The online magazine Uncube just devoted an entire, glorious issue to exploring the current Australian architecture scene. Their conclusion: architects in Melbourne have developed a lively building aesthetic featuring "vivid colors, and splintered geometries and façades" that is wholly unique to Australia. The term for this style, as coined by local architect and writer Andrew Mackenzie, is "drunken geometries."
While Sydney is still beholden to Mies van der Rohe-style modernism, laid-back Melbourne is wrapping buildings in colorful pixelated "cloaks," and mashing up post-modernism and deconstructivism to create "a fabulous and distinctively new genus" that is a "large collage of forms and materials."
Uncube traces this flowering back to the 1970s, when the architect Peter Corrigan returned to Melbourne from America, where he had worked with Philip Johnson, the postmodernist "father of intelligent design." Together with his wife, Maggie Edmond, he produced a number of eclectic and "insistently local" buildings, like the candy castle-like RMIT Building 8 "that generated discussion and debate in Melbourne and castigation and rebuke from Sydney."
By the 1990s, firms like Ashton Raggatt and McDougall, Lyons Architects, and Cassandra Complex were building exuberant structures in Melbourne, and moving further and further away from the "pale, pastiche replicas" of second-rate modernism that had previously defined the continent's architecture scene. Lyons Architects is perhaps the only firm in the world that has successfully designed a building by identifying "a series of key landmark buildings in the city, mapping lines between them and the site. These lines were then thrown into a software program to generate the shapes and form of the building," writes Andrew Mackenzie in Uncube.
That structure became the Swanston Academic Building, below: