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Browser: Sutherland Lyall digs into the rich ores of architectural cyberspace. (View).

Make my Australia day

Despite the orthographic infelicities of Rice Daubney's marketing manager ('an' for 'and' and 'here' for 'hear' in our early email skirmishes), this Sydney practice has one of the best architectural websites I've seen recently at www.ricedaubney.com.au. Members of Rice Daubney's staff are given the opportunity to pronounce their own names against thumbnail mugshots and brief curricula vitae. Not a great idea, you decide. Still, clicking on John and Mellissa Daubney elicits the correct pronunciation of 'Dorbn_'. Say it as flatly and laconically as you can. OfRice there seems to be no trace.

But what a site. Its core navigation device is a table of contents managed by a pale grey silhouette of a bloke who leans down and points to the topic you are clicking on. There are eight rows and four columns in the table so you spend quite a lot of time here making the shadow move his pointing arm around. There is creative animation elsewhere as well. In Retail, for example, you get a plan view of the environs of a lift lobby in which plan views of people stride purposefully around. You idly click on one to see what happens and up pops a member of staff announcing his or her name. You click on the bloke just leaving through the door. Uh oh, it turns out to be Belinda Campbell and the person in the lift is Hendra Azwar. Oh and there's old Darren Timms again. Some just stand there and, presumably, chat. When somebody hacks this site you know exactly that they're going to make these figures interact. Just how this all contributes to selling the practice escapes you, but who cares? What a lot of fun.

Yes, but what about the projects and the sell? It's been so cheerful and friendly that you take a look and become aware that these guys do big, big stuff. And you don't mind checking it out because of all the above pleasures. Top marks to designers gvA (which doesn't seem to be properly credited), aka Cape Town-trained architect Gary Venter with Austrian psycholinguist Ingrid Ludwig. And, of course, to the client. Designers gvA are at www.gva.net.au where you discover it also designed Harry Seidler's site.

Modern master

The Seidler site, where gvA is credited right there on the home page, is at www.seidler.net.au. As you might expect from this doyen of Modernism in the antipodes, it is a cool number - except for that home page which is plastered with copyright declarations and which you enter on pain of disembowelling should you not agree to 'the copyright conditions above'. Please. The next page has a changing array of faint squares and quadrants which, as you move the cursor over them, turn into photos from the Seidler oeuvre. Move fast enough and you can create momentary trails of buildings. Try clicking on these individually, and nothing happens - even though the cursor arrow has changed into the pointing hand conventionally associated with the command to 'open up this thumbnail'. Then you discover that if you place the cursor to the right of the practice name (in an almost unreadably small sans serif face, natch), up comes the list of the seven main pages. Fine, except that the navigation thereafter is confusing if not mystifying. You click on 'apartments', then click hopefully on the first example, a tower condo in Acapulco, for a bigger image and there it is with, below it, the top of another image of the building from another angle. No amount of wheel scrolling or blasphemy provides you with a view of the rest of the image. You try one of the enigmatic symbols under the practice name and ... give up. But not before clicking on 'houses' and getting another restorative sight of that ground-breaking 1950, steel and cable Rose house at Turramurra. It's as good as anything Craig Ellwood or John Winter has ever done. Incidentally the website is based, as you discover rather late in the day, on horizontal scrolling. Curious about the glitches, you check back with the gvA site and learn that this was intended to be a 'no-nonsense, low maintenance site' which is based on a FileMaker Pro database which generates and uploads pages. Maybe this interface is where the top-of-the-second-image effect has its origin. Maybe Seidler didn't sign a maintenance contract. Maybe my lcd screen has really lost rows and rows of pixels.

Great and good

You can also get to Seidler's site via the Great Buildings Collection at www.greatbuildings.com/architects.html. I was thinking of giving up the Ictinus/Callicrates test on the grounds of its relative obscurity and the fact that too many people know about it. But here is triumphant vindication. The two, with their old mate Phidias, are properly credited as the likely authors of the Parthenon of which there are photos and a 3D digital model. The site even gives the alternative spellings Iktinos and Kallikrates. Elsewhere Raymond Hood rubs shoulders with Hans Hollein, Harry Seidler himself, Arata Isozaki, Inigo and Fay Jones and Henry Hoare II, though the latter's entry is less about the patron than about Henry Flitcroft, the architect of his wonderful Stourhead follies.

Grumpy Garry

Here's a curiosity. It's the Key Centre for Architectural Sociology at www.archsoc.com run by former Sydney university lecturer Garry Stevens. He happens to have both architectural, CAD and sociology qualifications, designs board games, and is a real grump. Story headings such as Grand erections, architects as penis wavers and Why architects don't have a sense of humour and More penis waving: the folly of tall buildings give a flavour of the site. You get the idea, too, that he's not all that keen on Harry Seidler. You may find the truculence, the awful graphic design and his obsession with his qualifications (which include FRSA, a suffix the Royal Society of Arts used to ask you not to use because anybody who pays the modest fee becomes a Fellow) a bit tiresome. But you can't not read on in hope when Dr Garry writes that because academic salaries are the same all over the Lucky Country 'academics cement themselves like limpets to whomever will give them tenure... Australian universities are full of dead wood '. I hope that great architect-teacher and new head at Sydney University, Tom Heneghan, is finding this quite untrue.

One of us

Genoa architecture school graduate Duccio Malagamba, now an architectural photographer based in Barcelona emailed us about his site at www.ducciomalagamba.com, which was designed by Malagamba and another architect, Antonella Sgobba. It's fine now but, as is the case with a lot of not-quite-working websites, our early e-correspondence contains injunctions about using the right version of the right browser. It's a bit odd that a site that wants to flog you something should demand that you use particular browsers. In the old days, like last year, it was standard good practice to design a site for a variety of browsers - including Mozilla and Opera - and different generations of the two standards, Internet Explorer and Netscape. But, you say, the site? It starts off with a grey background and a multicoloured navigation strip down the left side and you click on english (or espanol) and up comes the registration screen. Maybe this is for commercial security's sake but, as all registration systems are, it's a pain. Once inside you discover the archive can be accessed via the sensible criteria of architect, location and building type ('tipology' looks like a spelling mistake for the latter). Very topically the featured new projects are by this year's RIBA gold medallist Rafael Moneo. These are only two from hundreds of buildings in the archive which is claimed to have thousands of images. You do notice that quite a few of the locations listed are inaccessible. I tried but couldn't find an explanation on the site for the lacunae. Still, if you're in the market for contemporary architectural images this is plainly a site you should have on your list.

Sutherland Lyall is at sutherland.lyall@btinternet.com
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Title Annotation:evaluations of architectural Web sites
Author:Lyall, Sutherland
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:1358
Previous Article:Spectrum lecture and award. (View).
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