Australia v Sri Lanka: Sub-continent to shape Darren Lehmann’s coaching legacy


GALLE: Darren Lehmann doesn’t believe his tenure will be defined by how Australia performs on the sub-continent – but that’s a debatable point.

Skipper Steve Smith has spoken about his determination to win on the sub-continent and Lehmann is central to that – all the way through until October 2019 when a World Cup and Ashes road trip culminate in what will have been his six-year coaching run.

Already, Lehmann has helped secure a home Ashes whitewash and the World Cup last year. Some would understandably define those two events as the pinnacle, but such have the world champions’ troubles been on the turning decks of Sri Lanka and, particularly, in India, that this part of the world will define the Lehmann legacy.

The resources and attention to detail Cricket Australia has put into improving results on the sub-continent highlights the importance of this task. There are Australia A tours, specialist training sessions (four players were sent to India for a week before this Sri Lanka series) and extended warm-up campaigns.

“What else can we do really?” selection chairman Rod Marsh pondered this week.

That so many Australian players now feature in the Indian Premier League also adds to the frustration of why they do not have better results in Tests on the sub-continent. It certainly shows why the long-form format remains the pinnacle of the game.

Lehmann was a fabulous player of spin, one of the best of his blue-chip generation, in his 27 Tests, as shown in his series high of 375 runs at 62.5 on the winning 2004 tour of Sri Lanka. His challenge is to pass on why he was so successful, and there is no better place to start than in Galle on Thursday when the tourists chase history – they have never come from behind to win on the sub-continent.

Admittedly, the challenge of winning in England also looms as a major one. Some would argue the greatest. Australia have not won there since 2001. But the defeats since haven’t been as one-sided there, on the whole, as they have been in India. Australia’s dominance from 1989 to 2001 in England also eases the recent frustration.

When it comes to India, Australia’s two most recent Test series wins were in 2004 under stand-in skipper Adam Gilchrist and in 1969-70 under Bill Lawry. They have not won an individual Test since that 2004 campaign, having been subsequently beaten 2-0, 2-0 and 4-0. That’s why for many cricket purists, victory in India – for the time being at least – remains the pinnacle. It would certainly put an end to questions whether Australia, when ranked No.1, as is the case now, are truly the best side.

A comeback victory on the sub-continent, as early as in this series against the sport’s seventh-ranked nation, would also give Smith’s team a fear factor it lacks. Mental dominance can be just as powerful as a physical one – the former something Australia had enjoyed over South Africa through the 1990s and early 2000s.

Lehmann says it’s important to win anywhere, and that is true, for big series wins typically come as a result of taking care of business against the lesser-ranked nations.

“I think you’re judged on results most of the time all around the world not just on the sub-continent. I think you’ve got to play well and win a lot of games of cricket basically as a coach,” he said.

“That’s what players have to do, that’s what coaches have to do in any sport. You’ve got to, hopefully, keep getting the results that makes it a lot easier.”

As Australia can attest to, there’s nothing easy about winning on the sub-continent. And the task of a breakthrough series win in India in February – one which would begin to shape Lehmann’s legacy – won’t be made any easier should there be failure here in a series many had tipped the tourists to win.

ACT Brumbies assistant Dan McKellar hit with fine for heated referee confrontation

Dan McKellar was fined $10,000 by SANZAAR, with $5000 suspended. Photo: Melissa AdamsThe ACT Brumbies’ shattering exit from the Super Rugby title race took another twist on Tuesday when assistant coach Dan McKellar was slapped with a $10,000 fine for misconduct after a controversial end to their quarter-final loss.

McKellar has apologised to referee Angus Gardner after using crude or insulting language to the match official after a tense end to the loss to the Otago Highlanders last month.

Gardner raised the ire of everyone at Brumbyland when he denied winger Lausii Taliauli a potential match-winning try with five minutes left in the 15-9 defeat, and then refused to penalise the Highlanders’ scrum in the final seconds.

Super Rugby’s governing body, SANZAAR, did not want to comment on Gardner’s performance in the Brumbies-Highlanders match.

But McKellar’s fiery outburst after full-time has cost him dearly, with SANZAAR handing down a fine, with $5000 of the total suspended for the next 12 months.

Judicial officer Terry Willis has gagged the Brumbies from commenting on the situation, with SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos the only person allowed to speak about the issue.

Willis said McKellar had “unreservedly apologised” to Gardner since, and agreed such behaviour had no place in the game.

McKellar was found to be in breach of code of conduct sections 8.3 (k) and 8.3 (l), which states: “All persons shall not use crude, insulting or abusive language towards match officials.”

Meanwhile, the Brumbies are still waiting for a decision on coach Stephen Larkham’s immediate future, as he weighs up an option to join the Wallabies as a full-time assistant.

Larkham’s contract will expire at the end of the year and the timing of his decision will likely mean he remains with the Brumbies for at least the 2017 Super Rugby season.

However, one option is to lead the Brumbies through a transition period next year before joining the Wallabies in a permanent role in the seasons leading to the 2019 World Cup.

That would give the Brumbies time to plan for his potential departure, but the club is keen to keep Larkham for the next three seasons.

Larkham has juggled his dual role for the past two seasons, but it has limited the World Cup-winning former fly-half to less than a month of holidays since the start of last year.

He is negotiating with the Brumbies and the ARU to find the right balance and wants to play a role with both teams.

It is expected he will make his final decision within the next two weeks, to allow both camps to plan for the future.

The Brumbies are also searching for a new permanent chief executive, with the job to be advertised in the coming weeks.

Australia v Sri Lanka: Jon Holland’s career takes sudden turn for the better

GALLE: Australian spinner Jon Holland had thought his Test career had passed him by but believes he is ready to handle the pressure in the second Test against Sri Lanka.

As Holland prepares for his debut, Sri Lanka was dealt a blow when fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep strained a hamstring at training and was sent to Colombo for scans. He could be the fourth local quick unavailable for selection because of injury.

Pradeep claimed two wickets in Australia’s first innings in Kandy, including opener David Warner.

Steve O’Keefe’s hamstring strain during the Kandy opener meant the tourists had to quickly find a replacement. That came almost too quick for Holland, who, having received a call from selection chairman Rod Marsh, remembered he still had not renewed his passport.

“I knew the week before. I tried to verify a betting account. I needed my passport and I saw it was expired,” Holland said.

Holland, 29, was able to fast-track a new passport, something which could also be said of his cricketing status this year. He has gone from back-up spinner to Fawad Ahmed in the Victorian team, to a hero of the Sheffield Shield final, to selection for Australia A when Ashton Agar was hurt, and now almost certainly the Test side on Thursday.

He toured India with Australia’s one-day international side in 2009 but did not play.

“I guess it was in the back of my mind that time was getting away from me but I really enjoy playing cricket for Victoria,” he said.

“They’ve stuck with me through three shoulder injuries and supported me and given me the chance to play cricket. I have to thank them. It’s all a bit surreal still and I will just have to wait and see if I do get the chance to play.”

The Galle deck almost certainly will take sharp turn, possibly from day one, as the hosts look to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath to retain his hold on the Australian batsmen.

Workers continue to get the ground on the southwest coast, with the 16th century fortress overlooking it, ready, in much the same manner as Holland is in terms of preparing himself for what awaits. He watched parts of the first Test in Brisbane while preparing for an Australia A series and has never played in Galle.

“I’ve been over here [Sri Lanka] a couple of times, I’ve been to India a couple of times, so I have been exposed to these conditions, but it’s been a while since I have been here so I will have to get a bit of a feel for it at training,” he said.

“We were here for the under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka – it’s a few years ago now. We came over here with a Victorian emerging players team and India as well and with the academy. I’ve been to India a few times.”

That may be the case but nothing will compare to the magnitude of being Australia’s 444th Test representative in a match the tourists must at least draw to have a chance of retaining the Warne-Muralidaran trophy.

The challenge before the tourists is great – they have never trailed in a series on the sub-continent and rebounded to win. Only three times in almost 140 years of Test cricket has Australia managed to do so on the road – all in Ashes campaigns.

“Obviously, I will be a little bit nervous if I do get a chance to play. I have worked hard on my bowling the last couple of years, I am pretty comfortable with where my bowling’s at,” Holland said.

“Hopefully, if I do get a chance, I can get myself into the game and get a couple of results.”

Holland has subtle changes of pace and can turn the ball appreciably, helping him to 106 wickets at 37.9 in 38 first-class matches. But what looms as pivotal in this series is the need to attack the pads and stumps, something Herath did so well last week.

“He knows the conditions extremely well here. He just bowls on the spot and knows how to subtly change his spin and variations and pace,” Holland said.

“I think just about every time he bowls the ball it’s hitting the stumps which is a big positive. I try to take a bit of that on board and try to do the same as that.”

Finding a quick way through the defence of Kusal Mendis, the match-winner in Kandy, will also be crucial for the tourists.

“You’ve just got to go out there and take the game on and be positive,” Holland said.

Wallabies take on Sydney Roosters in opposed training session before Rugby Championship

Mixing it up: The Wallabies ran an opposed session against the Sydney Roosters in preparation for their upcoming Rugby Championship fixtures. Photo: rugby南京桑拿南京夜生活 Mixing it up: Sean McMahon of the Wallabies tackles Rooster Boyd Cordner. Photo: rugby南京桑拿南京夜生活

Friends: Roosters coach Trent Robinson and Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika. Photo: rugby南京桑拿南京夜生活

Israel Folau versus Blake Ferguson. Bernard Foley taking on Mitchell Pearce. Michael Hooper doing battle with Aidan Guerra.

It might sound like a cross-code match-up made in heaven but it became a reality on Tuesday as the Wallabies ran an opposed session against the Sydney Roosters in preparation for their upcoming Rugby Championship fixtures.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and Roosters boss Trent Robinson are close mates and were the brains behind the session at Sydney Grammar School in Rushcutters Bay where the Wallabies are in camp.

According to onlookers, the rugby and league stars didn’t hold back in a session with a little twist.

When the Wallabies attacked the Roosters defended from 10 metres back – like they do every weekend – while Trent Robinson’s men had to try to make line breaks with Cheika’s troops standing next to the play of the ball.

The session went for about 90 minutes in total, with 30 minutes of it allocated to full contact and the other time for teams to split up and do their own drills.

For years footy fans have debated who would win a game between league and rugby players, however from the unofficial session it would appear both sides were relatively evenly matched.

“Training up against the Chookies, it was good fun,” Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps told rugby南京桑拿南京夜生活. “They were good. It was different for them, not having that 10-metre line against them and it was different for us the way they defended. Obviously something different that we haven’t done before but it was great training against some of those great players. Such a prestigious club, a lot of history there and their players are obviously at the peak of their game and getting to share a few ideas and going against each other in training against teams that haven’t seen how they play too much is something that’s been pretty good.”

Phipps’ deputy in Nick Frisby, who was keeping a close eye on tri-colours No.9 Jake Friend at dummy half, is a “massive” Broncos fan but said it was a huge thrill to train against the Roosters in a session he learnt a lot from.

“I just tried to stay away from the big boys,” Frisby said. “I think there was a good respect for both games there today and we ran a bit of a hybrid game, attacking in union and defending in league and vice versa. It was interesting to see how the different skills transfer across the different games.”

The Wallabies will remain in Sydney for training this week before heading to Terrigal for another week-long camp.

They will then return to Sydney to prepare for the first Bledisloe Cup game against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 20.

Nestled with mother, vets and keepers, ‘little fighter’ Willow loses her battle

Willow lost her six-week battle on Tuesday. Melbourne Zoo’s head vet Dr Michael Lynch shows Willow’s problem. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Elephant keepers had been waiting for Num-Oi to give birth for a while. Photo: Justin McManus

Melbourne Zoo released this ultrasound picture when it announced that Num-Oi was pregnant in November 2014. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Willow’s mother Num-Oi, seen here with another of the zoo’s baby elephants, Mali. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Willow’s mother Num-Oi was obviously very sad, zoo keepers said. Photo: Justin McManus

Melbourne Zoo’s elephant calf Willow had endured a lot of pain and had gained a reputation as a fighter in her short life, but it was only on Monday that her keepers realised the “sweet, adorable little thing” was not going to make it.

The six-week-old calf had been battling a blood-borne infection for a fortnight and was showing signs of improvement, but over the weekend her condition worsened.

The zoo’s head vet, Michael Lynch, said he could tell the animal had been in pain.

Her knees had swollen up – an ominous sign the staphylococcus infection had penetrated the bones in her legs – and on Monday night she was taken to the University of Melbourne’s Werribee vet clinic for a CT scan, which confirmed her vets’ worst fears.

“The damage to one joint of her hind leg was so severe she could not have had a normal life afterwards, even if we had been able to get the infection under control,” Dr Lynch said.

“We decided not to persevere.”

It was at that point that he made the difficult decision to withdraw the medical treatment a team of vets, nurses and specialists had been providing for Willow around the clock for almost seven weeks.

From the hospital, the head of the elephant enclosure, Dominic Moss, called all 18 of her vets, keepers and nurses to tell them the bad news.

All 18 gave up their Monday night and returned to the zoo to say goodbye.

The calf was gently ushered into the elephant barn and reunited with her mother Num-Oi for the last time.

While the calf was nestled beside its mother, the specialists unhooked the two intravenous drips that had been providing Willow with nutrients for most of its life.

Then they administered the injection that would put the 108 kilogram animal to sleep.

“Num-Oi stood over Willow and on two occasions slept alongside the calf,” Mr Moss said.

“She was very calm – she was aware of what had happened. You could see she was sad and she has distanced herself from the rest of the herd today.”

It is the second time Num-Oi, an Asian elephant, has mourned a dead calf.

Willow’s brother, Sanook, died in an accident in 2013 at the age of 11 months while playing with a hanging tyre in the barn one evening.

Willow was born on June 15 with congenital carpal flexure, a condition that meant she could not stand up or suckle her mother, and was in a critical condition for her entire life.

Because of her difficulties with feeding, she struggled to get the nutrients she needed, and she was given milk formula and hooked up to a drip that provided her with protein and vital sugars.

She was cared for around the clock by a team of 18 that included an equine surgery and medicine specialist, an equine physiotherapist, a corrective farrier, a veterinary ophthalmologist, a cardiologist and a pathologist.

Corrective surgery allowed the calf to stand for brief periods, but shortly after she made it to the one-month mark she suffered a major setback.

“Just when we were getting on top of that she got the infection,” Dr Lynch said.

He said Willow had been gaining weight before the infection struck.

When asked why the zoo had persisted with the round-the-clock care, Dr Lynch said he felt they had to if there was a chance to help the “critical endangered” species of elephant.

“While we felt there was a chance, we put the resources in and the zoo made that commitment,” he said.

“This animal was 22 months in the making in gestation. And before that there was a whole lot of planning.

“There are not many of these animals in captivity so she was a valuable animal.

“But she was also a sweet little animal and we wanted to do the best for her.”

Willow with Melbourne Zoo veterinary nurse Jenny Kingston.

He recalled Willow’s playful nature, and the way the calf would try to grab its bottle back whenever it was taken away.

Mr Moss said the elephant was “a little fighter”.

“She had a strong will to live, but circumstances beyond her control meant she couldn’t make it,” he said.

“She was a feisty one to the very end. The mind was there but the body wasn’t able”

Zoo director Kevin Tanner thanked the “absolutely devastated” staff for their efforts and said they would also have access to grief counsellors.

He also thanked the community for its outpouring of support for Willow.

The calf’s body has been taken to the Werribee vet school, where Mr Tanner said it would be disposed of.

Animal rights campaigners say that Willow’s tragic early death supported their contention that zoos should neither keep nor try to breed elephants.

PETA Australia’s campaign coordinator Claire Fryer said that attempting to breed the pachyderms in captivity often ends in tragedy and called on Melbourne Zoo to close their elephant exhibit.

“Given the lack of stimulation and exercise and the inbreeding inherent at zoos, the infant-mortality rate for elephants is almost triple the rate in the wild,” Ms Fryer said in a statement.

Despite this, she added, “Melbourne Zoo continues to breed these intelligent animals in an effort to churn out more cash cows

“Zoos around the world have closed their elephant exhibits or announced plans to phase them out, citing their own inability to meet the significant needs of these animals.

“It’s time for Melbourne Zoo to do the same.”

Mr Tanner said the Zoo would continue with its breeding program.

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

Powered by WordPress. Design: Supermodne.