John Andrews’ uncommon architecture: Paul Walker and Nigel Bertram in conversation
In this live, in-store talk, author Paul Walker will present his recent book John Andrews: Architect of Uncommon Sense before being joined in conversation with Nigel Bertram to discuss the late Australian architect’s legacy.
During the peak of his career, John Andrews (1933-2022) garnered global praise for such high profile ‘brutalist’ works as the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Gund Hall (1972), Toronto’s Scarborough College (1963) and CN Tower (1973), and the Cameron Offices, Belconnen, Canberra (1973-76).
Postmodernism’s growth in influence, however, presented a challenge to Andrews’ modernist design values and by the 1990s, wider social and economic changes meant government-funded institutional commissions had also dried up. Andrews’ fame was on the wane, and he would arguably never get the recognition that might otherwise accrue to an architect responsible for so many internationally significant buildings.
In this talk, Paul Walker will explore how Andrews negotiated the advent of postmodernism and the architectural legacy he left behind. He will then be joined in discussion with Nigel Bertram, who worked on RMIT’s Building 8 (1993) for Edmond & Corrigan and much later New Academic Street (2018) for NMBW/Lyons, which saw him designing in dialogue (directly and indirectly) with some of that legacy, in the remnants of Andrews’ RMIT Student Union building on Swanston Street.
As Walker argues, Andrews negotiated the advent of postmodernism not by ignoring it, but by cultivating approaches that this new era foregrounded— identity, history, place—within the formal vocabularies of modernism. His body of work is a remarkable achievement that deserves to be better known, even if many of the Australian examples have already been sadly lost or altered beyond recognition.
Paul Walker is Professor of Architecture at the Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne.
Nigel Bertram is a Director of NMBW Architecture Studio, Melbourne and Practice Professor of Architecture in the Faculty of Art Design & Architecture at Monash University.
Image: Cover of John Andrews: Architect of Uncommon Sense over collaged ceiling detail of The Meeting Place, Scarborough College. Adapted from a photo by Thomas Guignard.