Touch the Earth Lightly

By Emmanuel Narokobi

I was reading a magazine on the weekend about Glenn Murcutt, an Australian Architect who spent a part of his childhood in PNG. His main tenet of design is to create buildings and structures that fit into the environment that it is being built. He’s going through a little trouble right now with a job at Moonlight Head, which is how I got to reading about him, but he’s still apparently an icon in architecture around the world. He won the Alvar Aalto Medal in 1992, and the Pritzker Prize in 2002.

 Now the thing that really caught my interest in him was that he uses allot of corrugated iron in his designs, which comes from seeing allot of it being used when he was a child in PNG. Here is an excerpt from an article on him:

“Glenn remembers their home in New Guinea, built by his father, with a roof of light weight corrugated iron, and perched on stilts a full story above ground to keep water and reptiles out, as well as affording some protection from quite dangerous local people…At one point, Glenn says he was concerned that he was becoming known as the “corrugated Gal Iron King.” He points out that he hasn’t used galvanized iron just to be using it as a gimmick. He says, “I use it because it’s an important material for the things I want to do. It’s capable of giving me that thinness, that lightweight quality, an edge, a fineness, economy and strength and profile. I’m able to bend it and curve it in two dimensions. I love it because it reflects the quality of the light of the day and surrounding colors. On a dull day, the building dulls down; on a bright day, the building is bright. When laid with the ribs horizontal, the upper surface of the corrugation picks up the sky light and the lower surface, the ground light — accentuating the horizontal. That’s a material which responds to its environment.”

Makes me think of all those new age bush houses in Australia that use corrugated iron and well we still use heaps of it here in PNG.

In terms of Architecture, I wonder if architects in PNG think like that and would energy saving buildings be cheaper to build or just cheaper to operate in the long term? I’m no architect but just wondering??

Touch the Earth Lightly‘ is the name of his autobiography. Read an ABC interview with Glenn Murcutt here.


Oh, and his father Arthur Murcutt in the early 1930’s once teamed up with a mate to build a yacht in which the two of them would sail across the Pacific. The mate was a fellow Australian, Errol Flynn, before he achieved his movie stardom in the United States. Their cruise was canceled when the boat sank shortly after being launched. As his father related the story, it sank due to sabotage to prevent Flynn from leaving the country owing money.


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