The science behind Flinders Street Station’s new look

Posted November 10, 2017 13:38:10

The scaffolding is slowing coming off Flinders Street Station, revealing the Melbourne icon’s brand new colours.

Or should we say old colours? After all, the repaint is designed to be as close as possible to the station’s first paint job from 1910.

But how do we know what colours the station was painted in if all the photos of it are in black and white?

Science, that’s how.

Layers ‘like a liquorice allsort’

The architects in charge of the station’s refurbishment, Lovell Chen, determined from newspaper records that Flinders Street Station had been repainted at least five times.

Melbourne University’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation was tasked with determining the historic station’s original colour scheme.

Grimwade Centre’s senior paintings conservator Cushla Hill said the architects provided them with at least 20 samples of paint chipped from walls throughout the station.

“We embed that chipped paint into a polyester resin tube and then we cut into it,” she said.

Cutting across the paint chip allowed the conservators to examine the layers of paint using a powerful microscope.

“It’s like a liquorice allsort. You can work down through the layers to the original layer,” Ms Hill said.

“The original layer was a more subdued beigey yellow colour, which is what has been reinstated.”

Project director Graeme Kay said the team believed the colours “are as close as we could possibly get”.

He told ABC Radio Melbourne‘s Rafael Epstein that the more subdued yellow was used by the original painters in an effort to replicate the look of sandstone.

“The red is a much more vibrant red,” he said of the restoration.

‘Ray gun’ detects elements

The Grimwade Centre was able to find out more about the type of pigment the century-old paint contained by using a technique called X-ray fluorescence, or XRF.

“The XRF is like a ray gun that you just point at the sample,” Ms Hill said.

“It’s a non-destructive technique … that will detect the elements in that sample.”

The XRF detected chromium in the original green paint used for the station’s trimmings, which suggests the paint was a chromium green oxide.

Topics: painting, architecture, design, history, science-and-technology, melbourne-3000

Architect shows how small home can replace McMansion

Posted November 09, 2017 11:49:54

Amid a streetscape of densely packed, double-brick and tile suburban homes, House A stands out — it is tall, grey, has a high-pitched roof and looks strikingly different to the infill housing nearby.

Architect Kate Fitzgerald’s aim is to show the people of Perth how they can have spacious houses without building yet another McMansion.

“I’m not a typical property developer. I’m trying to introduce some new ideas,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

In partnership with her father, Ms Fitzgerald bought an old house in the beachside suburb of Scarborough sitting on a 600 square metre lot.

House A sits on just 170 square metres; Houses B and C will follow.

“It is a single-bedroom lot dwelling on 170 square metre block, which is a lot smaller than the other lots in the area,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“It’s a living area of 70 square metre on top of a garage — so it is small living, but it’s tall.”

In addition to the bedroom, there is “a study/dining room/spare bedroom — whatever you need it to be”.

“I think that’s a really important thing to have in a house if it’s a one bedder,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

You don’t need a project home

The house is a classic house shape, with square sides and a tall, pitched roof.

There is a mezzanine floor for the bedroom and bathroom.

The living area is just 3 metres wide, a size Ms Fitzgerald has long tried to convince her clients is enough if you have the right design principles guiding you.

“There are things about doing your own project as an architect … I know this is going to work,” she said.

“I’m going to do it and show people that you do not have to have project home-sized rooms.

“It’s actually a tiny living space, but it’s about having the best connection you can have between outdoors and indoors that makes it such a liveable house for the size that it is.”

Ms Fitzgerald hopes House A will show people they can build a liveable house on a small piece of land.

She said it was vital Perth be infilled and densify without people feeling squeezed.

“I recently did an analysis of a project home design, and out of 139 square metres on the ground floor, almost 100 square metres of it was unusable small spaces — dog legged corridors, water closets, an internet room, linen cupboards,” she said.

“Just 39 square metres was for kitchen, dining and living.

“In this house our wasted space is around 10 to 15 per cent, so we need a lot less square meterage to achieve the results we have.

“You can get a smaller block of land and you can build a smaller house and you can live in the suburb that you want.”

Being friendly to the environment

Ms Fitzgerald has also tried to make the house as environmentally-friendly as possible.

“It’s 2017 and it’s time to accept that buildings do damage to the environment,” she said.

“As an architect, it’s a really hard thing to get your head around, that the thing you love doing and embrace doing is a thing that does cause damage.

“If you use recycled bricks then you are supporting sustainability and also the local economy and small business.”

House A not only uses recycled brick, but the kitchen cabinets have come from the old house on the block, which in the future will be renovated to become House B in the triplex.

“We have a rain tank under our deck,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“We made the concrete using 65 per cent recycled content. There are some solar panels.”

And the house also has no air conditioning.

“We don’t need it,” she explained.

“Our walls have big, 70mm-thick foam panels in them, and the roof has almost 150mm of foam.

“We have oriented the house to get really amazing sea breezes during the day.

“Why would you want an air conditioner if you don’t actually need one?”

House A will be open to the public as part of Open House Perth on November 11 and 12, and Ms Fitzgerald said she was looking forward to showing people her home.

“I’m a firm believer that design is for everyone and I think that’s what Open House is about,” she said.

“Every day, the designers I know are trying to make our work more accessible to the public.

“It does cost more money to build a house like this but you’re building less of a house, so we’re trying to get that message out there — that architecture is something that is affordable to everyone.”

The ABC Perth building will also be open on Saturday, November 11 from 9:00am to 3:00pm as part of Open House Perth.

Topics: architecture, design, house-and-home, urban-development-and-planning, perth-6000, scarborough-6019

Ten years of back-breaking work worth it for home builder’s grand design

Posted November 07, 2017 10:00:00

Ten years, a broken back and a sewer running through the main living area would not, and could not, stop Pat Gaffney from building his very own “grand design” in Perth’s South Fremantle.

Mr Gaffney has a background as a carpenter.

He said he had always wanted to build a modern house, and settled on the perfect place — a block of land next door to the historic house where he had lived with his family for decades.

“We had lived next door for 30 years and really like the community, so there was no point in moving,” Mr Gaffney said.

The 320-square-metre plot had been the family’s garden for 20 years.

“We had the land, so it made sense to do it here,” he said.

Mr Gaffney worked with architect Dimitri Kapetas to draw up the plans, but he was determined to build the house himself.

Sewer line impacted house shape

Even in the design stages, the project — a three-bedroom, double storey family home — proved complex.

A main sewer runs underground diagonally across the block, from front to back.

“The sewer is buried underground but you can’t actually build over it, you have to build around it,” Mr Gaffney said.

“So we had to design around that, and that’s what has created the interesting shapes in the house.”

Most of the rooms sit diagonally on either side of the sewer, but the house is not divided into two buildings.

“We have a tunnel through the house that is a room, but it is virtually demountable,” he said.

The design satisfies access requirements, but Mr Gaffney admitted there was a “slim possibility” one day his central living area could be dug up for sewer maintenance.

“I’m confident that they will never have to do it,” he added, smiling.

Making it up along the way

The plans alone took five years to draw up, then Mr Gaffney began building.

“Dimitri drew the plans to a stage where I could build it, and a lot of the interior detail I have just done myself as I went along,” he said.

“I didn’t really know at the start what I wanted.

“Money was probably the main thing,” he said of deciding to do it himself rather than employing a builder.

“And I just wanted to do it.

“I’d be the worst client. I think I’d be too fussy.”

Broken back did not stop determined builder

Mr Gaffney also runs a catering business that mainly operates on weekends.

He said that business, and the fact he lived next door to the building site, had given him the flexibility and time to build the house to his standard over the past five years.

Despite the long haul, he said he never got tired of the project.

“I’ve maintained my energy and didn’t lose interest,” he said.

“I had a bit of disaster one year in. I fell off the top storey and broke my back. Also broke my kneecap. That set me back for a bit. I was in hospital for about 10 days.

“Everything’s fine now. My back is 100 per cent better. My knee is still a bit sore but I can still get on and do most things.”

Walls make the house a giant esky

The finished house is a modern, angular mix of concrete flooring and highly crafted timber detail.

The walls are made from a material called R9, which is fairly lightweight but highly insulated.

“R9 is polystyrene and CFC sheeting, and it’s about 200mm thick, making the house like an esky,” Mr Gaffney said.

“It has double glazed windows and Bondor roofing, which is a sandwich panel of metal and foam.

“It’s a self-supporting roof so the whole structure upstairs is really cool in summer and warm in winter.”

Having finally finished the house, Mr Gaffney is now opening it up to the public as a part of the Open House Perth festival on Sunday, November 12.

“I’m really satisfied with it,” he said of the finished product.

“Just going through the process, it was really difficult at times, working out how to do things, so to get to a stage where you have achieved all your goals and gotten through it is really satisfying.”

The Silver Street House is open to the public from 10:00am to 5:00pm as part of Open House Perth.

The ABC Perth building will be open on Saturday, November 11 from 9:00am to 3:00pm as part of Open House Perth.

Topics: architecture, house-and-home, design, human-interest, perth-6000, south-fremantle-6162

Handmade tales: Australia’s bespoke manufacturers still making a living

Posted November 04, 2017 08:30:00

With the recent closure of Holden, you might be convinced that Australian manufacturing is in crisis, as factories shut down, skills are lost, and more jobs go offshore.

But that’s not the full story.

In little factories across the country, bespoke, handmade manufacturing is still alive, and it’s surviving by going global — creating unique products that the world wants.

Many of these businesses face the spectre of competition with cheap Chinese manufacturing, but they’re responding in unique ways.

Australian-made sports cars

In a tiny factory in Frankston in Melbourne’s east, a woman is measuring coremat fibreglass material with a tape measure.

It could be a fashion house, but it’s actually a bespoke sports car factory.

Campbell Bolwell proudly takes the covers off a bright red, sleek, low-to-the-ground Nagari 300 that’s been handmade at the Bolwell Cars factory — they only make six a year.

Nobody’s been game to test the car’s full speed, but Campbell guesses it’s 300 kilometres per hour.

The body of the car is super light, made of carbon fibre and moulded into an aerodynamic shape.

“Let’s face it, these vehicles are toys for older boys. You see that going along the road and it’s a jaw dropper,” Campbell says, proudly.

Campbell is a self-described petrolhead — he designed and built his first car while wagging school at the age of 16.

“I had no licence. I wasn’t theoretically allowed to drive it,” he says.

By age 20, he was making 30 cars a year out of a tiny tin shed, down the road from the current factory.

During the 60s and 70s, Bolwell Cars released six different sportscar models. Today they’re collectors’ items — there are Bolwell car clubs in four states.

In the early years though, Bolwell were one of many small Australian car manufacturers, among the likes of Bill Buckle, Gogomobil Dart, Lou Molino Holden and Murray Carter’s Corvette.

Anyone could build a car in their garage and put it on the road.

This experimentation was possible because there were very few design regulations — even seatbelts weren’t compulsory.

But in the 70s, as safety became an issue, Bolwell Cars struggled to meet the increasing number of design standards and went into liquidation.

Campbell never gave up on his dream of making cars though. He kept doodling designs on napkins and in 2008, began making the Nagari 300.

Next year, Bolwell Cars will release the updated Nagari 500.

When it comes to dealing with competition from overseas manufacturers, Bolwell Cars is lucky — it’s selling the Nagari 300 in China.

Campbell explains that many of his Chinese customers will not buy a car it if it’s made in China, wanting one that’s Australian made.

He thinks this could be the future for small manufacturing in Australia — creating products so unique and of such high quality and value, they attract Chinese clientele.

“We’re a very innovative country. It’s the Australian ability to think outside the box,” Campbell says.

An ingenious bean slicer

Tatham Cutlery have been making this little kitchen gadget since 1923.

The Krisk bean slicer is sold in more than 50 countries; it’s big in South America, France and Kenya.

It looks like a plastic vegetable peeler and uses multiple, tiny razor blades to slice a bean lengthways.

There are more Krisk bean slicers in The Reunion Islands than there are people.

Devotees of the Krisk have been known to make pilgrimages to the Rydalmere factory in Sydney’s west from places as far-flung as Canada and Alice Springs.

Geoff Rowall started at Tatham as the manager in 1964. Back then, 20 women used to whistle in unison for entertainment as they ground the razor blades.

“They’d whistle whatever came into the forelady’s mind. She set the pace and they’d follow along with her,” Mr Rowall says.

Around the same time, “Joe The Gadget Man” used to sell the bean slicers on TV.

It’s still being sold today, and is still handmade, even after Mark Rowall, Geoff’s son and the current manager of Tatham Cutlery, consulted 10 robotics engineers.

“You can’t get a robot to do that many intricate motions in such a small area,” Mark said.

In 2009, the Krisk bean slicer officially became an icon at the British Excellence in Housewares awards.

But Mark and Geoff are both dismissive of the bronze trophy that sits on a filing cabinet in the office.

It brought Tatham’s little gadget to the attention of a Chinese manufacturer, who copied it — and since then sales have dropped globally.

Mark is angry the design has been copied, and that the brand has lost 80 per cent of its customers.

It makes him despondent about the future of manufacturing in Australia.

“We can’t buy the raw material in Australia as cheaply as China can put a finished product into the marketplace,” he says.

Olympic-winning oars

You don’t expect to find a high-tech factory making Olympic-winning oars among the haybales and Clydesdales of Oxley Island, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.

Howard Croker looks like a farmer, with his pack of working dogs at his heels. But his company, Croker Oars, is shipping its product to just about every country.

There are restrictions on photography because the company’s methods are top secret — and competitors might steal them.

But what can be said, is the oar blades are made from layers of fibreglass fabric, carbon fibre and resin, and baked in a bespoke oven.

Howard does admit to occasionally copying other oar makers’ designs.

“If we can see a better idea, we’re going to take it,” he says.

But he says that’s the way of things — and his designs are always being copied.

“At the Rio Olympics … I could see six things in the opposition’s oar that were developed here on Oxley Island,” he says.

Howard explains small companies like his can’t afford to take out a patent in every country their product is sold in, so instead they have to continually innovate.

“We just have to keep looking forward and make a better product,” he says.

Howard began making oars from timber in his parents’ backyard in Ryde, Sydney, and got his big break when an Olympic pair rowed with his oars in Rome in 1960.

He made the shift to carbon fibre in the early 90s and took his first carbon fibre oars to the Barcelona Olympics.

Since then the company hasn’t looked back, and about 30 Olympic gold medals have been won using Croker oars.

Topics: manufacturing, small-business, industry, business-economics-and-finance, design, australia

Oxfam urges Australian fashion brands to end worker exploitation

Posted October 29, 2017 06:02:40

The Bangladeshi factory worker who may well have made your t-shirt could be earning as little as 39 cents an hour.

That is the sobering message coming from non-for-profit organisation Oxfam Australia’s “What She Makes” report released today.

Deloitte Access Economics was engaged by Oxfam to analyse Australia’s garment supply chain and work out the proportion of the cost of a garment ends up in the pocket of the person who made it.

It found in the average Australian supply chain, just 4 per cent of the price of a clothing item is paid to overseas workers.

That is just 40 cents from a $10 t-shirt.

In Bangladesh, where wages are much lower, as little as 2 per cent of the clothing price goes to the workers who made it, the Deloitte research found.

Australian companies like Target Australia, Cotton On, Kmart, Big W, H&M, Pacific Brands and the Just Group all use overseas factories as suppliers, including factories in Bangladesh.

China is the main sourcing destination for Australia, followed by Bangladesh which provides about 9 per cent of the garments sold here.

Twenty-year-old Bangladeshi Fatima earns 43 cents an hour working in a factory making clothes for Big W, H&M and other global brands.

Oxfam’s report said she will often go without food and sleeps on a concrete floor in an apartment with 10 other people.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Helen Szoke said while the cost of living in certain countries is lower, the salaries paid in the garment industry still do not allow a worker to cover basic living costs, like food and housing.

“It’s predominantly women who work in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia that can’t afford the basics like food and safe homes but are working long hours, often six days a week, producing the garments Australians wear on their back,” Ms Szoke said.

She said Australia’s biggest retailers should ensure overseas workers have enough to live off.

“Deloitte estimates that if big companies passed the entire cost of living wages to workers, it would only increase the price of clothing sold in Australia by 1 per cent,” Ms Szoke said.

She said that should be absorbed by the companies and not passed onto the buyer.

Australia’s fashion industry turned over $27 billion last year.

“Brands have the power to ensure workers are paid enough to live with basic dignity,” Ms Szoke said.

The minimum wage in Vietnam is the equivalent of 64 cents an hour. In China it’s 93 cents and in Bangladesh it is as low as 39 cents an hour.

However, a recent International Labour Organisation report found a large proportion of workers in the garment, footwear and textiles sector in counties exporting to Australia were paid below minimum wage.

Target, Kmart, Woolworths Group, Cotton On and the Just Group all list the locations of their factories on their websites.

Topics: fashion, design, arts-and-entertainment, charities, charities-and-community-organisations, community-and-society, australia, bangladesh, china

Merino farmers take ‘story’ of Australian wool to spin suiting gold

Posted October 01, 2017 08:15:29

They are unlikely partners — a Tasmanian wool farmer and a fashion designer — but this odd couple are having a big impact on the world of men’s fashion.

The collaboration between Tasmanian superfine wool producer, Simon Cameron, and Matt Jensen from MJ Bale has resulted in a collection of “single origin” men’s suits, all made with wool from Mr Cameron’s farm, Kingston.

“Simon is one of the best woolgrowers in the world,” Mr Jensen said.

“It’s allowed us to create some of the best suiting in the world — but directly from an Australian farm.”

Mr Cameron sends his bales of superfine to Italian woollen mill and fabric producer Vitale Barberis, in northern Italy, where it is woven into high-end suiting fabric.

From there, the fabric goes to Japan where Mr Jensen has his Kingston Collection suits handmade.

“We’ve kept it pretty classic — we’ve got three colours, a full canvas suit, which we handmade in Japan, [a] single-breasted suit,” Mr Jensen said.

Mr Cameron added: “It’s one of those things that you would probably keep for a long time because it’s a special product.”

‘Putting money back into, literally, the grassroots’

The wool from the Kingston is from unmulesed sheep.

That means more work for the farmer — but Mr Cameron stopped the practice of mulesing, where skin is cut off the sheep’s backside to avoid flystrike, long ago.

Careful management is still producing a healthy sheep and a high-quality superfine clip.

“We take out the backs, so that just leaves the two flanks,” Mr Cameron said.

“The main fleece pieces — the two bits from the sides of the sheep — are premium wool that gets put into a separate line.

“The backs get put into another line — it’s still good wool but it is more consistent in itself if it is classed that way.”

As part of the deal, MJ Bale is paying an additional contribution to Mr Cameron, which goes towards preserving native grasses and keeping the farming operation sustainable.

“We think it’s a good thing to be doing — to be putting money back into, literally, the grassroots of the country,” Mr Jensen said.

‘It’s a story right through Australia’

Kingston is not the only Tasmanian wool operation involved in a single-origin clothing range.

The historic Tasmanian wool property, Beaufront, sends wool to the Tollegno Mill in northern Italy, where it is also made into single-origin fabric.

“Our family has been farming here for 100 years — we’re really connected to the land,” Beaufront farmer Julian von Bibra said.

“We feel very strongly about our product — it’s a story right through Australia, in many ways, in terms of farmers managing the landscape and producing a product … we’re thrilled to be able to present that story.”

Julian and Annabel von Bibra feature in the Italian company’s marketing, where their commitment to the environment, their animals, and the production of wool from unmulesed sheep is highlighted.

“Our partners, Tollegno, have visited our farm,” Mr von Bibra said.

“They now have a feeling of what goes on in Australia — if we can be selling our story we represent farming more broadly as proud Tasmanian and Australian farmers, and it’s that opportunity that’s great.”

The Italian mill’s confidence in Beaufront is paying off.

It is working on contracts with clothing companies in America and Europe, and with Country Road in Australia.

“Country Road is a client of the mill, Tollegno in Italy, that bought into the concept — they saw the opportunity to tell the story and do it locally,” wool broker and deal negotiator, Alistair Calvert, said.

For the family, it is a special reward to see garments made with their wool.

“As a farmer you produce a raw product — bales of wool — and often lose the fact of where that wool ends up,” Mr von Bibra said.

“To follow it through to garment stage, to be closer to our customer, to meet the various people in the supply chain, has been an amazing opportunity.

“It keeps us focused on what we are doing.”

Topics: wool, agricultural-crops, rural, fashion, design, tas

A model for Dior in the 1950s on life in the French fashion house

Posted August 29, 2017 18:08:48

In the 1950s, Svetlana Lloyd began working as a clothes horse for the rich and famous.

She had wandered into a Christian Dior boutique and was promptly appointed a mannequin, or model, in the French designer’s Paris fashion house. Each day, she would be dressed in the latest pieces for the benefit of the house’s wealthy clientele.

Last week, Ms Lloyd, now in her eighties, helped launch an exhibition of Dior’s work at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

She spoke to Lateline about what it was like to work with the fashion great in 1950s Paris and the impact of his death 60 years ago.

On getting a job as a ‘mannequin’

Monsieur Dior had 15 regular models who worked the year round, five days a week, from 3:00 to 5:00 every day. And he wanted to have women of various shapes, sizes, ages and heights. He didn’t care if they were pretty girls as long as they had an allure, and were chic.

I walked into the boutique, and before I had time to actually ask for a job I was whisked upstairs during the lunch hour.

Monsieur Dior was seated together with [design studio director] Madame [Raymonde] Zehnacker and I said, ‘What do I do now?’ [He said] ‘Walk, then come back’… And there it was. I went downstairs and they gave me a [note] for the hairdresser the next morning. And they said ‘You arrive at 2:30 and be ready to show the collection at 3:00’.

On Christian Dior, the man

He was always very quietly spoken. He had a very quiet voice, a little bit high-pitched, and he was always solicitous of his girls and the models. He didn’t want us to be too tired or stressed.

For the first season you got nothing. If you stayed on for the next season you were allowed one free outfit but it wasn’t new — [it] had to be one either you had worn or somebody else had worn. [It was] the only couture house in Paris that paid overtime.

I loved working. I didn’t enjoy the life in Paris, because social life in those days, for a mannequin, was about zero, because [the job] was considered prostitution. It was a very dull time outside of work.

On fitting famous people

The majority of his clients then were private clients, ladies. Twice a year they allowed themselves two or three weeks to do fittings, because each outfit was separately made and had to have fittings, including the corset that was sewn into their clothes.

I wouldn’t like to say naughty words but the Duchess of Windsor was really very rude and a very unpleasant person. First of all, when she looked at you, she had a nasty expression and she always found something unpleasant to say.

There’s a photograph of me showing the Saint Laurent grey dress, which sold 9,000 times, by the way. [Italian actor] Sophia Loren is sitting in the front. It was the sort of outfit that would not have suited her at all, because she was so curvaceous. Well, she’s sitting there thinking: that’s not for me.

On the great designer’s death in 1957

He died of a heart attack; he was away in Italy. It was quite a shock. They brought the body back, and the director announced that nobody was to leave that six months. No worker, no model — no-one. You had to stay the six months that were coming. We were issued with black coats. The house was closed, but everyone had to come in and clock in, as you do in factories, which was the usual. In other words, we were not allowed to stay home.

The director announced, in effect, ‘the king is dead, long live the king’. And he announced that [Yves] Saint Laurent — who was the same age as some of us — we had to call him monsieur; he would carry right on, after that week’s mourning.

On life after fashion

[Now] I’m not involved in fashion at all. This was only my second career. My fifth career was lecturing and that’s what I loved most of all and did for 25 years.

I feel like a ghost [here at the exhibition]. Am I in ’57 or in 2017? It feels very strange.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, fashion, design, melbourne-3000, france