Making: history, sculpture and big things by Peter Tonkin

* Click on the red time-stamp to go directly to each segment in the video

00:10 The Chair (Pia Ednie-Brown) introduces the event and the examiners: Peter Elliott and Catherin Bull

02:09 Peter describes the format of the presentation (Structuring)

04:08 Peter explains the oft used phrase ‘jointly and severally’ and its relevance to his practice (Methodology)

06:34 The fabric (the exhibition is surrounded by a white hanging fabric wall) has plans printed on it. This element is described. (Structuring)

09:33 The plans (on the fabric) overlay each other, mimicking the notion of layering, accident and collision of architectural elements that is encouraged in the architectural practice (Methodology, practice methods)

13:48 Slideshow of photographs of the buildings illustrated in the fabric plans (Practice methods, practice narrative) (Project narrative)

15:40 The notion of continuum in architecture – central to the practice (Practice narrative)

20:38 The role of drawing in the practice (Practice methods)

25:00 The idea of the seminal sketch (Project narrative, practice methods, structuring)

28:24 Sketching out details (Practice narrative, project narrative)

31:08 The value of material, ‘the gravitas of the real’ and the importance of place in the practice (Practice narrative)

34:30 Presentation section called ‘Big’. The importance of collaboration, Sydney Olympics project (Project narrative, practice methods)

37:07 National Arboretum of Canberra (Project narrative)

48:06 Presentation section called ‘Making’. The building in the arboretum. (Practice narrative)

57:30 Conclusion

59:29 The presentation ends. Applause

59:40 Catherin Bull (CB) A question about the ideas of the built form and the materials, tissue and overlay. The question is, are these ongoing preoccupations?

1:05:58 (CB) What is the rationale in the practice for the use of text in the projects?

1:11:00 Peter Elliott (PE) A question about the importance of site and the collaboration of different disciplines.

1:16:41 (PE) Struggled to find continuity in the projects depicted on the fabric screen. Asks if Peter struggled to find continuity, thinks it’s irrelevant…

1:20:41 (CB) Q: You consciously refused to set forth a method or system for the way you work – apart from this notion of engagement with place, in your dissertation. Do you want to comment on that?

1:27:19 (CB) Your ambition to create architecture – rather than buildings, is evident in your language. This leads to a comment on this by Peter.

1:30:00 (PE) Can you reflect on the generational differences in architectural practice – specifically from drawing to CAD.

1:33:34 (PE) A question about continuity and havoc in Peter’s practice in particular.

1:38:04 (CB) Do you ever imagine your buildings in 20, 40 years' time with a view to what they might be?

1:41:07 (PE) A lot of architects struggle with the variation – between small and large projects. You don’t seem to. Do you want to talk about that?

1:46:10 End of questions. Pia concludes the examination. Applause.

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In this dissertation I have researched thirty years of professional practice and demonstrated how my creative engagement is focussed on built rather than ideal projects, most often in the public realm, that can be realised with a sculptural directness of material and that embody a spectrum of fertile architectural ideas.
The projects representing this broad range of completed and uncompleted work have been selected to exemplify four major architectural themes. The first, comprises a long and inter-related strand of refurbishment projects beginning with the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney. The second represents a range of projects where form and meaning are more significant than purely functional aspects, and comprises a series of significant war memorials in Australia and overseas. The third is a diverse group of very large infrastructure and urban design projects. The last category is ‘buildings’: representing those projects that are not primarily heritage, sculpture or infrastructure, but which have embodied engaging ideas. These are the bulk of what most architects do from day to day, but interestingly comprise a relatively smaller proportion of my output. The single project selected to represent each category conveys many of the architectural concerns of the entire practice and is analysed in detail, whist other relevant examples are more briefly reviewed to gain a wider perspective.
The research has highlighted the marginal position of some of TZG’s work, and thus these projects are not dealt with in detail. These categories include unbuilt projects and a range of straightforward and simple buildings, the ‘bread and butter’ of architecture, the more significant of which are catalogued in Volume Two of the dissertation.
Emerging from the research is a clear basis of architectural ideas relating to the concept of phenomenology, understood here as a reliance on the direct experience of an object rather than an appreciation relying on a semiotic or theoretical foundation in external references and meanings. In the built work, as well as in the processes used to achieve it, the concept of the whole is significant – positioning the brief, the place, the client and the users in unison with the architecture, ensuring the positive relationship between the object and its context in a holistic way, and structuring the interweaving of layers where each has a specific identity and presence, its own wholeness.
Throughout the work is a reliance on making, on the materialisation of ideas, forms and places, on the eloquent assembly of space and material, making a whole of the separate parts, on making architecture.

Year: 2015
Examination: Prof Catherin Bull, Prof Peter Elliott  Supervisors: Professor Sand Helsel, Prof Sue Anne Ware


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