Young Family” (2002).
In the first article, Ella Mudie also looks at ‘unbuild’. This is achieved with a review of how the Sydney Metro—a major transport infrastructure project—requires demolition work that will inevitably result in a reconfiguration of the character of Sydney’s inner city and the suburbs it intersects. Mudie questions unbuilding and rebuilding, drawing on literary texts in which demolition and infrastructure development are key preoccupations. In the second article on construction and destruction, Sarah Morley, looks at one of Sydney’s earliest iconic buildings. The Garden Palace—a purpose built facility designed to house the Colony’s first International Exhibition in 1879—was a famous, and favourite, building of New South Wales, prior to its destruction by fire in 1882. Morley explores the loss of the building and its contents; which included many Australian Aboriginal objects and ancestral remains.
Simon Dwyer looks at building a story with light. Drawing upon a range of historical documents, this article investigates how world-renowned architect Jørn Utzon envisaged the use of natural and artificial light. In this way, he showed how light could contribute to the final build of the Sydney Opera House, through giving additional expression to the traditional building elements that he had carefully selected. Nadine Kozak highlights much smaller structures in her qualitative analysis of comments made by stewards about their Little Free Libraries. This, increasingly popular, movement offers opportunities for reading and to build community networks as people come together to build, maintain and stock Little Free Libraries. Kozak’s work also acknowledges some of the resistance to this movement and how communities are strengthened in their efforts to protect what they have built.
The earliest detectives were forced to overcome significant resistance from a suspicious public. Rachel Franks investigates the efforts of Charles Dickens to change the perception of policing. Focusing on letters written about capital punishment and articles aimed at promoting the role of the detective, Franks unpacks how one of the great novelists of the Victorian age also assisted in building the reputation of a fledging detective branch. Moving forward in time, Hazel Ferguson also interrogates ideas of reputation. This work looks at the activities of early career researchers on social media which is increasingly being used to build communities around mutual support and professional development. Ferguson’s analysis, of the #ECRchat group on Twitter, aims to contribute to emerging discussions about academic labour and online reputation.
In noting how the babble of a crowd can indicate the presence of others constructing ephemeral emergent communities where the voice of an individual is often lost, Rebecca Collins, identifies how sound informs our experience of space. In this article, she discusses the potential of sound to construct fictional spaces, build individual identities and evoke the presence of a crowd in relation to two artistic installations. Ben Egliston takes on another type of creative output with videogames. Egliston’s work considers how players build ingame competencies by engaging with media beyond the game itself; such as walkthrough guides or YouTube videos. This article provides a re-framing of the relationship between gameplay (and the development of competency) and the elements of games existing beyond the screen. Creativity is also central to George Jaramillo’s article which focuses on the relationship between Ionad Hiort and the Glasgow School of Art’s Institute of Design Innovation as a case study for understanding how design innovation can engender and build community capabilities. This work studies the development of a new type of heritage centre on the western coast of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland and the idea of a “place of interpretation” as an alternative to the “visitor centre”, to go “beyond the museum”.
We bookend this issue with another piece on building infrastructure in the city of Sydney. Nicholas Richardson interrogates the New South Wales Government’s ‘making it happen’ campaign. This research explores whether the current build-at-any-cost mentality behind ‘making it happen’ is in either the long-term interest of the New South Wales constituency or the short-term interest of a political party.
To build is to embark on a multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted project. These articles demonstrate the wide-ranging potential of exploring how different interpretations of, and ways to, build impacts our cultural, emotional, intellectual, private, and public lives.
Our sincere thanks to our enthusiastic contributors, to those who gave their expertise and time in the blind peer review process, and to Axel Bruns.
Moore, Rowan. Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.