In this interview, between Australian Architect Glenn Murcutt and Peter Thompson for ABC TV’s Talking Heads program, Murcutt reveals his three rules in life: simplicity, simplicity, and “of course, simplicity”. He speaks openly about his upbringing and childhood, about his inspirations and how he has grown and developed his passions as an architect. He has recieved the 2002 Pritzker Prize and 2009 AIA Gold Medal.
Follow us after the break for the rest of the interview.
Murcutt describes the basic principles that govern his designs. Thompson refers to his houses as “modest” and “the closest thing to being truly Australian”. But what Murcutt begins to talk about is the simple elements of passive heating and cooling that control the temperatures within the house in front of which Murcutt and Thompson begin their conversation. The principles that govern the architect’s designs “has nothing to do with style”, which he describes as “this or that”. Instead, he pays very close attention to the orientation of the building on the site, to cooling winds and weather patterns.
“The understanding of place” guides Glenn Murcutt’s architecture with sensitivity to materials, the way the building is oriented on the site and the way in which it may or may not interfere with it. Murcutt’s first interests were plane and boat design and to this he credits his understanding of wind and water, on how to capitalize on its movement and optimize the results from its physical qualities. The acute sensitivity that Murcutt has developed, that then transcends into his architecture, is credited to his upbringing in the highlands of New Guinea. Here his family, the only European family for 15 kilometers among Papua New Guinean tribes, was occasionally threatened by the Kuka Kuka people, also known as the Manyamia. Observation and attentiveness became the key to survival and this hyper-awareness of one’s surroundings became a habit of understanding the world for Murcutt.
Glenn Murcutt is an architect devoted to the environment – “taking into account where materials come from”, the energy to process it, “to pull apart and reuse them” to avoid the loss of material. He realized early on that he could find no place where his values and worldview fell in line with contemporary architects, so he simply decided that he must be a sole practitioner and from then on has been working on his own, developing his own ideas, principles and systems for his architecture. As a professor working with students from different parts of the world, Murcutt tells his students, “There are no limits, except your perceptions”.
A transcript of the interview is available here.
Photos by Flickr user Un Rosarino en Vietnam, licensed by Creative Commons.