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How an Architecture Enthusiast Brought Me to Tears

By Vanessa Sporne

I want to show you how Canberra’s buildings have led me to realise something about the way I view the places I have called home, and the way I will perceive those places I find myself in the future. I want to show you how a someone with passion has allowed me to finally pinpoint the nagging little sensation I have had for the past year, festering in the far reaches of my mind. I want to explain how he has put a name to this unidentified frustration I have been unable to shake, and allowed me to see a little clearer. But how has the imprint Telstra Tower leaves in the Canberra skyline and the faded graffiti on the Dickson shops led to this epiphany you ask? Bear with me.

Darren Bradley, an ‘architecture enthusiast’ spoke at the TEDx Canberra event this year, and while I admit that his on-paper description didn’t catch my attention at first, his passion out on the stage sure did. He spoke about seeing beauty in different lights and recognising the incredible aesthetic value of many of the things we take for granted. His exquisite photographs of some of the buildings I naively ride past on my bike everyday made me stop and think about how observant I am of my world, and the importance of this observance so as to avoid absent mindedly losing some of these wondrous structures.  

I saw a genuinely sincere interest and care for the architecture Bradley photographed, and I think that’s why I felt so much empathy when his discussion turned to the threats these Canberra buildings face under development. After hearing him speak about his love affair with modernist and Bauhaus architecture I couldn’t bear to think that many of his passions were to be torn to the ground by the unobservant. I was feeling waves of disappointment as each image came up on the screen, until a picture of my home appeared.

My home, and some of it’s residents

50 Daley Rd, or Bruce Hall, was torn down last year as I looked on from my new residence 300m down the street. I watched the building pulled apart bit by bit. I watched places where I had made some of the best memories of my life trampled over by machines and turned to piles of broken concrete. 70 years of history were contained in that building, so you may be able to guess why I was so grateful when Bradley explained his genuine disappointment and sadness at the loss of such a place. He said that he didn’t want to see the soul taken out of Canberra in the way it had been taken from Bruce Hall, and this is how he made me realise something about the importance of home; that it’s the soul that makes it count. Soul can’t be replaced by a new shiny building, constructed only to increase the efficiency (and money-making capability) of a place.

In the hours after Bradley’s talk I found that my frustration over the demolition of my beloved home were completely justified. I’d spent a long time hearing people tell me, and the rest of my community, that it was “just a building” and that, “nothing will change”, and while this year I’ve been trying to tell myself that they’re right, every time I drive past I still feel my stomach drop when I see the excavators crawling over the brown dusty patch that used to hold my home.

Although Bradley’s talk focused on the appreciation of beauty, I feel as if there was also a message about appreciating history. The buildings we travel past every day and the buildings we call home become part of our lives because they are the backdrop for our memories. Everyone remembers the home they grew up in, or the school yard where they met lifelong friends and we when see these places later in life we find ourselves reminiscing about what once was. Places like this are important, and I’m tired of people telling me they’re not as an excuse to tear them down. It’s important to preserve our physical history so as not to lose that that only resides in our memory. I’m so glad Bradley stood up and spoke about his passions because he validated the anger and sadness I felt at the loss of a place that I loved.

I wish that every person could have heard Bradley speak, so as to appreciate the beauty and the history of every place.

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