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Architectural Spotlight

The Portrait Building, a new face in architecture.

For years buildings have been covered with imagery; signs, graffiti, and advertisements are commonplace on the sides of buildings, but something new is about to happen in Melbourne Australia. The city has a proposal for a building that is itself an image. A 32 storey apartment block proposed as part of the development on the former Carlton & United Brewery site in Melbourne Australia, named the Portrait building will feature an architectural first, the contouring of the building’s balconies and the play of light and shade  will feature the face of indigenous leader William Barak when viewed from the correct angle.

It is an ingenious idea really, while other buildings have featured screen prints of landscapes, think Bjarke Ingles Mountain Dwellings, and others have featured contoured balconies like the Aqua building this building will be the first to combine the two if completed in 2014.

The best line of sight for viewing the image will be from the Shrine of Remembrance, Victoria’s largest and most visited war memorial which is approximately 3 km away. When viewed from close up the building will simply appear to have an oddly contoured facade. The portrait will be created using a number of horizontal white panels that have been cut to make Mr Barak’s face to appear via positive and negative space. The panels will be distanced from the balconies themselves so that residents will not accidentally make Mr Barak appear to cry by hanging a towel in the wrong place.

The building design is by Australian architecture firm ARM and its principal architects; Steve Ashton, Howard Raggatt, and Ian McDougall. The brewery project is a five building development by Australian firm Grocon who is firmly behind paying tribute to an important figure in Australian history.  Grocon’s representative for the Carlton Brewery site, David Waldren states: ”That technique and that idea has not been delivered anywhere in the world before to the best of our knowledge. It is a world first.” … ”It’s not meant to be that from every angle you will get the perfect image of it; it’s that you will get the perfect image in glimpses.” Mr Grollo, and by extension Grocon see the building as an important social statement, and have received the blessing of both the Wurundjeri elders and the trustees of the Shrine of Remembrance. S

William Barak (c. 1824 – 15 August 1903), was the last traditional ngurungaeta (elder) of the Wurundjeri tribe, which was based around the area of present-day Melbourne, Australia. He became an influential spokesman for Aboriginal social justice and is considered to have been instrumental in bridging the gap between aboriginal and white cultures. Barak is now best remembered for his artworks, which show both traditional Indigenous life and encounters with Europeans. wiki

The ARM architecture firm has attempted buildings with portraits on their facades in the past,  the Dupain Building and 347 Camberwell Road however, neither of these projects were completed. Currently the Portrait Building is still in the planning approval process, so we can only hope that it will not meet the same fate.


2 Responses to “The Portrait Building, a new face in architecture.”

  1. I have a few issues with this proposal. My concern is primarly about which materials are to be chosen for this project. The fear is that the architects choose raw concrete, so that from street level this would reseble a rehatchment of brutalist architecture. Also we’ve seen this type of building before but it usually comes in the form of golden arches or a big red hut! These things look great for motorists a kilometer away. Architects who concern themselves on soley creating a building that looks good from a distance are completly oblivious to the community immidiatyt surrounding it.

    Posted by Rick | 16/09/2010, 10:48 pm
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