Sydney Opera House by Jorn Utzon, Sydney, Australia
This building, more than any other other public building, featured throughout my formative teenage years and then again when I was a student of architecture.
As a teenager I would spend most weekends huddled up to the base one of the sails with friends making fun of tourists. At the same time, I had a job scooping Italian ice cream quite close to the forecourt of the building. As I grew up the building seemed to be a permanent fixture during the ebbs and flows all teenagers experience. As an architecture student I spent the best part of a year researching the effect the building had on the Australian building industry. Specifically, I researched the concrete tiles that line the promenade and forecourt around the building. Along with my other classmates, I learnt that the building acted as a kind of springboard whereby a multitude of building technologies were introduced into the country in order for the building to be built.
Consequently I have very fond memories of those sails and an appreciation of the building, not only as incredibly beautiful (which of course it is), but as a project that helped the Australian construction industry finally mature.
Boyd Education Centre by Glenn Murcutt, Riversdale, Australia
I visited this building as part of an architectural pilgrimage one of my tutors had arranged. We set from Melbourne in rental cars on a 2500km round trip that was to take in a few architectural gems along the east coast of Australia. After meeting with Romaldo Giugola and touring his Parliament House in Canberra, we set forth for Sydney via Shoalhaven, the area where the Boyd Center is located.
We arrived unannounced, somehow talked our way into the building past the caretaker and spent a wonderful few hours sitting on the edge of the building watching the colors of the valley change throughout the afternoon. When you step into this building (which is difficult to discern as it really does feel like it's part of the hill it sits on) you feel instantly welcomed. This building does everything good architecture should: It responds to the site, sits comfortably in the landscape and has a human scale, but more than that it does these things with playfulness, honesty, and humility.
On that same trip we met the architect of the building, Glenn Murcutt, and chatted about his practice around his dining table in his very modest home in Sydney. Imagine that, a Prikzter Prize-winning architect, chatting to a bunch of unwashed students about his work in his own home. It not hard to see why his work is so special.
Richard Leplastrier House, by Richard Leplastrier, Lovett Bay, Australia
Leplastrier's own home is situated just north of Sydney at Lovett Bay and the only way to reach the house is by boat. I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon at the house as part of another pilgrimage.
It's very difficult to put into words why I love what is essentially a shack so much. More than anything I think my appreciation is due to the humility of the house and the way it connects you to the surrounding landscape. You wash under the stars in a wood fired bath, you cook at what is a folly just to the side of the main house, you sleep on very simple beds directly on the floor. Far from being a simple hippy outpost, this house brings together proportions from Japanese architecture, an understanding of place that is very close to our indigenous heritage, and window shutters made from the same fabric they use to make Boeing 747s.
Aaron writes the men's style column "The Pocket Square" for the San Francisco Chronicle and has written for the New York Times, the Times Magazine, Newsweek, National Geographic and others.