One of the areas that my Master of Architecture history/theory course, Popular Architecture and Design, which I teach at the University of Melbourne, looks at is “everyday architecture”.
In previous years the students who did this course have researched kebab shops in Melbourne (2011), launderettes in Melbourne (2012) and painted garage doors in Melbourne (2013).
This year (2014), the students researched barber shops in Melbourne. Working mostly in pairs, they were asked to choose a barber shop and record the following basic information about it:
• The name and address of the barbershop.
• A plan of the barbershop, including the fittings and furniture.
• At least one photograph of the front of the barbershop.
• At least one photograph of each of the rear and sides of the barber shop (where accessible).
• At least four photographs of the interior of the barbershop.
• Photographs of any advertising (awning signs, window signs, 3D signs, etc.).
• A brief description of the barbershop.
• A brief interview with the owner/manager and/or one or more customer(s).
Barber Shops in Melbourne: An Architectural Survey contains the above data exactly as the students gave it to me—errors and all. To be able to see 50 barber shops at a glance and compare their similarities and differences based on exactly the same information is this book’s main value in my view.
Judging from the students’ research, many barber shops in Melbourne are very quirky, highly masculine places. Those that have the barber’s personal collection of football memorabilia, or foreign currency, or knickknacks, or photographs, or whatever on display in the barber shop are the ones that fascinate me the most.
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry, a Pritzker Prize-winning architect. No conflict of interest there.
S.R. Crown Hall (the Architecture Department building) by Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
The McCormick Tribune Campus Center at IIT by Rem Koolhaas with Mies van der Rohe watching the comings and goings.
Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park.
The Arthur Heurtley House by Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park. Beautiful brickwork.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s house and office in Oak Park.
Marina City by Bertrand Goldberg. Car parking at the bottom, apartments at the top.
Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa in Millennium Park.
Derham at the Autry Center in Griffith Park.
Hopalong Cassidy’s former headquarters at 8907 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverley Hills. It is now a medical centre. All that is left is Hoppy’s ghost.
The Eames House by Charles and Ray Eames in Santa Monica.
The Chemosphere or Marlin House by John Lautner in Torreyson Drive, off Mulholland Drive. The house was subsequently bought by Troy McClure of The Simpsons.
The Getty Villa by Langdon, Wilson, Garrett and Neuerburg in Malibu.
Revisited the Pavilion of Japanese Art by Bruce Goff at LACMA on Wilshire Boulevard.
“Levitated Mass” by Michael Heizer at LACMA.
Walt Disney’s barn in Griffith Park.
Two rides at Walt Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim.
The abandoned Johnies Coffee Cafe and Restaurant in Wilshire Boulevard. It has appeared in a number of films, including The Big Lebowski.
Revisited the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City.
On Saturday night, Ping and I went to Melbourne’s White Night Festival. I can’t recall seeing such a big crowd in Melbourne. It was a bit scary. Being an old postmodernist, the lighting up of the buildings reminded me of the importance of surface. Sometimes the most interesting architecture is only a quarter-of-an-inch thick.
Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai, and some Chinese movie star.
Shanghai Grand Theatre designed by Jean-Marie Charpentier.
Ningpo Museum designed by Wang Shu.
Hangzhou Grand Theatre designed by Carlos Ott.
International Convention Centre, Hangzhou, designed by Xia Bangjie.
Brick mountain sculpture, Hangzhou.
Dragon boat, West Lake, Hangzhou.
A hardware shop in Jinxi.
The Grand Canal, Jinxi.
Fishing with cormorants in Jinxi.
Curing pork in Hongcun.
Traditional brickwork, Hongcun.
Xuzhou Concert Hall designed by the Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tsinghua University.
Wuxi Grand Theatre designed by PES-Architects.
Suzhou Museum designed by I.M. Pei.
Instructions on how to find your room at the hotel we stayed at in Suzhou.
Suzhou Grand Theatre designed by Paul Andreu.
Tianjin Grand Theatre designed by gmp Architeckten.
The Porcelain China House, Tianjin.
The abandoned “Disneyland” at Nan Kou.
Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park.
CCTV Building designed by Rem Koolhaas.
The National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, designed by Paul Andreu.
Beijing National Stadium designed by Herzog & de Meuron.
Los Angeles, California
The star of William Boyd/Hopalong Cassidy on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The grave of Topper, Hoppy’s beautiful white horse, in the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery.
The grave of Andy Clyde, Hoppy’s loveable sidekick, California Carlson, at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
The Colburn School designed by architects Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates (opposite the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by architect Frank Gehry; makes a nice contrast).
The Getty Museum designed by architect Richard Meier.
The Marriott Hotel near Los Angeles airport — who designed this building? It looks quite John Portman-ish to me, but I don’t think he designed it.
The quirky Museum of Jurassic Technology at Culver City — a modern-day cabinet of curiosities. David Wilson is a genius.
The Gothic, mountain-like, American Heritage Center designed by architect Antoine Predock.
Playing cowboy with Hoppy’s pearl-handle six-shooters at the American Heritage Center.
The McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota — a giant carbuncle on a big brown box — designed by architect Antoine Predock.
The Regis Art Center, University of Minnesota, designed by local architects MSR — a very impressive example of corbelling.
The Weisman Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, designed by architect Frank Gehry. (Did he forget that it snows in Minneapolis when he designed that canopy?)
The surprising rear of the Weisman Art Center — not just a brick box.
Stripped noticeboard, University of Minnesota — accidental collage.
Newspaper cartoon showing the actor William Gillette in the play, Sherlock Holmes, from Gillette’s own scrapbook, which is part of the Sherlock Holmes collection at the University of Minnesota.
The Guthrie Theater designed by architect Jean Nouvel. It’s all about the views.
The fabulous Metrodome Transit Station designed by local artist (and old buddy) Andrew Leicester.
Andrew’s cute French bulldog, Buster.
The quirky gas station in Cloquet, Minnesota, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Driving down to Stockholm, Wisconsin, to sample pie with buddy Craig Hinrichs.
Delicious cherry and berry pie from the Stockholm Pie Company.
The Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, designed by architect Peter Eisenman.
With Laura Bates, Hoppy’s number one fan, at the Hopalong Cassidy Museum, Cambridge, Ohio. It was a cold day!
Hopalong Cassidy mural (detail), Cambridge, Ohio, painted by local artist Sue Dodd.
The Summerhouse (a.k.a. the Grotto) designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
Bricks from the brick collection at the National Building Museum.
National Gallery of Art designed by architect I.M. Pei. Impressive spaces, but a “user-unfriendly” building.
An escalator in the Washington D.C. Metro — like a scene from 1984.
Rochester, New York
The First Unitarian Church of Rochester designed by architect Louis Kahn. I think these Unitarians may be onto something!
Last year (2011) the students who did my Popular Architecture and Design course at the University of Melbourne examined kebab shops in Melbourne. This year they looked at another similarly “invisible” and seemingly banal building type — launderettes (the English term) or Laundromats (the American term) in Melbourne.
Kebab shops and launderettes represent “third places” (in contrast to first and second places — home and work respectively) as described by the American urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place. He argues that, despite being taken for granted, they are central to urban vitality.
Working in pairs, the architecture students were asked to document a launderette in Melbourne, which included the following basic information:
• The name and address of the launderette.
• A plan of the launderette, including fittings and furniture.
• A photograph of the front of the launderette during the day.
• A photograph of the front of the launderette at night.
• A photograph of the launderette showing it in relation to the other shops in the street.
• Photographs of the sides of the launderette (if they were accessible).
• Photographs of the interior of the launderette.
• Photographs of any advertising, signs, etc.
• A brief description of the launderette.
• Comments by the owner/manager and any customers.
Launderettes in Melbourne: An Architectural Survey contains the above information exactly as the students gave it to me — errors and all. To a large extent, the value of this work is being able to compare 37 different launderettes in Melbourne at a glance and seeing their similarities and differences.
Hopefully Launderettes In Melbourne, along with Kebab Shops in Melbourne before it, will encourage a greater appreciation and understanding of these “third places” locally.
My latest book titled, Out of the Ordinary: Popular Art, Architecture and Design, is due to be published in September this year by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
The book’s blurb by Andrew Chrystall:
Out of the Ordinary is one part unembellished documentation and one part verbi-visual equivalent of a Pro Hart work made with nineteenth-century, paint-loaded canons. It is a cultural history, resource for contemporary designers, imaginarium and luminous almanac of an explorer of the stranger species of creativity — from brick art to letterboxes, junk mail, mail art, television, fashion, food, model trains, Disney’s imagineering, amusement parks, feng-shui, Postmodern architecture, human-scale craftsmanship, forgotten Australian architects in China, famous architects (that, perhaps, should be forgotten save for their bow ties), collectors of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia, outsider artists and clients — and none of these things exactly.
Everywhere Derham Groves attends to and finds significance in the minutiae of everyday life, inter-association, and those things that affect us so profoundly but remain just outside the purview of the “normal.” And in these things — objects, art, architecture, environment(s) — he finds stories and teaches his reader how to do the same. Out of the Ordinary is also a motivational text. It begins with bricks, perhaps the most standardized and repeatable units of construction, and reveals how they can be used as vehicles for unfettered creativity and not merely for the creation of containers. Groves shows how art and architecture can emerge and receive nourishment from the garbage of the everyday and creative collisions. Groves also calls, albeit subtly, for a turn away from homogeneity, the standardized, and unimaginative or “lazy” design informed by principles of economy, efficiency, utility and function conceived in abstraction. Rather, Groves celebrates the reanimation and/or rejuvenation of place by the makers of anything out of the ordinary (who don’t necessarily pray to the demiurge of good taste) who have created spaces and things through which the creative imagination shines.
Dr. Andrew Chrystall, School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University.
A review of the book by Michael Jørgensen:
Derham Groves is a unique thinker and one might say that he himself is “Out of the Ordinary.” An extraordinary range of phenomena fascinates him, which he investigates with an unusual tenacity, skill and erudition. In each case these topics and issues — at first glance deceptively diverse and unrelated — is meticulously dissected, illustrated and described with clear, unpretentious and very readable prose, which puts much other so-called academic writing to shame. Consider just some of the things he covers, taken at random here from the contents page of his latest book, Out of the Ordinary: Deceptively “mundane” things such as bricks and brickwork; do-it-yourself letterboxes; and (who would even think of this?) junk e-mail or spam. Then there is television and its manifestations in the days of its introduction in Derham’s home country, Australia; Disneyland and the feng-shui of Hong Kong Disneyland; the shop-houses of Vietnam and elsewhere; Sherlock Holmes and other crime fiction, one of Derham’s longstanding interests; a little-known Australian architect and a better known one; and an eccentric naïve Australian painter, the late Pro Hart. But that is not all! Dr. Groves has written elsewhere of the 1939 tour of Australia by Anna May Wong, the celebrated Chinese-American actress, and since the publication of his book about her in 2011, he has become intrigued by another tour “Down Under” by an American, William Boyd, a.k.a. Hopalong Cassidy, in 1954. Derham has also become interested in the crime novels of a little-known Australian writer, the late June Wright, whose crime novels were published in the 1940s through to the 1960s. He has also traced the overseas travels in North America of a group of young Australian men in 1959 using an old diary written by one of them. Where did he obtain the diary? On eBay would you believe it, just one of Derham’s research tools and so like this most unusual person — architect, academic and cultural historian. I cannot recommend this book more highly. Derham Groves’ many-facetted interests and the manner in which he so skilfully draws you into them will fascinate you.
Michael Jørgensen, Architect, author and publisher.
A book review by Zoe Nikakis in the September 2012 edition of Voice:
In Out of the Ordinary: Popular Art, Architecture and Design, Derham Groves explores his academic and personal passions. Zoe Nikakis dives into his world.
Derham Groves investigates, “the popular, the ordinary and the odd”.
So writes Dr Groves’ frequent collaborator, the celebrated architect Corbett Lyon, in his introduction to the recently published Out of the Ordinary: Popular Art, Architecture and Design.
“His definition of ‘popular’ is broad and not restricted to the high pop art and architecture of the elite,” Mr Lyon writes, “but embracing and celebrating the popular culture of the masses – do-it-yourself renovators; collectors of kitsch; high street commercial architecture; and the signs and symbols of our suburbs.”
Dr Groves focuses on seemingly unconnected topics and types of Australian ephemera and art – from the use and importance of brickwork as an artistic medium and the place of letterboxes in pop culture – but his passion for the obscure and the overlooked ties these disparate oddities together.
His interest in letterboxes and the everyday as art began when he was completing his PhD in the US during the 1990s.
“My supervisor was a Disney and television scholar, and she spurred my interest in popular culture,” Dr Groves says.
“Australian handmade letterboxes are much more than merely containers for mail. Firstly, they are Australian icons, since perhaps nowhere else in the world do people express themselves through their letterboxes with quite as much fervour as we do in Australia.
“Secondly, letterboxes facilitate links with the outside world. Most people love to receive letters – at least those containing good news. The letterbox is also where neighbours often meet to chew the fat and discuss the weather. Thirdly, letterboxes are symbols of home.”
The book also focuses on Dr Groves’ projects with collaborators and his students, who have created artworks for exhibitions made from bricks.
“I’m also interested in bricks because in some ways, they’re the very bottom line of architecture: you can’t get more basic than a brick,” Dr Groves says.
“Australia produces high-quality bricks in a wide range of colours so there is no reason for boring brickwork in my opinion.
“Often the problem is that architects do not design brickwork, but allow it to happen of its own accord. However the interesting brick buildings that have been designed by Lyons Architecture and others in recent years indicate that things are changing for the better.”
Dr Groves often incorporates his students’ projects into his books.
“Students produce so much work that it gets lost, so it’s important to record it,” he says.
“In the past I have investigated the design of brickwork from several different points of view. I have taught several design courses for architecture students focused on how bricks can be used in innovative and interesting ways.
“Earlier this year, I also spent time in Trivandrum in India doing a brick workshop with a group of first year students looking at a specific style of brickwork, so it all ties together.”
Other essays focus on the ways in which Dr Groves incorporates this research into his teaching.
“It’s all about material culture, and the interactions between art, design, symbolism, and popular culture,” Dr Groves says.
“It’s about pop art as architecture – sometimes buildings are ugly, provocative, edgy – and how important it is never to let good taste get in the way of good design.”
Out of the Ordinary in Amazon’s top 10 “Hot New … Architectural Criticism” list!
Anna May Wong’s ashes and also her sister Mary’s ashes were buried with their mother, Lee Toy Wong, at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.
It’s a Small World, Disneyland, Anaheim.
Toon Town in Disneyland, Anaheim.
More Disneyland, Anaheim.
Clifton’s Cafeteria has closed for renovation. Thank goodness it hasn’t closed for good!
Gene Autrey statue (top) and costume at the Autrey Museum, Los Angeles.
Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles. I had a great seat behind the orchestra for only $24!
Walt Disney’s workshop, now in Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Model of Walt Disney’s workshop at Disneyland, Anaheim.
Train at Disneyland based on Walt Disney’s own model train.
Max Payne billboard, Los Angeles.
Bruce Goff’s typically brilliant and quirky Pavilion for Japanese Art (1988) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). I’m sure that the “temple roofed” cabinets don’t resemble erect penises by accident!
Barbie’s Dream House (1962) made of cardboard by Mattel on display at the LACMA.
“Metropolis II” (2011) by Chris Burden at the LACMA.
Is this Mother Goose’s grave?
Another “shocker” by John Andrews — the Harvard Graduate School of Design (1972).
Architectural design work at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Frank Gehry’s Stata Center (2004) at MIT, which later sued the architect because the building leaked.
The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (2006) designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. A cantilever and a half!
The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (2004) by Rafael Viñoly. A porte-cochere and a half!
The Old State House, Hartford.
Centre Church, Hartford.
William Gillette Castle, East Haddam
Tyke and Teddie Niver.
Samples of Laurie Baker’s architecture:
(1) The Laurie Baker Centre, Trivandrum
Ms. Shailaja Nair talking to the first-year students about Laurie Baker and his architecture.
(2) The Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum
(3) The Indian Coffee House, Trivandrum
(4) The Hamlet (Laurie Baker’s own house), Trivandrum
(5) Loyola College, Trivandrum
(6) Buildings by some of Laurie Baker’s “disciples”
Brickmaking in Kerala
The first-year student workshop:
(1) “Playing” with bricks
(2) The College of Engineering Trivandrum wall
(Angel Varghese, Anuja J., Archana, Anna Baby, and Nisha Nelson)
(3) The elephant/butterfly wall
(Muhammed Jiyad, Hisham A.A., Amalraj P., Ahmad Thaneem Abdul Majeed, Muhammed Naseem, Sankasnath P.M., Sai Prasad C., and Suneer K.K.)
Bricklayer Joy Francis showing the students how to use a plumb bob
Joy Francis and the students using a “homemade” spirit level
Is it two elephant heads or a butterfly?
(4) The brick jali wall
(Soumya S. Warrier, Deepthi B., Anutpama Warrier, Saijith M.S., Nikitha, and Nikita Jimmington)
A cement bucket made from old tyres
(5) The herringbone and stepped wall
(Parvathi P., Prasanth R., Najeeb T., and Rahul Sarovthaman)
Testing the wall’s stability. No worries!
(6) The fish wall
(Dheeraj K., Abraham Philip, Richard Lalduhsaka, Vignesh Sajeev, and Abhijath Ajay)
(7) The little house wall
(Gitanjiali V.R., Harsha Hareendran, Roshni Maria George, Athira P., Akshaya K., Aryaa, Mizna Reem, Aafreen Fathima, and Reshma Cherian
(8) The double-curved wall
(Magna George and Jisa George)
(9) Feedback session
After testing the tarpaulin’s strength, Wally needed a jar of “Pileless — Wonder Relief for Piles” …
Joseph Stalin — Still a hero in Kerala!