August, 2019

The lavish celebrity mansions nobody seems to want

Wealthy buyers with mega mansions to sell often face the conundrum that more money means more problems.

Some of the most swish estates in the world don’t have prospective buyers knocking down the door.

These are some of the grand estates, worth up to $100 million-plus and with big name celebrity vendors, that have been for sale for years.

1. Michael Jordan’s ridiculously big Chicago compound.

The retired basketball legend is one of the greatest sportsman of all time, but none of that prowess has rubbed on the marketing for his ostentatious estate, Highland Park.

The 17,000 square metre manor, with nine bedrooms, a basketball court and a putting green, has been on the market for four years. Jordan has dropped the asking price from $38 million, in 2012, to a tick under $20 million today.

His real estate agent Kofi Nartey ??? whose agency specialises in high-profile vendors, from athletes to entertainers ??? has even tried trash talking opposition properties on the market.

“You call yourself a trophy property ??? a mansion? Let me show you something. You think you’re big? Well, I’m bigger,” Nartley says in one of the two advertising videos for the home.

Michael Jordan is still seeking a buyer for his Chicago mansion, four years after listing.

2. The Las Vegas apartment with a free Picasso and a Lamborghini

The vendor of this penthouse is so desperate to ink a sale deal, they are throwing in the keys to a $300,000-plus sportscar and original artworks.

The $29.2 million abode, atop the Palms Place Hotel, has 30 TVs, a DJ booth and space for a heli-pad, plus a 12-month lease of a Lamborghini Huracan thrown in.

Also included is Pablo Picasso’s 1959 lithograph Le Vieux Roi, Salvador Dalí’s etchingtitled Leaf Woman, and two seats to every sporting event at nearby major arena for a year.

The penthouse is owned by the family of the hotel’s developer and hit the market in 2014, asking $50 million. The price dropped to $38 million, before a further reduction. No dice for this Sin City pad.

The penthouse at 4381 West Flamingo Road, Las Vegas. Photo: Trulia

Free to a good home: the Lamborghini Huracan.Photo: Supplied

3. Robbie Williams’ British bach pad.

The Angels singer first tried to offload the deluxe rural estate in 2010, but struggled due to the whiff from a nearby landfill site, British tabloids alleged.

The $9 million Wiltshire mansion, which has a “leisure complex” attached and was bought during the pop star’s single days, then stunk up the market for six years.

It’s understood to still be for sale, but off-market and on the down-low.

With seven bedrooms and an indoor pool, on the edge of a village, it’s an idyllic and very private country hideaway.

Over winter, Williams also listed his $14.5 million Beverly Hills mansion.

Robbie Williams’ country manor in Compton Bassett, Wiltshire. Photo: Supplied

Pop star Robbie Williams in concert in Sydney in October last year. Photo: Edwina Pickles

4. The fashion designer hoping to stitch up a $116 million deal.

Max Azria recently increased the asking price of his 17-bedroom Los Angeles property by $4 million, despite it languishing on the market for eight months last year.

The fashion designer owns the label Herve Leger, which is responsible for the iconic “bandage dress” that every celebrity with an itty-bitty waist has worn at least once on a red carpet.

His 1930s home sits on 1.2 hectares of manicured gardens, arranged into themes (including the “French garden”), and features a two-storey drop chandelier of 150,000 crystals.

For fun, the estate has a lolly and popcorn bar in a private theatre, pool house with a sauna, spa and open fire, a swimming pool with bar, tennis court with a spectators’ box, gym and organic greenhouse.

Ever confident in the market, fashion designer Max Azria has upped the asking price of his lavish LA mansion.Photo: Supplied

Fashion designer Max Azria with Australian model Jess Hart. Photo: Supplied

5. 50 Cent’s nursing home conversion

Rapper 50 Cent finally sold his monster party palace, fitted with stripper poles, to a nursing home company, after several years and a price plunge.

Mr Cent (real name Curtis Jackson III) wanted $23 million when he originally listed in 2007, but gradually slashed the asking sum to $10 million and handed the keys over in March.

The stripper poles, private casino, helicopter pad and disco room will be ripped out and the Connecticut estate turned into an assisted living facility.

He bought it from boxing legend Mike Tyson for $5.3 million in 2003 and spent $10 million on renovations.

Rapper 50 Cent sold the massive mansion in Farmington, Connecticut, in May, after several years on the market. Photo: Supplied

In Da Club: Mr Cent.Photo: Jeremy Deputat

Newcastle sings praise for globally acclaimed choir


SPECIAL EVENING: The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge performed at Newcastle City Hall on Tuesday August 2 as part of the 2016 Musica Viva International Concert Season.

Much of choral music is directed to the heavens, inspiring if not a belief in God then certainly a contemplation of the divine.

Such was an evening spent basking in the aural glow of The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge who performed at Newcastle City Hallon Tuesday, August 2 as part of the 2016 Musica Viva International Concert Season.

The buzz before the event was understandable given the choir has been voted the fifth best in the world.

It might also be related to the august institution from which the choir is hand-picked.

Trinity College Cambridge is steeped in modern history, civilisationand achievement.

Its alumni includes such luminaries as Bacon, Byron and Babbage, just to name a few of the B’s.

Throw in Ghandi, Tennyson, Rayleigh, Russell, Nabokovand no less than 32 Nobel Prizes and you get an idea of the calibre of graduate that has walked the halls.

It is from this line, in a tradition dating back to the 14thcentury, thatunder-graduates are recruited to sing, during school term, the liturgy of the chapel, and then outside term, to tour and record.

Typically inthese days where old meets new,all services from Trinity College Chapel are webcast liveand available tolisten to on the Choir website.

They tour the world extensively and have a back catalogue of over2500 tracks recorded live.

And so it was that the latest harvest of this celebrated crop,led by acclaimed English choral director, Stephen Layton, in charge at Trinitiy since 2006, graced this city.

The musical program (see below for details) was a journey across time and collective inspiration, kicking off with pieces from the 14thand 15thcentury(Bird, Tallis and Purcell),showcasing the ritualistic roots of Cathedral singing, before stepping up toselections from the 20thand 21stcentury.

The linkage between the ages being the human voice and the celestial heights it can soar towhen combinedand conducted with vision, intelligence and passion.

Through the course of what was a very special evening, the audience was mesmerised in turn by sounds of etherealand haunting beauty,sonorous and sublime harmonies, punctuated byvisceral moments of supreme power and control.

One of the highlights, the world premiere of apiece by young Australian composer Joe Twist, commissioned specifically for this tour by Mary Pollard and family, dedicated to the memory of their son.

Hymn of the Ancient Land (2016)perhaps summed up the tenor of the eveningin terms of the journey, drawing as it does on an ancientpoem, played out in three choral styles across three languages and continents to provide acontemporary perspective on an age-old convention.

A universal song of creation, exploring and celebrating the spirit of heaven and earth, themes perfectly in tune withconventions dating back 600 years.

As Mr Twist said while introducing his work,if that sounds a “little hippy”, we could do with some love and unity in this turbulent year of 2016.

There were numerousmoments of relaxed intimacy between audience and choir.

At one stage after the break, Mr Layton begged forgiveness if during the 26-minute rendition of Frank Martin’s Mass for the Unaccompanied Double Choir, members of the ensemble might grab a drink of waterto wet the whistle.

Understandably, all that singing was thirsty work.

He also mentionedthat audience members might have noticedthe dresses of some of the performers were beginning to flutter after interval.

This reviewer certainly did andthought it might have had something to do with the almighty power of the Lord being summoned toCity Hall, but Mr Layton explained that the choir had requested a door be left open because it was getting hot up on stage.

No doubt about that.

The evening concluded with a jazzy encore of Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.

The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge wrap up their national tour,having played Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth,Melbourne and Sydney, with afinal performance in Canberra onAugust 4.

The next date on the Newcastle2016 Musica Viva International Concert Season calendar is September 22, when the city hosts the Jerusalem Quartet.


PÄRTBogoróditse Djévo

BYRDO Lord, Make Thy Servant

TALLISSalvator Mundi

PURCELLRemember Not, Lord, Our Offences

STUCKYO Sacrum Convivium

EŠENVALDSThe Heavens’ Flock

WHITACRE Ithank You God for most this amazing day

RAUTAVAARAEvening Hymn, Ekteniya



TWISTHymn of Ancient Lands(World Premiere)

Commissioned for Musica Viva by Mary and Paul Pollard

MARTINMass for Unaccompanied Double Choir

PARKThe Wings Of The Wind

Why this distinctly 50s trend is making a comeback

Breeze blocks are having a moment in the sun. Having been painfully hip in the architecture of the 1950s and ’60s, they were used so extensively, in both houses and commercial buildings, that they became ubiquitous anywhere in the world where it was hot – including throughout Australia.

While particularly associated with a beachy, holiday feeling – Gold Coast motels, houses in Palm Springs – they were really so widely-used that they can still be found pretty much everywhere. But after that postwar high point, they fell drastically out of favour, and languished for the next 50 years, built into the walls and gardens of our youths, widely loathed and reviled for being ugly and out of date.

Now their fortunes have turned again and architects, for the moment at least, can’t get enough of them: at the 2016 Houses Awards, announced two weeks ago, the “Best house under 200 metres squared” went to the Naranga Avenue House, by James Russell Architect – a lovely minimal house with a tight, rigorous plan, which undoubtedly won the award because of its “skin of delicate breezeblocks,” described by the awards jury as having “a sublime, ephemeral quality”.

Architect Prineas, Breezeblock House. Photo: Katherine Lu

Likewise, one of last year’s most published dwellings was Architect Prineas’ Breeze Block House, which transformed a 1950s bungalow through the use of a crisp, white-painted breezeblock screen wall. Dividing and defining two indoor/outdoor courtyard spaces, this wall also gives the house a distinct character.

James Russell Architect, Naranga Avenue House. Photo: Toby Scott

You only need to dip into the Instagram feed of Sydney architect Sam Marshall, aka @breezeblockhead, to see the architectural community (including me, I’ll admit) collectively drooling over the multifarious screens, walls, fences, stairwells, undercrofts, carports, and garden rooms that this versatile material lends itself to. Marshall has been collecting images of breezeblocks for16 years, and has more than 9000 followers.

Meanwhile, on Pinterest it’s fascinating to see patterns and shapes from other countries – some highly inventive and very beautiful, a long way from the one or two rather stolid designs that were standard in the Adelaide suburbs of my childhood.

Patterned concrete blocks have a long (and sometimes celebrated) lineage. Some people credit Frank Lloyd Wright with inventing them, and indeed he did invent a precast concrete “textile block” system, which he used on several houses in Los Angeles including the Millard and Ennis houses.

Millard House, also known as La Miniatura, is a textile block house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1923 in Pasadena, California. via Wikimedia Commons.

Inspired by the ornamentation on Mayan temples, the relief patterns on Lloyd Wright’s blocks are only slightly reminiscent of what we in Australia would call a breeze block (or screen block, or pattern block, or cinder block) because they are much less permeable – really his is a wall system, rather than a screen one.

The breeze block can also be linked more broadly to the tradition of the brise soleil, which refers to any kind of sun baffle installed outside the skin of a building (which is where the sun screens should be! Stop the heat before it enters your building envelope!). Breeze blocks are not (usually) structural, hence they were often used where a garden meets a house – patio screens or carports or garden walls. In commercial buildings, they were often used for stairwells, balcony screening, and curtain wall sun-shading to large windows.

© Sam Marshall

Right now we are in the midst of a resurgence of interest in postwar design: the wild popularity of all things mid-century modern (or mid-mod, or MCM) has spread beyond furniture and houses to materials, and the breeze block has been carried along on that tide.

It is of course a well-known strategy to take the most passe thing you can find and reappropriate it, for shock value, and to jolt everyone into seeing it anew. But in the case of the breeze block it seems to me more than that – because these “concrete masonary units” (as they’re technically called) actually have qualities that don’t exist in other materials.

You can make permeable walls out of timber or sheet materials or even bricks, but you won’t get quite the same effect as breeze blocks provide: a durable screen which is private and secure, offers sun shading and weather protection and ventilation, and has the added bonus of being highly patterned with geometric ornament. Breeze blocks expand the architect’s repertoire and ability to manipulate the wall with different degrees of solidity and permeability, openness and enclosure.

© Sam Marshall

Plus, they’re pleasing to the eye. A breeze block screen wall can be a beautiful thing – the pattern of each individual block adding to a greater whole, and a larger pattern, when they’re used en masse.

Of course, I didn’t always see the beauty in a breeze block. In fact, I thought they were hideous; an irredeemably ugly vestige of another time, banal and styleless, they reminded me of everything I hated about suburbia. Partly it was their materiality – concrete blockwork can be hard to love, especially in its untreated forms, and breezeblocks are made of a particularly scratchy and drab variety. It’s no coincidence that many of the contemporary architects are choosing to paint theirs.

So what can we make of this resurgence, other than yet another spin on the wheel of architectural fashion? Building materials come and go; my childhood home in the late 1970s had faux venetian glass in the windows and timber shakes on the roof – the very height of style at the time. Likewise, at the moment there is a rash of rusted corten steel, and an eruption of laser-cut perforated metal screens, creeping over the buildings of our cities – these are very modish right now, but in a few years they will be testaments to the (past) time of their design and construction, as all buildings and materials inevitably are.

© Sam Marshall

Because, in fact, architectural fashions are far more than just frivolous or superficial fancies, they can tell us a lot about the values and concerns of a building’s culture, in a particular location, at a particular time. This is why architectural historians are so interested in past “fashions” (we might also link them to movements, or schools, or ideologies) – because they can be highly revealing. Thus the more interesting story here is not so much fashion, buttemporality – how a thing, or material, or building, reveals its being of its time.

This also leads to a danger, for so-called “middle aged” buildings: it’s a truism of the heritage professions that when a building is old enough to seem unstylish and dated, but not yet old enough to be valued as legitimately historical and worth preserving, then it is highly vulnerable to being demolished, or equally of being renovated to death. Young buildings are valued, and very old ones are too, but middle-aged buildings are exposed, and many good ones don’t make it.

Finally, though, in the return of the breeze block is a story about ornament. Many contemporary architects are exploring new modes of surface and material ornament, and it’s easy to see the return of the breeze block as part of this movement. The exploration, and valuation, of pattern, geometry, adornment and richness in the surface of buildings is very much A Good Thing. And so, all hail the breeze block: a material redeemed.

Originally published on The Conversation.

Demand for quality office accommodation creates empty spaces in Canberra

New research from JLL has demonstrated a disparity between vacancy rates across Canberra’s primary and secondary office accommodation.

The Wrap, released on Wednesday by the global real estate firm, noted that a “two-tier market” had emerged in Canberra’s office sector.

The overall vacancy rate fell to 13.2 per cent during the first quarter of 2016.

While a prime vacancy rate of just 7.3 per cent was recorded, 21.3 per cent of Canberra’s secondary office space remained vacant.

About 32,000 square metres of obsolete stock was removed for refurbishment or residential and carpark conversions during the past 12 months.

According to JLL’s ACT head of tenant representation Gavin Martin, the federal government’s Project Tetris – an initiative aimed at reducing the amount of vacant taxpayer-funded public service office space – has spurred activity in the sector.

“Stronger leasing activity, driven by a combination of Project Tetris, natural lease expiries and robust incentives, particularly at the quality end of the market, resulted in positive 13,700 square metres of total net absorption in the first quarter of 2016,” Mr Martin said.

“Rents are up slightly and we project that incentives have reached their cyclical peak and are expected to trend lower over the medium term.”

Mr Martin said strong demand for higher quality offices had led to fewer options for commercial tenants in Canberra’s CBD.

“While the market is improving, the choice for tenants seeking larger space continues to be limited due to historic lack of new development in the CBD, other than purpose built for specific occupiers,” Mr Martin said.

He said the majority of new projects planned in Canberra during the next four years were dependent on sufficient levels of pre-commitment, with eight projects planned, totalling 211,000 square metres.

The report noted that there were still options for smaller tenants, but these were becoming increasingly limited to lower quality spaces.

“Smaller tenants should be aware that, as demand grows, it is more difficult to secure quality space,” Mr Martin said.

Canberra’s overall vacancy rate of 13.2 per cent was just above the national CBD average of 11.9 per cent.

Perth’s vacancy rate of 24.6 per cent was the highest in the country.

Sydney and Melbourne recorded the lowest vacancy rates at 7.1 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

Jarrod Mullen: We’ll win some games before season is over

FROMwhat I’ve been told, there has been a bit of noise this weekabout how many games we’ve won this year, how many we’ve lost, our position on the ladder and where we might finish up.

That’s understandable, because those are obvious talking points for the fans and media.

But as players, we honestly can’t dwell on any of thatstuff.

If we do, it might become a distraction that we just don’t need. We need to concentrate on what we can control.

It’s been a long, tough year and our loss to Manly last weekend was just another setback. But for us, nothing really changes week to week.

We have to go into every game believing we can win and giving ourselves the best possible chance of doing so.

That means everyone preparing themselves as professionally as they can, both individually and collectively.

It starts with post-match recovery, to make sure weare in the best physicalshape to play again in less than a week.

At training, it’s important that everyone turns up focused on doing the little things right, on the pitch and in the gym.

We’ll reviewour previous performance on video, looking for aspects of our gamewe need to improve, and analyse our opposition, looking for areas we think we can exploit.

It’s then a matter of turning up on game day and putting our plan into practice.

Obviously we haven’t won anywhere near as many games this year as we would have liked, and that’s disappointing.But it’s not through lack of desire or effort.

We’ve been in winning positions probably half-a-dozen times this year, and unfortunately we’ve let a few teams off the hook.

All we can do is persevere, keep working as hard as we can, and take our chances when they come.We desperately want to finish the season off with a few wins, to reward the young guys in our team and also, of course, our loyal fans.

I’m really confident we’ll have something to celebrate in the near future.

I remember my first season in the NRL, back in 2005, we lost 13 games in a row that year but then had a drought-breaking win at Penrith and finished with eight wins from our last 11 games.

That gave us a springboard into 2006, when we made the top four in the play-offs.

That one win at Penrith was a massive turning point. Suddenly the pressure was off and everyone was able to play with a bit of confidence.

One win became two, two became three and so on.

Hopefully history can repeat itself in our last five games.

Fingers crossed I can play a role in all five games. My hamstring strain is improving rapidly and the plan is to return against Canterbury on Saturday.

It’s great to be back at home, and we’llappreciate all the support we can get.

REWARD: Knights celebrate Peter Mata’utia’s try against Manly last weekend. Newcastle scored the last 16 points in the match. Picture: Getty Images

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