“What do you think the inside of a radio station would look like…?”, Terrence asked. We were standing on the footpath, admiring the facade of Koori Radio, as part of a tour of Sydney’s Redfern by the Architectural Association. It’s the kind of question a large group would, undoubtedly, have had a multitude of answers, based largely on what they’ve seen on television and film. The difference this time was there was no “large group” to answer the question: there was just me.
When I first turned up at Redfern Post Office, the starting point for the the tour, and soon noticed there was no one else hanging around, I thought I’d made a mistake. I thought maybe I had the wrong address. I thought I’d put the wrong date in my calendar. Then I thought they might have cancelled the tour and I’d missed the email notification. But right on time, Terrence turned up, introduced himself and confirmed I was indeed the only person on the tour.
I’ve been on a few of these walking tours organised by the Architecture Association previously, including walks around Middle Cove and Surry Hills and remembered them fondly. I actually recognised Terrence from the tour of Surry Hills in 2007. That was quite a big group, as I recall, and so it was great to have something a little more personalised.
There were a few things I really liked about the tour, aside from the personalised nature of it all, and the obvious passion Terrence has for both architecture and the area itself. I really loved the way the tour gave me a better understanding about some of the principles underlying design in Sydney. I really loved how it opened my eyes to the types of buildings which I would otherwise see as ugly or incongruous. And I really loved the way I got to see parts of a nearby suburb I don’t otherwise usually see.
“The main difference between Melbourne and Sydney architecture is the way Sydney architects try to design with context in mind”, Terrence said, as he pointed to a large white building. He talked about how the lines were in keeping with the other terrace houses. He also pointed it out in the design of the gym at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, a large building on a residential street, but designed so it didn’t feel so large for the pedestrians walking along side it.
“I don’t think I could live in the white house”, I told him, as he showed me photographs of the internals. Minimalist. White. There was, however, a nearby house which I quite liked the look of with a timber facade, neighbouring a small park. Not that I could afford either, as Redfern is definitely a suburb “on the way up”, and already out of the price range of most people I know.
We both laughed when I mentioned to Terrence the reason I couldn’t answer the radio studio design question in the way he would have otherwise expected.
It was a really enjoyable tour that was supposed to go for two hours, but which we completed in ninety minutes due to the more personalised service, and because there were no “stragglers”. These tours are regularly advertised on the Architecture Association website, and I’d recommend this one if you, like me, have a passion/interest in architecture and in Redfern.