Category Archives: Sydney

Architecture and Interiors: Sydney Area

Wanting a change from the cottages and terraces of Sydney’s Inner West, I have been exploring a little further afield to research some of the areas architectural and design history.

A number of the City’s prominent CBD towers were designed by Harry Siedler, Australia’s Bauhaus proponent. A more intimate exposure to his work can be gained at the house he designed for his mother, Rose Siedler, located in woodland, overlooking a steep ravine in Wahroonga, 25km north of the City.

Exterior of Rose Seidler House, Sydney

The house was built between 1948 and 1950 and the interior is almost fully original. Whilst quite small and underwhelming at first sight, the interior gives insight into his design ideas. The bespoke concealed audio equipment is executed particularly well.

Bespoke, concealed audio equipment, Rose Seidler House, Sydney

Stepping back around 110 years, the fated Elizabeth Bay House was being completed for the Colonial Secretary for New South Wales, Alexander Macleay. As Macleay slipped into financial troubles shortly after moving in, this grand villa, with a large, harbour-side estate, was never fully finished. The estate was already being subdivided in 1841 and the house was later to become an artist’s squat in the 1920′s.

Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney

And finally, a charismatic house, a jumble of architectural styles and an equally charismatic owner, Vaucluse House (1805 – 1860).

Scullery, Vaucluse House, Sydney
Scullery, Vaucluse House, Sydney

The owner, William Wentworth was instrumental in the foundation of the University of Sydney (1848), voice for ex-convicts and their descendant’s and was part of the first European crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813.

More photographs can be seen in a Flickr Set - Architecture and Interiors, Sydney.

More information of these three properties can be found at Sydney Living Museums.

Visualization and Open Data

So, I have now been back in Sydney for two weeks, have taken up a position of Visiting Scholar at the University of Sydney, (Design Lab, Faculty of Architecture Design and Planning) and have commenced teaching on two undergraduate courses. It is the first week of the academic year, the campus is very busy and it is 30 degrees.

Today, alongside Elmar Trefz, a co-lecturer, I was talking with third year Information Visualization students about balancing aesthetics and communication in visualizations. I used these examples from a static, terrain visualization project I undertook some time ago to illustrate a this.

Pencil Sketch of the Lake District
Automatic Pencil Sketch of the Lake District National Park, UK.

The image is created through selecting depth discontinuities in a high-resolution z-buffer and weighting image-level pixels according to a threshold.

The data used in the production of these plots was, at the time, subject to licencing constraints from the provider, Ordnance Survey, UK. The data is now released under a creative commons licence. This opening up of publicly funded datasets has created many new opportunities for developers and designers. However, there are still some reserved datasets that I hope the release strategy will one-day reach, especially the 1:10000 elevation data.

I am looking forward to seeing what datasets this year’s Design Computing students discover and link to drive their final projects.

Physical browsing and passive discovery

I am a big believer in stumbling upon things; being in an environment where something catches your eye that you were perhaps not exactly looking for, but which takes you off to discover other things / stories. This is different to active search. This is great to do by physically wandering around areas of a new environment with particular attributes, say, the cultural quarter of an unfamiliar city. I have also been keen to investigate how digital technology can assist, but not remove, the element of serendipity in discovery. Sometime ago I supervised an Honours Dissertation looking at mobile, passive resource discovery, (Stabeler, 2006), and I revisited this with another Honours Student (Harding, 2011) who looked at digital navigation across physical objects in similar and differing contexts. Both interesting, digital, geospatial search prototypes.

When I arrived in Sydney, my first exploration of the area I am staying in was to walk down the main street (Norton Street in Leichhardt) and to call into various shops and cafes. After walking into Berkelouw Books, I realised there was an extensive second-hand department upstairs. As I have started research for a terrain visualization project related to the Blue Mountains National Park (the project itself came from a serendipitous discovery in book from 1815, shortly before I left the UK), but did not have any fixed view on what I was looking for yet, I thought I would see what I could find.  One of the first books I saw was “Landscape Art and the Blue Mountains”, by Hugh Speirs, this turned out to be a good reference to start with when looking at the history of the visual depiction of this region.

The human search engine of physical browsing and passive discovery is a useful tool when it comes to making unintended but often useful discoveries. There are still many interesting areas to explore when looking at improving search in a digital geospatial context.

Marble Maps

One hudred and thirty four years before Captain Cook landed on the south side of Botany Bay, the Dutch Captain Tasman plotted a good portion of the coast of Australia. He did, however, not show Tasmania (which he named Van Diemen’s Land) as an island, he joined the north coast of Australia with Papua New Guinea and sketched in the unknown east coast. The header image of this blog is part of a photograph of a 4 x 5.5 m marble reproduction of the map, located in the Mitchell vestibule of The State Library New South Wales. This is an impressive physical representation of a key cartographic tool which assisted the explorers that followed Tasman’s pioneering voyage.