Robin Gibson and the Malls

I think Robin Gibson is my new favourite Modernist era Australian architect.

I met his buildings for the first time in Brisbane's Southbank, its cultural centre. I didn't know who the architect was at the time or that they were even by the same architect, but I enjoyed walking across the bridge from the Performing Arts Centre, through a low space into a tall space, with whales above us and light above that (the Whale Mall, beside the Museum), through another low space and out onto a large balcony where the State Library and GOMA were proudly sitting. Then down some stairs, and a glimpse of the Art Gallery. Its first appearance didn't really lure me in - a curved glass box, but beyond the glass box was another tall, top lit space with a glassy floor of water (the Water Mall).

These are sibling spaces. While the Whale Mall feels dark and cavernous, the Water Mall feels light and open. I could lie in those malls for hours staring at those ceilings, or pacing back and forth watching the light appear and disappear - natural light comes in through concrete fins which diffuse it into the space below. Both use the same fins, but its the way the openings at each end are made that distinguishes them; the Whale Mall has low openings at either end whereas the Water Mall has large glazed ends, with water and fountains beyond. In the Whale Mall, it kind of feels like you are walking along the floor of the ocean with the water above you, but in the Water Mall, it feels like you can walk on the water. This is also funny because the Whale Mall is in fact a couple of floors higher than the Water Mall.

It turns outs Robin Gibson designed the Performing Arts Centre, the Museum, the Art Gallery, the State Library - and they are an excellent set that is thoughtfully connected; these walkways are experiences in themselves. Imagine being commissioned to do all that! Forget GOMA - QAG is better! Gibson also did Queen St Mall and ANZAC Square, both significant public spaces. Gibson won the RAIA Gold Medal in 1989.

...I didn't used to have an official favourite actually, though I did like a lot of Joseph Reed's buildings in Melbourne. Perhaps he is my favourite Victorian era Australian architect. Also it seems Joseph Reed set up Reed & Barnes in 1853, which is now known as Bates Smart - Australia's oldest architectural firm.

I also spied what looked like the same stone that Seidler uses in all his foyers...I want to know what this stone is and why it is used so much!


FJE said...

I looked up pictures of the Whale Mall. The whales themselves are amazing!

FJE said...

I have to admit, I have never even heard of Robin Gibson before.

HG said...

Don't worry, neither had I!

AJH said...

I also had not heard of Robin Gibson before, but I am very keen to look up his buildings

HG said...

I have a few here: AAA

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