A pair of interstate architects are bringing a unique perspective to Canberra’s grand designs that locals often take for granted.
When’s the last time you stopped and enjoyed the amazing architecture the nation’s capital has on show?
Kevin Hui is founder of Archimarathon and has run architectural tours across the globe for more than 20 years.
“Canberra itself is completely overlooked by most people,” Kevin said.
“I know that most people love to hate Canberra and anyone who says something nice about Canberra ends up front page news.
“But there is some really good stuff there and it’s just forgotten.”
The aim of the Archimarathon, through its tours and YouTube channel, is to explore great architecture and tell people what’s special about it.
Along with award-winning architect Andrew Maynard of Victorian-based Austin Maynard Architects, they run educational tours of unique design.
Over three days in May, Kevin and Andrew toured and filmed some of Canberra’s most iconic locations.
Taking in places like the High Court, the National Portrait Gallery, the Shine Dome – they offer their distinctive view on buildings many Canberrans pass by every day.
“There’s a lot of good stuff to see,” Kevin said.
“Part of Archimarathon is to try to make the public aware of good architecture and why design is important.”
Kevin is mostly behind the camera with Andrew playing the front man.
Their passion for design is clear, as they filmed through the High Court.
They point out aspects from its overall brutalist but transparent structure, down to brass hand rails specially made to fit the broad, chipped-concrete columns and small spaces in between.
“That’s what makes good architecture – it’s not just the big gestures but also all the way through to the finer details,” Kevin said.
“Those things are quite powerful.”
The Finnish Lutheran Church in Turner was a particular stand-out.
“It’s so hard to find any information on it,” Kevin said.
“The inside was pretty special, especially if you look at the original plans and realise it could’ve looked a lot better as well.”
However touring these icons wasn’t all easy.
They’d often have to ask for permission to see parts of these places the general public aren’t allowed to.
But the Embassy of Finland building presented some obstacles.
The building’s sleek steel and glass design speaks to an idea of transparency.
But the Archimarathon video is currently being reviewed by officials in Helsinki to ensure they aren’t showing too much.
“I’m sure ASIO’s got our files,” Kevin said wryly.
“[Though] they probably looked up our channel and said ‘eh, low risk’.”
Watching them excitedly pore over every architectural detail almost feels like seeing Canberra’s icons for the very first time.
But it’s not just the capital’s grand buildings that caught their eye.
Even structures like the iconic bus shelters, or the National Gallery of Australia’s car park offer sources of fascination for them.
“Canberra has a lot of character and I think that’s giving way to a lot of things that are not necessarily distinctive,” he said.
“It seems to be trying to be everything else that it’s not, rather than embracing its own character.”
READ ALSO: The best architects in Canberra
It’s the more intimate inter-connecting spaces in between the larger designs that Kevin says Canberra can really express itself as it continues to grow.
“New Acton is a great example – how they’ve retrofitted that area and actually done some smaller-scale stuff,” he said.
“Like the Nishi Gallery and the little bike shop.”
“They’ve done the in-between space really well, rather than just big things in paddocks and just space in between.”
Clearly three days wasn’t enough as Kevin is keen to return – and even run tours in the future.
“It was great to explore… specifically looking for things that are unique or forgotten about Canberra,” he said.
You can catch Kevin and Andrew’s tour of Canberra at Archimarathon on Youtube.