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September 25, 2016 / ammonbeyerle

I went yesterday to visit a house I designed

Riverview visit, Here Studio

I went yesterday to visit a house I designed. It was the second house I’ve visited – yes; the second after now almost 90 projects at Here Studio and another 30 before at CE Ingenierie that really felt like an achievement.

It is hard to say, in a number of ways the meaning of ‘hard’, what it meant to see this house. Obviously, as a somewhat implicit, subconscious experience, first with respect to the fact that Here Studio has had so little opportunity to follow our projects to the end.

Second, and what I wanted to really touch on in this text – the feeling of self realisation, and confidence that comes from seeing built what you imagine. In hope and self doubt. I wonder there, what is it about the experience of seeing one’s manifestation as a creative person, that makes the heart beat driving with flashes of anxiety, to see it the first time, and gasp in noticing during photographing, without surprise!

Friendly shape. View out the window of this tree against those. Match to the river. Gentle siting and flow.

Just as the first, my now past client asked me – is it what you imagined? To which I can only reply, “absolutely”. With full confidence and a little embarrassed of what could be heard as arrogant. The experience was strong and personal. “I can design” – doesn’t quite cut it.. it is amazing that the spark of some napkin sketches, words and relationships become to being as ‘it’ they always were.


Riverview visit, Here Studio

Riverview, Mansfield – by Here Studio


It’s exactly as we designed ~ “the sun just works as we planned, when I sit down for breakfast in the morning the sun is perfectly on the spot I eat, and I can look out the window.” ~ “our electricity bills are only around $900 per year, a massive cut in costs” ~ “in winter the sun comes right deep into the room, and then in summer doesn’t come in at all but for a few centimetres” ~ “we only put the air conditioner on two days per year” ~ “we can open up this window and this one and we get this really nice cross breeze of fresh air”. And then, there’s the immutable ~ “I don’t know, no; maintenance is easy, it’s comfortable, it just works”.

Granted, I heard the west sun needs a bit more external shading, and, the fireplace, (probably because it was moved a bit) required a cut-out in the upper wall to distribute heat – and then the heat recovery unit has not quite been perfect – it might have needed to be bigger or had more vents in the curved bit. I must also say I was pleasantly relieved and gently proud of how the clients finished the house interior without us, not only the furniture and artwork – but with their interior design friend – final colours and materials. I think she read the essence of the project perfectly and the collaboration with the clients was nice. The builder too added some spot-on flourishes – in particular making the golden-stained timberwork a feature that tied things together.

At this, I was impressed in a letting-go way that the theory works – knowledge and diagrams of the sun, and, attitude of open collaboration with clients, and builder, using first principles and logic generated from deep and shared purpose – meaning.

But the feeling, is what I somehow struggle to capture. Is it self-reflection? It’s kinda feeling that my sub-conscious is teaching me a lesson “I told you so”. Trust yourself.

I usually, in most of my projects dream once or twice about walking and being in and around and through the building I’m designing; which is why disconnection and at times, non-delivery hurts so much. But seeing ‘it’, makes me disconnect somehow with my projected self, trapped in self-doubt and false social confidence, to Being-in-the-World, a connected with what everyone else is doing and being and feeling. ‘Contribution’ not as a moral idea, but an action. Stepping into the world with everyone else. It’s a stepping out of the safety of my brain, to touch, and see.

March 8, 2016 / ammonbeyerle

In search of love for urbanity #Ballarat


I’m sitting at Chantilly Studio, overlooking the West side of the city – a mangle of buildings and air conditioners and rotting concrete parapets – yet I have a feeling of harshness as I think that, knowing what interest and comfort lie in the streets below. There’s one of my favourite cafés there, and a good authentic sushi place for lunch. Beauty is something else.

Today I’m in Melbourne, I’m travelling here more since the Civic Hall Site project closed. I read Louis Wirth’s 1938 ‘Urbanism as a way of life’ on the train and just now Jane Jacob’s 1961 ‘The Uses of Sidewalks’. “Perhaps”, I think to myself, I was somewhat naive to treat the Civic Hall Site so hastily and responsively; perhaps Ballarat has yet to build a base for and desire of urbanity in its mind’s eye and that must happen first. Perhaps ‘the healing’ cannot be underestimated.

And so, I wonder for a moment how regional centres can find self direction. That comes out so ho hum! – I mean, a love for cities seems an ungraspable reach for a city centre like Ballarat. It has to be lived in. Yes, it’s starting, but it has so long been an empty territory for competition and a trip in the car from the suburbs that the norm is to proliferate distance. “OK, we’ll start to come back to the centre of the city, but not for decision-making, and not to touch one another, it must be like so.”

I live in the city, it has good bones and almost every day I walk through it to meet someone or go somewhere, I bump into someone I know and recognise the same faces. In here, I think with our broad streets and fledgling lanes is something of a new type of urbanism, a second- or third-tier city where people know one another and make things happen. It must be only a handful of people that make things happen in our CBD, so isn’t this a definition of leadership? And I wonder at that who has the right to the city – those that build those active relationships through listening, or those that snipe from afar and gather external forces and remove the centre of decision-making. Or am I overreaching?

Jacob’s subtext is not so much about her love of her neighbourhood, as it is a love of cities in all their cacophony, positive difference, conflict and diversity. A city is a place for encountering and learning and growing oneself – and also a place to feel located.

What I think that is happening still is a fighting over the tools of ‘economy’, and understandings of ‘economy’ rather than a positive effect, space of learning and linkage of personal changes into a collective one. Financials are something else. Who am I to say? (8/3/16 AB)

November 28, 2011 / ammonbeyerle

The Maker movement – Vimeo (via @paulzee)

Paul just send me this
You can watch it here:

ReMade: The Rebirth of the Maker Movement (1st Trailer)

ReMade: The Rebirth of the Maker Movement (1st Trailer)

About this video:
"Please check out our Kickstarter!

ReMade is a documentary focused on telling the story of makers and
hackerspaces within the DIY movement and the personal journey of
members of what are known as hackerspaces: workshop collectives
that allow its members to pursue any projects of they desire.

ReMade reveals how these hackerspaces are shaping the communities
they exist in and how they are fostering exciting new methods of

The collective work and ideas of the creative people in the
DIY movement are opening a new world of inventiveness and
creativity…of making that could very well change the way production
occurs on a worldwide scale.

Yet ReMade doesn’t just focus on telling this modern maker tale but
also strives to search deep within humanity’s maker past, to previous
eras of vast creative expression and how each time it has occurred
technological innovation has thrived.

Examples are the Mechanic's institutes of the 1880s that inspired
World Fairs, the hobbyists of the 1950's and the homebrew
computing clubs of the 1970's.

ReMade is not just about this latest maker movement, but how it
is intimately linked to the past. How regardless of epoch different
makers all share an ambition to make their dreams a reality through
their creative prowess.

By supporting this documentary, you will help us raise the necessary
funds to upgrade our equipment and to improve our travel
budget to properly cover the unfolding story of this movement.

Thanks for watching.

Electromagnate is a small group of hackerspace members who are
dedicated to showing the maker and DIY community to the world."

November 2, 2011 / ammonbeyerle

INVITATION – Close Over(p)lay 2: St Paul’s Cathedral EXHIBITION 4-10 November


Hello (please feel free to forward),

Some of you may be aware that we have been teaching a design studio at the University of Melbourne about St Paul's Cathedral Close. It considers the carpark opposite Federation Square and Flinders St Station.

This is the second year I am running the studio (from the Cathedral Crypt) with Tim Derham and Richard Falkinger and I would be pleased to invite you to our exhibition which is starting Friday (noon) in the North Transept of St Pauls Cathedral which you can visit at your leisure. It has been a quite a special studio, with many participants, all broadly towards building ambitious thinking about the future of public space in Melbourne.

See attached invitation and detail below.
We would be happy if you could make it and share your thoughts on this provocative project

August 26, 2011 / ammonbeyerle

Response to Claire Bishop (before reading Kestler) – “The Social Turn”

Response to Claire Bishop (before reading Kestler)

This is my own response to Claire Bishop’s article The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents, in Artforum, 2006, p179-185.

See her original article and Kestler’s response here:

I wrote it immediately after a long a slow read and although wish to start by qualifying it by recognising my own degree of naïveté in the field of research, I am struck with how much more intimately I understand what it is to practice in these ways than she, even though I have only been doing it for a few years. Her article has interesting questions to pose to open up theoretical debate, but has almost nothing to say relevant to the practicing itself and her statements about its constitution as a discipline are misleading, if not directly in contrast to the majority of various substantive conceptions of the truth held by the participants in the various projects I have been a part of, including myself.

My initial take on this is relatively clear. Although it is academically unacceptable, I would start by stating that Bishop is an enemy of the practice I am investigating. She is not an enemy because she invites more critique, but an enemy because she in a hegemonic fashion introduces a must definition to the judgement of works, and reinstates the importance of judgement.

It is my understanding that the question of judgement of worth / value is in itself different to that of critique, and this difficult distinction is in many ways the fundamental question of these practices. These practices, instead of carrying preconceived definitions of judgement and value build foundation in the projects and as such the projects have their own autonomy. This is an autonomy not from the world, but from a privileged and impassionate eye of the disconnected critic, or a lineage of projects in a broad field that would dictate methods more appropriate to the field than the project itself. Indeed, finding the values inherent in a project are often the key aims of these collaborative projects, not in a consensual (also consenting) fashion but in sense of a materialisation, as a performing or practicing of those values through discourse. The values are diversified, expressed and made specific to that place and each person in conversation. A critical reflection of the project does not discuss the smartness of the project to communicate and consider these values for a general audience, but describes the how the project specifically interacted with the material of the site – place in an artful / architectural fashion. This of course invites a ambiguous relationship, as artful / architectural is not a neutral definition in itself, however it is this definition that links the project to the general audience, not the value of the project. Judgement thus needs to set up its own criteria embedded in the project, and be beholden to that alone. This autonomy becomes the value of the work generally.

My second issue with the article is the assertive placement of analysis and examples. Bishop almost relegates the reader to an uncritical position that is at the whim of the author’s internal judgements. This is yet another reflection of the previous point. Bishop in her very manipulative assertions does exactly what she critiques uncritical artists from doing: hiding the judgements and values and assuming common understanding and politic of the reader. Bishop’s analysis seems to be going to a predetermined place, which is especially evident in her comments about the role of the work in this realm being necessarily about ‘self-sacrifice’, having an ethics of ‘authorial renunciation’ or minimalisation of them, necessarily ‘anticapitalist’ in tendency, or ‘less nuanced’. These are examples of her summation of the projects in an assertive manner rather than taking on particularities of the projects themselves. Her summation is purposeful rather than critically analytical. Although this may be only one way of approaching a critique of work, she neither lays out this methodology, justifies it (ie in search of or for a reason?) nor tempers it with a more complex understanding (‘nuanced’?) that might identify certain aspects as fitting her analysis and others unfitting. Her judgement is assertively complete is this way, from the outset, and therefore a fundamental contradiction occurs in which she devalues the art of the artists in question in favour of her own de-authoring. These projects, at least the ones I have been involved in, are fundamentally authored, and usually in multiple ways that respond to, support and contradict her assertions. Deller’s work is an example of this, I would read through the lines that the ‘point’ of the work was indeed this uncomfortable play of contradictions that could only be at best experienced, rather than resolved. To use her own words against her: “Untangling this knot – or ignoring it by seeking more concrete ends for art – is slightly to miss the point, since the aesthetic is, according to Rancière, the ability to think contradiction: the productive contradiction of art’s relationship to social change, characterized precisely by that tension between faith in art’s autonomy and belief in art as inextricably bound to the promise of a better world to come.” p183

It seems to me that Bishop is exceedingly uncomfortable with what she actually espouses as she throughout hides the values of her arguments, and fails to use the same judgments in any deep way on the projects she espouses.

My third issue with this article is her messy use of ‘ethics’ and morals. Ethics is very difficult and has an involved discourse which I would not even fain to be an expert in. I do however know of a very vigorous debate that puts these terms in an interesting field discourse that is extremely productive (and destructive) – Nietzsche – Genealogy of Morals? Habermas / Rawls? Of these participatory / social art projects this complex question of what is moral-ethical is often openly part of the production of the project and thus, would (if she had have read the construction of value rhetoric in an analysis I am suggesting) in fact add to her argument that these projects are valuable by their ethical-moral dimension. Here I am saying the question of what is moral and what is ethical is included in many participatory projects and often the conversation of what as a substantive context for the project must be first conceived before the work can be judged or indeed understood. Yes; these projects are valuable because they see themselves as ethical-moral in constitution, but now let us, as Bishop suggests look critique them, to remove their ethical-moral discourse is to remove them from their ‘life’ dimension, that she also proposes is so important. (Is this a more appropriate way towards a discourse on aesthetics? Not subsumed by an ethic-moral but considering of it?) Indeed antinomy is an aim, but then a concerted effort to understand and substantially engage with the projects should be the first part of any critique of them as practices that constitute a discipline.

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July 20, 2011 / ammonbeyerle

My PhD thesis in 3 minutes


Here is a sound-bite version of my PhD Thesis: in 3 minutes!

My PhD is in the faculty of art and design and I am looking at architecture and participation.

More specifically what the PhD is interested in is conflict as a productive force in the design process.

Why is this important?

Conflict is something that allows us to have real engagements which are passionate and embracing it allows us to have connections between people that are meaningful.

Participation as a field is relatively undeveloped in architecture, with much more development in disciplines of philosophy and sociology, especially political science, urban design and planning, and also in art practice installation art and performance art.

There are many projects in participation but they are limited in theoretical development or connection to a comprehensive understanding of a broad research field.

What I think that understanding about participation more in architecture allows us to do, is to build much more meaningful spaces and environments that are related to people. And by actually incorporating the conflicts that really do occur in everyday life we can make spaces that people want to be in because it belongs to them and they actually feel like it fits their needs. In a bigger way it develops our ways of thinking about public space as lots of little private spaces that overlap and conflict with one another.

As you can see here, this is a one page example from a case study of one of the office fit-out projects we designed and this is one day when we were designing a petal table in a shared office space. We spent one day, that is, we had a timeline, – one of the key principles I’m learning from these collaboration processes and the community was involved face to face working with one another on a project. That actually gave them contact and it gave the decisions we made legitimacy. We built this 1:1 prototype which meant that you actually test something physically, but is means also that you put something forward which is meaningful, which gets away from the conflicts to see if it actually works. And finally we actually got people at the end of the day to cut them and actually make these, powertools and all, which was a really great celebration of the efficiency, us all seeing the final success we had with one another and real time produces legitimacy of that making process and interaction with had together.

The core tools that you need for this is conversation, good food, coloured pencils, scissors and glue, and maybe big patience and perseverance.

This is a very difficult field, often very messy, and it poses a lot of tricky questions for architecture

Over the next two years I’m going to design another few minor and major case studies, to try to find better ways to work and think in this way and more importantly, to communicate what actually happens.

In architecture we often think the point is to be experts that solve conflicts when in fact we should be trying to facilitate people doing it themselves.


June 29, 2011 / ammonbeyerle

Placemaking for the masses



“For the masses”

I’ve always had a deep ideological problem with this term, it assumes a type of feeding process to a starving swarm of beings who can’t fend for themselves, because they have become too massive, too amorphous and abstract to care about their own selves.

I’m suspicious because it sounds like a blame game, a virtual projection of what’s happening on the ground.


Why gathering here?

When I first think of gathering in a particular site, I think of Louis Mumford’s famous duo of city seeding. Container and Magnet. 1961. We gathered IN this place to make this city because it could hold us, it was the container to store our produce and supplies, but also our families and memories. I think of the medieval walled city as a holding pen, inside is safe, outside is not. Yes; this is a romanticised idea of home that is politically problematic, but it serves as a good metaphor. The other is the Magnet. We gathered AT this place out of habit and attraction. It had good sunlight, fresh water, opportunity for survival and exchange, we made pilgrimages to the same place each year to commemorate or communicate. A simple example could be the shrine. Here we came to meditate, to think, to make an offering. I think these metaphors for gathering are useful. We still, I see, gather IN and AT places.


This ‘place’ stuff is something deeply psychological or spiritual. Territory is fundamentally part of who we are, it makes and is made by our identity. In design theory there has been a lot of talk about nomads and monads, but in the end of the day there is a certain identification that occurs where it be a spot or a route, a world is made specific, it is socialised and personalised, it is marked. From a philosophical standpoint this explains our fascination with the concept, but doesn’t quite cut it as an everyday reason.

OK, close your eyes….


Think of one of your favourite places or a particular moment in your life. It can be everyday.

My thesis is that most of you probably thought of a location in which had a personal story or stories. I think it is highly likely that placemaking in many ways is about making stories. It would seem to me that if you want a place to be more meaningful, you have to increase the opportunity for stories to be made there. I think that we like having things we can identify with around us, and as such we go to, and (go back to) places in which we have (and can make) stories IN and AT.


We are slugs, creatures that leave a trace in the world, and the more creative (enterprising) amongst us get others to pay us to do it! We make our mark in the world to identify it with us and to identify ourselves in it. Socio-spatial communion. For me this is a missing depth to be explored in the concept of ‘community’.

Perhaps under this concept of placemaking – the communion of the spatial and the social – we could see the piazza – plaza as a social mark writ large. As gathering places for many people, they are bulwarks against a tide of loss of space to leave a mark, and their size conjures a masse of empowerment that could resist the scale of systematisation and synthesis that is occurring in our mega cities. Big plazas and piazzas are bulwarks for democracy. They can contain and attract both meaningful creation, and resistance.

I think Melbourne needs more meaningful squares IN the city, especially AT the places that matter.

Planning (especially in Melbourne) has been fraught for over a decade. Residents now have neither the possibility nor inclination to meaningfully leave a mark, to participate in how the city is made. Public consultation today is relegated to objections and or advertising – placation. The American Planning Association whose catch cry is currently “making great communities happen” is a strong advocate of public participation. A key principle of a vital democracy  is ‘meaningful’ participation.

Indeed, over time I see a radical disempowerment of public participation in making public space has occurred in Melbourne.

Can these sites be determined (designed) artificially?


“Docklands” anyone?

The common retort is ‘it still needs time’, but many sense that something fundamentally went awry that we are still struggling to ‘fix’ it.


Yes; I think they can, but the process in which these sites are determined needs to be fundamentally open to individuals and communities to leave a traces. If it is to be a place – a location that is meaningful – then people need to be involved in the making of stories there.

Monuments and icons do this to some extent as they imbue collective meaning or leave interpretation for it in abstraction, but I don’t think we need a city of spikey faceted things or just high level political or popular memories. What about the personal and everyday? What about the little people. What about ‘me’, I and ‘us’?


The work of Gilbert locally is a good example of the desire that still exists for places that mean something to people to be created. Developers know it. Big architects know it. Council knows it. Whether or not they are addressing a capability that exists on the ground, I’d prefer to leave that to our discussion.

If our cities are just made up of the big voices, and always others’ say, then we will one by one feel alienated by it.

There were some good questions around places:
– Role of the artist?
– Private space / University as space of possibility?
– Comfort?
– Design intention – and Greece just claim to places

But my sense is that the conversation didn't get much depth of interaction.

AND like this, i think that it is endemic of what the problem is with placemaking today, we don't feel comfortable with any deep interaction.
Contention and argument are not welcome
and hence we have only one way of making places – the neutral, comfortable, place for everyone way – These are places that mean nothing, and hence, become meaningless.