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Melbourne School of Design

John Wardle Architects | NADAAA

Melbourne School of Design
By Conrad-Bercah -

We are all aware that ours is an era in which an increasing number of people lay claim to the title of “artist” to satisfy an overweening “vanitas” - a disease Montaigne considers the ultimate soul-destroying human trait.
It’s a disease that has contaminated the world of architecture for more than twenty years, spread by the “archi-star” phenomenon in which the graceless iconic creations of self-styled debunkers of all-pervasive corporatism merely peddle the very same pedantic mindset, hailed by the compliant media as modern masterpieces.
We all know this phenomenon has thrown up a series of brash intrusive architectures, paradoxically legitimated by groundless arguments, faulty thinking generally harbouring nihilism and related cynicism, made all the more overbearing - as Karl Kraus noted - by the ostentation with which an urn is used as a chamber pot and a chamber pot as an urn.
Recent years have produced several variants on the same theme, largely in the wake of the tight economic situation. These vary from minimalism, hailed with religious reverence, to a new innocent pauperism imposed by circumstance, and as such, considered an antidote to the “vanitas” members of the dominant yet rarefied “Davos Culture” (thank you Samuel P. Huntington!) still continue to express.
In this scenario of intensified extremisms, the recent inauguration of the Melbourne School of Design, the MSD, seems to offer an invigorating way forward.
The simplicity of the architectural choices recall to the happy few still able to distinguish a chamber pot from an urn the fundamental elements that should inform the architect’s work - elements that today have been swamped by digital rhetoric. The MSD reminds us that:
-    architecture stands apart from the other arts for its scale, and because of this, to be understood, requires a different timeframe than the other arts;

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