October 2011

Arts & Letters

Architecture masterpiece

By Haig Beck
© Chris Harvey
Lindsay & Kerry Clare - ‘Gallery of Modern Art’, Queensland, 2006

Nowadays ‘masterpiece’ refers to a work of extraordinary artistic merit. But it once described a work by a craftsman made specifically to demonstrate mastery of (his) craft and so gain entry to a guild. This older meaning is appropriate to architecture, a practice lodged somewhere between fine arts and craft. The Gold Medal of the Australian Institute of Architects is a contemporary measure of mastery.

Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, designed by 2010 Gold Medallists Lindsay and Kerry Clare (with James Jones), is a building readily available to the public. With its large overhanging roof, open verandahs and timber-batten screening, GoMA conveys a typical, familiar and regional expression of subtropical informality at a civic scale. It is a friendly, welcoming building, unexpectedly filled with natural light and with tactile surfaces that successfully deflate conventional expectations of the art gallery as an imposing institution. Here, grandeur and hauteur are exchanged for ideas of accessibility and the ordinary, refined and made beautiful and extraordinary.

—Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper

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