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From True Blue to True Who: What is lost in Australian Pavilion Architecture?

Kate Woodman Deakin University

Abstract The Australian architectural communitys campaign for the construction of a new pavilion at the site of the Venice Biennale has peaked at the same time as Australian investment and global participation in World Expos. The latter follows global patterns in the recognition of Expos nation branding potential. Traditionally, Australia saw Expo and Biennale participation as an opportunity to reflect on and announce shifts in national identity. For the past 20 years, Australia has consistently represented itself at these events in two aesthetics; the landform and the sail. While these aesthetics will always, to some extent, be relevant to Australian identity, it is questionable as to whether they could really be regarded as the most relevant images across this time period. The winning proposal for the new Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale grants this line of questioning further relevance in its total disregard for cultural expression.

Changing national agendas certainly puts limitations on the themes that architects can engage with when designing a pavilion. However, this thesis proposes that the nature of Australian architectural practice makes it more susceptible to producing clich and apolitical designs. The evidence for this lies in the retreat of architects from engaging in thorough critique and public debate. Essentially, critique has become uncritical1 and architects are no longer compelled to experiment and innovate with the themes that converge in the public realm. Here lies a disconnection that may offer an explanation for the recycling of themes for Australias national image. Having established the Australian context as rooted in its wild and untamed landscape, Australian architects have not been compelled to revisit it, and whats more, their critiques have not held them accountable. A comparison of nation pavilion images with national identity will establish the severity and nature of these discrepancies and in doing so identify what is lost in Australian pavilion architecture.

Introduction National pavilions provide an opportunity for its architect to reflect on nationhood and national identity. Traditionally they have been proud statements of Australias cultural might, however recent examples show evidence of retreat towards easy clichs or total disregard for cultural expression. Globalisation has seen increased participation in Expos and the Venice Biennales, and with it a changing participation agenda2. Australias participation at these events has been conservative. The role of the thesis, as an extension of this literature report, is to detail the nature of these shifts specific to Australia. The literature report will establish the importance of this topic and provide an analytical framework to support the subsequent analysis.

From True Blue to True Who: A Historical Context Australian pavilions have traditionally been utilized to announce reformation in national identity. Philip Goads analysis of the history of Exposition and Expo architecture in Projecting the Nation provides the basis of this historical context. Tjaco Walvis identifies three key global stages in World Expo and Exposition history on a global scale. Australian pavilion trends, described by Goad, generally abide to the global stages established by Walvis. The first stage, that Walvis terms industrial, spanned from 1900 until 1938. During this time the agenda was to promote the technological inventions and advancements of a nation3. Anthropologist, Burton Benedict would dispute this, instead proposing that World Fairs and Expositions were initiated out of the need for Colonial powers to promote the strength and cohesion of their colonies4. Early Australian pavilions show evidence of both. While their exhibitions were focused on building trade partners and promoting resources of timber and wool, their pavilion architecture depicted colonial loyalties5. The following period of cultural exchange, focused on the significance of culture and more Utopian themes of humankind6. For Australia it involved the establishment of an identity that was not defined by the empire and instead recognised the potential for a national image to be derived from modernism and international engagement7. Significant pavilions during this period include; the 1939 New York Worlds Fair as the first of Australias pavilions to successfully create an engaging environment through modernism8, 1940 New Zealand Centennial Exhibition where the goal was to put it all over the British9 and 20 years later, the 1967 Montreal World Expo, which as Barnes and

Jackson describe, promoted modern innovation as key to facilitating the Australian high quality of life10. Australias participation in the 1970 Osaka World Expo was perhaps premature in its cultural diplomacy attempts in terms of the global context established by Walvis. As Barnes and Jackson contextualize; as a result of World War 2, Australia was becoming less politically and economically dependent on Britain and was opening up to regional connections. The Osaka Expo was seen as an opportunity for Australia to enhance Japanese perceptions of Australia as culturally understanding and technically advanced, (rather than course and uncultured). This was achieved through a series of references to Japanese culture11.

This recognition of World Expo as a platform to improve national image is what Walvis describes in his nation branding stage12. Stretching from 1988 until now, enhancing national image remains the predominant goal of current Expo participation13. In Australian pavilions, this time period marks the emergence of two reccurring Australian aesthetics; of the sail and of the land. The existing pavilion at the Venice Biennale, designed by Philip Cox in 1988, has the same aesthetic as his white painted hotel near Uluru. Coxs career ambition was to develop an Australian style that represented an up-to-date and open minded Australia14, appropriating a sail aesthetic of white fabric, stretched over white steel to do so. This style was repeated in 1992 at the Seville World Expo15. In contrast, the 1988 Brisbane World Expo Pavilion, depicted a giant corrugated Uluru16 theme much like the giant Core-Ten steel landform at the recent 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Referring to the Brisbane World Expo, Goad states that here landscape was deployed as a highly marketable image of Australia17. The 2000 Hannover World Expo sees Australia amalgamating these two aesthetics with the stretched sails now coloured in the deep red of the Australian desert18.

From boasting allegiance to the mother country to representing cultural coming of age through modernism, Australia has utilized pavilion design to reflect pursuits in the reformation of national identity. For most of the 20th century, Australia has attempted to engage in international styles. Now the nation strives to differentiate itself globally. The proposed design for the new Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (Figure 1) is perhaps an exception to this statement, posing a total departure from the role of pavilions in representing culture, towards neutrality. Its architect, Barrie Marshall of DCM, boldly states the external and internal volumes have no connotations whatsoever of 'national character', other than perhaps a refusal to acknowledge the giving of architectural form to

such a concept19. This disregard parallels John Denton (also of DCM), Philip Goad and Geoffrey Londons comment on Australian cultures perpetual scorn for theory and ideas20 (from which they do not elaborate).

Figure 1. Melbourne Architects, DCMs winning submission for the Australia Council for the Arts closed competition for the new 21 Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

From True Blue to True Who: A Global Context As one of the few remaining platforms for cultural differentiation pavilion architecture has found increased relevance in the globalised world. This international phenomenon puts pressure on architects to produce high impact designs, often derived from stereotypes22. Walvis warns that nation branding that is poorly executed can lead to damaging reinterpretations of a nation such as being nationalist, excluding cultural or ethnic groups or by oversimplifying the nations cultural signifiers.23 Bell and Lyall, through the analysis of themes explored at the Hannover Expo 2000, question whether the marketing agendas are sterilizing pavilion design. They identify nature as a common pavilion theme for its ability to distinguish a nation in a manner that is relevant to all citizens while remaining largely apolitical24. They provide some evidence of the relevance of nature to national constructs. However, their overall tone is critical, labeling it as superficial and clich; The nationalisms we see at Expos are the performative ones, the colourful, apolitical, hygienic versions of nation that obliterate politics and proclaim nation boundaries as unproblematic, uncontested, secure and timeless 25.

Walvis reflection on the trend is far more optimistic. He sees accountability associated with the importance of honesty in marketing success. He believes that such agendas will promote diversity, rather than limit it26 while ensuring national culture and identity remains relevant despite globalization. The prevalence of marketing in Expo and Biennale architecture has certainly put restrictions on the nature of their architectural expression. However, negotiating the requirements of various stakeholders, while maintaining architectural integrity, is hardly unfamiliar to architects.

From True Blue to True Who: A Local Context Australian architects suffer greater vulnerability to global pressures because they are not active in discussions of culture, identity and their ever changing nature. Andrew Benjamin, illustrates that difficulty in obtaining public money for the construction of a new Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is telling; For the most part, these issues do not pertain to the relative strength or weaknesses of Australian architecture, but rather the way in which it defines itself27. He encourages architects to acknowledge culture and embrace its complexities28. Hogben and Fang condemn Australian architectural discourse for becoming uncritical, particularly in terms of architects that derive inspiration from either the land or engagement with indigenous people. They deny the authenticity of the appropriation of these symbols of national identity saying; The repositioning of Aboriginal culture in mainstream media and cultural institutions originates in a need to reinvent an ethnically mature cultural identity for Australia for the global market. 29

Their concern is that flippant discourse accommodates the perpetuation of architecture that is unaware of its social and political impacts30. Carey Lyon, 10 years on from Hogben and Fangs warning, identifies missed opportunities for Australian architects as a result of their lack of presence in broader public debate. Using landscape as an example, although multiculturalism and history are other topics he identifies, he notes significant national developments that have not advanced architectural understandings of the land beyond it being wild and untamed. As such, outdated responses are still abundant. Such advancements include native title, understanding of indigenous spirituality and the fragility of the landscape. Lyon clarifies that the architects role is not necessarily in public advocacy; however private engagement in these issues should result in architecture that responds and contributes to this discussion.31 Consistently, there is a domestic request for architects to engage in matters of national identity and culture. The lack of architects

participation in these national issues raises a concern that representations of Australian identity have not been revisited and are therefore out of date.

Philip Goad denies that Australian architecture is not intellectual in its pursuits, but instead finds evidence in the experimentation and production of architecture on site. In that respect, Australian architecture culture is traditionally conservative and suspicious of polemic, but only insofar as the notion of production is predicated on opportunity.32 In a dynamic and diverse culture such as Australia, pavilions propose an invaluable medium of constant experimentation and re-evaluation. He describes Australian culture more generally as simultaneously seeking identity and defending difference. In the ambiguity of these contradictions, he identifies freedom for architectural practise.33 Sandra KajiOGrady and Julie Willis note the absence of Australians in international architectural anthologies, explaining that as a geographic periphery it is overlooked, with works of the center (US and Europe) assuming a voice for all34. Australian architects respond defensively to these international theories; treating them with a contradictory mix of suspicion born of no-nonsense pragmatism and a desire to be seen as knowledgeable and culturally hip35. They describe Australian architects as acutely self conscious of their location in the world but are positive of the architectural communitys ability to generate theory and transform architectural identity. They contribute recent changes in the focus of architectural discourse in Australian to the specialisation of academia as a discipline, resulting in the separation of theory from practise. They go on to defend architects lack of speculation on culture and identity because as a result of the blurring of national lines; the concept of a nationally or regionally defined architecture now seems highly problematic. Deyan Sudjic, a rare international voice in these discussions, analyses the Australian exhibition at the 2006 Venice Architectural Biennale. He describes the exhibitions defiantly unflashy images of urban Australia that included deserted mining towns and troubled suburbs, as showing Australias unusually reflective architectural culture36. There is a firm support of Australian architects capabilities to reflect. However, this potential is not mirrored in Australias pavilion designs. The nature of Australian architectural practice and its global position in intellectual pursuits may have contributed to these opportunities being missed.

How buildings are read. There are many ways in which buildings are imbued with meaning, not all of which will be relevant to this analysis. Applying Umberto Ecos categorization to national pavilions, both the denoted (primary) and the connoted (associated meanings) have symbolic

functions therefore both are relevant to this analysis37. Using the Australian pavilion at the Shanghai Expo as an example, the imagery of Australia denotes primary function; identifying its nation, however it is loaded with connotations about Australias relationship with China. Goodmans differentiation of evocation and causation from referential meanings is valuable. It essentially distinguishes the methods employed by architects from the meanings that come to be associated with a building as a result of its contextual factors38. The temporary nature of pavilions limit their ability to develop meaning beyond that which is intended (though exceptions exist). For the purposes of this analysis the intentional references only are of relevance.

Conclusion Australian pavilions have in the past responded to changes in national identity, however it has become questionable as to whether current pavilion designs engage in such reflection. The recycling of the same image of Australia for the last 20 years does not mirror the dynamic nature and diversity of Australian culture and its context in a globalizing world, nor does it embrace the potential for innovation that such changes can bring. These issues may enlighten broader characteristics of Australians relationship with identity and thus is not unique to its architects. The concern is that pavilions that are ignorant to their nation run the risk of representing nothing and no one.

Endnotes
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Paul Hogben & Stanislaus Fang, Landscape and Culture, Geography and Race; Some shifts in Australian Architectural Commentary, Voices (1997), 12. 2 Tjaco Walvis, Building Brand Locations, Corporate Reputation Review, 5, 4, (2003), 361. 3 Tjaco Walvis, Three eras of World Expositions: 1851-present, in Tjaco Walvis (ed.) Cosmopolite: Stardust World Expo & National Branding Newsletter, 5, 1, (2004), 1. 4 Burton Benedict, 'International exhibitions and national identity', in Jonathan Benthall (ed.), Anthropology Today, 7, 3, (1991) 5-9 5 Philip Goad, 'Projecting the Nation' in Justine Clark (ed.) Architecture Australia, (Melbourne: Architecture Media) 98 (2010) 91. 6 Tjaco Walvis, Three eras of World Expositions: 1851-present, 1. 7 Goad, Projecting the Nation, 91. 8 Goad, Projecting the Nation, 92. 9 Goad, Projecting the Nation, 92. 10 Carolyn Barnes, Barbara Hall & Simon Jackson, Relaxed and Comfortable: The Australian Pavilion at Expo '67', Design Issues, 25, 1 (2009), 80-93. 11 Carolyn Barnes, Barbara Hall & Simon Jackson, 'Creature of Circumstance: Australia's Pavilion at Expo '70 and Changing International Relations' The Proceedings of the XXIVth International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (Adelaide: Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, 2007), 1-16. 12 Walvis, Three eras of World Expositions: 1851-present, 1. 13 Walvis, Building Brand Locations, 361. 14 Deyan Sudjic, Beyond the Cringe: Australian Architecture and the Venice Biennale The Monthly, 1, 17 (2006), 42. 15 Goad, Projecting the Nation, 92. 16 Goad, Projecting the Nation, 92. 17 Goad, Projecting the Nation, 92. 18 Goad, Projecting the Nation, 92. 19 Barrie Marshall, Denton Corker Marshall Entry, in Matt Ward, Anna Draffin, Stephen Mitchell (eds.), Venice Biennale New Australian Pavilion; Di Stasio Ideas Competition, (Melbourne: Di Stasio Ideas Competition Venice Biennale, 2008), 104. 20 nd John Denton, Philip Goad & Geoffrey London, 'Afterword', 2 rev., The Australian Ugliness, (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2010), 271. 21 Australian Council for the Arts, Denton Corker Marshall appointed architects for new Venice pavilion, The Australian Council for the Arts Website < http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/news/items/2012/venice-pavilion-redevelopment-architectsappointed> (2012). 22 Jian Wang & Shaojing Sun, Experiencing Nation Brands: A Comparative Analysis of Eight National Pavilions at Expo Shanghai 2010, (Los Angeles: Figueroa Press, 2012), 17-20. 23 Walvis, Tjaco, The Branding of Nations by Stardust New Ventures, (Amsterdam: Stardust New Ventures, 2001), 2. 24 Claudia Bell & John Lyall, 'Packaging Nations: Expo 2000, Hannover' from The Proceedings of TASA 2001 Conference, (The University of Sydney, 2001), 2. 25 Bell & Lyall, 'Packaging Nations: Expo 2000, Hannover', 5. 26 Walvis, The Branding of Nations by Stardust New Ventures, 3. 27 Andrew Benjamin, 'Architecture and Culture', Justine Clark (ed.) Architecture Australia, (Melbourne: Architecture Media), 92, 3, (2003) 42. 28 Benjamin, 'Architecture and Culture', 42-44 29 Hogben & Fang, Landscape and Culture, Geography and Race; Some shifts in Australian Architectural Commentary, 12. 30 Hogben & Fang, Landscape and Culture, Geography and Race; Some shifts in Australian Architectural Commentary, 12. 31 Carey Lyon, 'Culture Wars Missing in Action', Justine Clark (ed.) Architecture Australia, (Melbourne: Architecture Media), 96, 1, (2007) 7. 32 Philip Goad, Introduction, in Patrick Bingham-Hall (eds.), New directions in Australian Architecture,(Balmain: Pesaro Publishing, 2001), 10. 33 Goad, Introduction, 10. 34 Sandra Kaji-OGrady & Julie Willis, Conditions, Connections and Change: Reviewing Australian Architectural Theory 18802000, Architectural Theory Review, 16, 2, (2003), 92.

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Kaji-OGrady & Willis, Conditions, Connections and Change: Reviewing Australian Architectural Theory 18802000, 94. 36 Sudjic, Beyond the Cringe: Australian Architecture and the Venice Biennale, 45. 37 Umberto Eco, Function and Sign: The Semiotics of Architecture, Geoffrey Broadbent, Richard Bunt, Charles Jencks (eds.), Signs, Symbols and Architecture, (Chichester, New York, Brisbane, Toronto: John Wiley & Sons, 1980), 20-34. 38 Nelson Goodman, 'How Buildings Mean', Nelson Goodman, Catherine Z. Elgin, (eds.) Re conceptions in Philosophy and other Arts and Sciences, (London: Routledge,1988), 31-44. 39 Kaji-OGrady & Willis, Conditions, Connections and Change: Reviewing Australian Architectural Theory 18802000, 94-102. 40 Julie Willis & Philip Goad, A Bigger Picture; Reframing Australian Architectural History, in Andrew Leach, Paul Walker (eds.), Fabrications: The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australian and New Zealand, 18, 1, (2008), 7-24.

Figure 2. Research Plan Diagram

Research Plan (refer to Figure 2.) Kaji-OGrady and Willis identify recurring factors impacting written Australian architectural theory including; cultural inheritance, landscape and climate, indigenous culture, architectural practice and contextual complexity39. Similarly Julie Willis and Philip Goad identify themes of national significance that contribute to the uniqueness of Australian architecture and should influence the understanding of its history. These include; reconciling indigenous architecture, colonial context, urban situation, international context and the documentation of its history40. As an extension of this literature report, the thesis will analyse themes specific to Australian pavilions and compare them to themes in national identity. The goal is to establish the correlation between Australian pavilion architecture and Australian perceptions of identity and in doing so, identify what is lost in Australian pavilion architecture.

Pavilion data from three locations will be analysed; Entries in the Di Stasio ideas competition for the Venice Biennale (a selection of which has been collated into a published book). The process run by the Arts Council of Australia for the proposed new Australian pavilion at the Biennale (which has been discussed extensively in both architecture and more general media). Australias pavilion buildings at recent World Expos (discussed in Government documents and academic journals).

This sample group provides a spectrum of government mitigation, from unrestricted and no involvement in the Di Stasio ideas competition to the government run and regulated World Expo entries. An analysis of Australias architectural exhibitions at the Venice Biennale will provide supplementary data to analyse shifts in Australian architects engagement in discourse. Themes in national identity will be gathered from literature such as Now & then: Australian history and identity in the 20th century written by Keith Hallett and A bigger picture: Reframing Australian architectural history written by Julie Willis and Philip Goad. This research is concerned with evidence from 1988 until now, as this time period defines the shift in aesthetic of Australian pavilionsThe themes identified in both research fields will be compared in order to define how closely they correlate, and detail the areas they may not.

Bibliography Benedict, B, 'International exhibitions and national identity', in Jonathan Benthall (ed.), Anthropology Today, 7, 3, (1991) 5-9 Barnes, C, B Hall & S Jackson, Relaxed and Comfortable: The Australian Pavilion at Expo '67', Design Issues, 25, 1 (2009), 80-93.

Barnes, C, B Hall & S Jackson, 'Creature of Circumstance: Australia's Pavilion at Expo '70 and Changing International Relations' The Proceedings of the XXIVth International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (Adelaide: Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, 2007), 1-16.

Bell, C & J Lyall, 'Packaging Nations: Expo 2000, Hannover' from The Proceedings of TASA 2001 Conference, (The University of Sydney, 2001), 1-7.

Benjamin, A, 'Architecture and Culture', Justine Clark (ed.) Architecture Australia, (Melbourne: Architecture Media), 92, 3, (2003), 42-44. Denton, J, P Goad & G London, 'Afterword', 2nd rev., The Australian Ugliness, (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2010), 268-273. Eco, U, Function and Sign: The Semiotics of Architecture, Geoffrey Broadbent, Richard Bunt, Charles Jencks (eds.), Signs, Symbols and Architecture, (Chichester, New York, Brisbane, Toronto: John Wiley & Sons, 1980), 20-34. Goad, P, Introduction, in Patrick Bingham-Hall (eds.), New directions in Australian Architecture,(Balmain: Pesaro Publishing, 2001), 10-11.

Goad, P, 'Projecting the Nation' in Justine Clark (ed.) Architecture Australia, (Melbourne: Architecture Media) 98 (2010), 91-92.

Goodman, N, 'How Buildings Mean', Nelson Goodman, Catherine Z. Elgin, (eds.) Re conceptions in Philosophy and other Arts and Sciences, (London: Routledge,1988), 3144. Hogben, P & S Fang, Landscape and Culture, Geography and Race; Some shifts in Australian Architectural Commentary, Voices (1997), 5-14.

Kaji-OGrady, S & J Willis, Conditions, Connections and Change: Reviewing Australian Architectural Theory 18802000, Architectural Theory Review, 16, 2, (2003), 92-102. Lyon, C, 'Culture Wars Missing in Action', Justine Clark (ed.) Architecture Australia, (Melbourne: Architecture Media), 96, 1, (2007) 7. Sudjic, D, Beyond the Cringe: Australian Architecture and the Venice Biennale The Monthly, 1, 17 (2006), 40-45. Walvis, T, Building Brand Locations, Corporate Reputation Review, 5, 4, (2003), 358366. Walvis, T, Three eras of World Expositions: 1851-present, in Tjaco Walvis (ed.) Cosmopolite: Stardust World Expo & National Branding Newsletter, 5, 1, (2004), 1.

Wang, J, & S Sun, Experiencing Nation Brands: A Comparative Analysis of Eight National Pavilions at Expo Shanghai 2010, (Los Angeles: Figueroa Press, 2012).

Ward, M, A Draffin, & S Mitchell (eds.), Venice Biennale New Australian Pavilion; Di Stasio Ideas Competition, (Melbourne: Di Stasio Ideas Competition Venice Biennale, 2008). Willis, J & P Goad, A Bigger Picture; Reframing Australian Architectural History, in Andrew Leach, Paul Walker (eds.), Fabrications: The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australian and New Zealand, 18, 1, (2008), 7-24.