What is "definitively unfinished" design?

This week I was transported to New York City as I listened to a podcast suggested by a reader of The Drill.

It was ‘Person Place Thing’ by Randy Cohen, with architect Elizabeth Diller. She explained her concept of projects that are “definitively unfinished”, a term borrowed from artist Marcel Duchamp.

Elizabeth said that some architects - such as Norman Foster - practice “total design”, prescribing the pens and desk lamps in an office building, for example. “Architects are the biggest megalomaniacs in the world,” she claimed!

In contrast, DSR’s projects can easily be: “repurposed, reimagined and rescripted”. “We hand things over to the public and sometimes we find the way things are used is better than we could’ve imagined. It’s kind of great.”

The place she nominated was the sunken theatre overlooking 10th Ave, part of the High Line, which we visited in 2017. It’s a mesmerising place to sit and watch the street - like a fireplace or lava lamp, as Elizabeth described it - where the viewer can look into deep space and see the vanishing point.

It gives people permission to not have to do anything, and helps to reframe the everyday, Elizabeth suggested.

To me, that’s the power of good design.

There’s a link in this week’s Drill newsletter to the podcast if you’re keen to listen to it.

Rachael Bernstone at the 10th Street overpass, The High Line, New York City

Rachael Bernstone at the 10th Street overpass, The High Line, New York City

Robin Boyd: a man whose time has come

There are few people who inspire me more than Robin Boyd, and he features in this week’s issue of The Drill, which contains details about the upcoming celebrations marking 100 years since his birth.


If you haven’t heard of this pioneering architect, writer and advocate, he’s sure to come on to your radar this year as his many contributions around housing and civic spaces, and the importance of good design for everyday people, are revived and revisited.

I was lucky enough to visit the Walsh St House when the foundation was launched, and I’ve long been an admirer of his writings and ambition to make architecture accessible to everyone.

This year, Monash University Museum of Art is hosting an exhibition about the Small Home Service; the Robin Boyd Foundation has a stellar lineup of events including an open house weekend in November; and Heide MoMA and The Ian Potter Gallery at Melbourne University are mounting exhibitions too.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Boyd’s ideas are applied and reinterpreted as we grapple with some of the most challenging design conditions we’ve seen in decades.

You can find more details, and lots of other relevant architecture news, here

Please subscribe via the form to the right if you want to get future issues of my free newsletter.

And if you’re all over Robin Boyd, what’s your favourite book or initiative of the great man?

The Drill: Fed Sqaure saved from the wrecking ball

Great news that the Yarra Buildingat Fed Square has been saved from demolition today. A rare victory of architecture and culture over corporate ambitions.
Well done to architect Tania Davidge and Felicity Watson from the National Trust, who led the Our City Our Square campaign against Apple’s proposed demolition.
You can read all about this announcement and all the other interesting archi-news this week in my free newsletter The Drill, and you can also sign up to receive weekly instalments via the box to the right of this page.

The Drill: a crash course in architecture ethics

This week in the newsletter; 

The culture of unpaid internships and free labour - what is the true cost? 

What should rchitects do bout overblown house sizes? 

How responsible are architects for product and material sustainability? 

Read all about these issues, and more, here...  and subscribe using the link on the right.