Burleigh Griffin’s modern view of housing

01 Jul, 2008 05:08 PM
MANSIONS that take up too much room on a block, pollution and affordable housing may sound like modern issues.
But a new book compiling the writings of architect Walter Burley Griffin reveals his interest in those topics many decades ago.

Much has been written about the American-born architect who had a major influence on adolescent Australia as it struggled to find its own identity in the early 20th century.

The solid tome, edited by Griffin’s grand-nephew Dustin Griffin, comprises 71 passages of the architect’s writings on a range of subjects.

Apart from designing the nation’s capital city, Canberra, Griffin and his equally creative wife Marion Mahoney designed towns, public buildings, individual homes and a number of residential estates.

In the north-west suburbs, Griffin’s work can be seen in the design of Essendon’s Incinerator in Holmes Road, created as a municipal rubbish disposal unit and now converted to a vibrant arts and cultural centre.

The layout of part of Avondale Heights was also done by Griffin, originally using similar ideas to those he followed in designing Eaglemont in Melbourne’s north-east.

However, the concept of shared neighbourhood gardens was never followed through and most of the open space has since been rezoned as residential, although only two have so far been developed (both for aged-care homes).

Griffin would have been horrified. In 1923, he gave a lecture in Melbourne in which he said: “Each year more and more forests are ring-barked, fields eroded and pest-infected, rivers befouled and dredged, factory-invaded, and slashed by railways.”

In Melbourne, his work can be seen at Newman College at Melbourne University, the Capitol Theatre – and a missed opportunity to develop a vision he had for the Jolimont rail lines, a plan that is back on the drawing board.

An early student of Frank Lloyd Wright and reader of Rudolph Steiner’s philosophy, Griffin believed strongly that buildings should harmonise with their environment and was keen to use materials and colours that blended with nature.

He was keen on affordable housing and on the idea of building homes with flat roofs that could be used for gardens. In 1921 he wrote: “It will be generally admitted that the attractiveness of metropolitan Melbourne lies not so much in its famous wide pavements or more or less smoky city architecture, as in its beautiful gardens, upon which visitors from other cities always remark, and in which they find a source of pleasure.”

The Writings of Walter Burley Griffin, 512 pages, published by Cambridge University Press Australia; rrp $199.
SEE: www.cambridge.edu.au/griffin

New high for entrepreneur

11 Aug, 2009 09:31 AM

AFTER months of hard work, Essendon Grammar graduate Aaron Hornlimann hit the headlines last week when Jetstar announced it would use his ground-breaking technology to send boarding passes via mobile phones.

Mr Hornlimann, 22, who started IT company Sissit Group, was asked by Jetstar to investigate the technology about five months ago. Last week the national carrier announced it would be trialling the high-tech SMS boarding system at Avalon Airport and hoped to roll it out across its domestic network by the end of the year.

“Retrieving a boarding pass for a domestic flight will now be as simple as receiving a standard text message 24 hours prior to travel and having that SMS message electronically scanned at the gate to produce a boarding pass if you do not have bags to check-in,” Jetstar chief executive officer Bruce Buchanan said.

The former Avondale Heights resident, who now lives in Melbourne, said that while Singapore Airlines had a system allowing passengers to check in from mobile phone-based internet, his system could be used by even the most basic mobile.

“When you put your phone to the scanner, it takes a picture of the screen when the SMS is open and it will determine the characters and transfer that information to the boarding card, as well as validating who you are and so on. You can also use it to scan in a paper printout.”

He said a lot of the hours were spent devising a portable unit that met Jetstar’s specific requirements at Avalon.

Since Jetstar announced its new technology on Tuesday, Mr Hornlimann has been inundated with media calls, as well as interest from international airlines and governments.

“I’ve aged a lot during this process – I haven’t been getting much sleep – but in the next four weeks the development cycle will have finished and I hope to get into commercial mode again from R&D.”

Mr Hornlimann, who attended Milleara Primary School before Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School, said he had always enjoyed devising new systems and processes on his computer, with early projects including his father’s online business.

He also credits two of his teachers with inspiring his technological skills.

“I did the Duke of Edinburgh award and picked computer programming for one of the activities, and two teachers took time out of their own lunch breaks to teach me the basics – they recognised I wasn’t a traditional academic and didn’t mind that I was looking at different ways to work out a career.

“And I still used my PEGS maths text book sometimes!”

While still at school he set up a company offering free SMS messaging via the website, Intazaar, then moved onto the Sissit Group in 2007, where projects included an early warning system for fire situations.

One of his next projects is an advanced object detection library, which can be used in situations where you need to be able to detect objects; for example, in a car to detect road signs or to assess how many people are in a particular area for safety or crowd control.

“It’s quite on the cutting edge to get a system that’s as good as the human eye. We’ve already started working on the first prototypes.”