According to comedian and self-described “design nerd” Tim Ross, the buildings in our cities are like record collections – “the best of the new stuff, the best of the old stuff and some rubbish to remind us where we’ve come from”.
But Ross fears the record collection will start to have too much Nickelback if we continue to destroy our architectural past.
Ross was in Canberra on Wednesday for the Australian Institute of Architects annual Griffin Lecture. Held at the National Press Club, the event is named in honour of prolific 1920s architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin, who designed the blueprint of the nation’s capital.
Canberra’s modernist architecture holds a special place for Ross – the period is his favourite type of design.
“Some of the best architects have designed buildings around Canberra and I think here, more than anywhere else, we should be demanding the best architecture, because it is a planned city,” he said.
He believes the nation’s capital could benefit greatly from hosting an annual “Modernism Week”, like California, where all things modernism are celebrated and homes are opened to the general public.
“Every year hundreds of thousands of people turn up for the modernism week [in California] and it puts $45 million into the economy, you can be doing that here,” he said at the event.
Ross said he thinks Canberra has a greater concentration of modernist buildings.
“The heavy lifting has already been done in Canberra, the buildings already exist and the city should cash in on that,” said Ross. “There’s a huge interest in the architecture of Canberra.”
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Ross said Canberra had been underrated in the past, but he feels there has been a shift in recent times.
“There are lots of people that are now big fans of Canberra and I certainly know within my circles there’s a great love and enthusiasm for the city, along with a yearning to spend more time here,” he said.
Ross is perhaps best known for his work in radio as part of the Merrick and Rosso duo, but in recent years he has been touring Australia performing his show Man About the House in architecturally significant buildings. He has also written two books on design and hosted ABC program Streets of Your Town in 2016.
At the Griffin Lecture, Ross called the Sydney Opera House the greatest piece of architecture in the 20th century – so it’s a huge compliment he has drawn comparisons between it and Canberra’s Shine Dome.
“To me, it epitomises the romance of modernism,” he said.
“It reminds me of an evocative time where we wanted to be progressive and move forward with a great sense of optimism. [The Shine Dome] is so considered and it’s been so beautifully restored and maintained.”