28/05/2008 - 22:00

Iconic buildings make great cities

28/05/2008 - 22:00

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Iconic buildings make great cities

While it's well understood that unique, iconic structures can define a city, there's little consensus as to what such a building would look like in Perth.

The proposed 50-storey tower on the foreshore has been criticised in some quarters as being excessively large, but most in the industry agree Perth needs a signature building.

Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland director, Steve Woodland, says a building such as the Joan Miro Museum in Barcelona would suit Perth, given its simple structure.

"It has accessible roofs - you can climb all over the building. It's actually built out of quite simple, earthen materials," Mr Woodland told the WA Business News forum.

"It does things in the landscape that I think is quite Western Australian. It's culture in a really casual, spontaneous way.

"You can actually engage with the place in all sorts of ways."

While the parallels between Barcelona and Perth are fairly obvious, at least with climate, Norway is a less likely candidate for influencing WA design.

But Silver Thomas Hanley director Rod Mollett said the Oslo Opera House was a great example of architecture that delivered a social dividend.

"A similar concept would relate beautifully with our river, either within the foreshore project or as an extension of the City of Perth's Performing Arts proposal," Mr Mollett said.

"My favourite building is the Sydney Opera House, but other than locating it on Heirisson Island, I'm not sure it would fit within the Perth context."

It's not just avant garde architecture that creates a visually exciting city, according to UDLA director Greg Grabasch, but the use of pedestrian spaces.

He said Perth needed to emulate Melbourne and re-engage with its river, using buildings to enable people to interact with the Swan.

"Melbourne has only recently made the decision to deliberately turn its focus, buildings and public spaces, back towards the river," Mr Grabasch said.

"Paris, New York, London, Sydney and most recently Brisbane [have all] learnt or are learning to embrace the opportunity of this aesthetic amenity."

However, Hames Sharley executive chairman William Hames said Perth needed to create its own identity, rather than look to Europe or elsewhere for direction.

"I want to see something that is synonymous with Perth, so people actually look at our architecture and say 'that's Perth', rather than London or Paris," he said.

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