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Every regional city and town has basic amenities of some description. A post office, a school, a town hall, a police station, and sometimes, a swimming pool. Across the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), the majority of these buildings were designed by the NSW Government Architect’s Office (GAO), most prolifically over a period of thirty years from 1958 to 1988. These civic structures – equally recognisable and indistinguishable in their form and wider sensibilities – create an oeuvre of public architecture that is both statewide and specifically local. Yet, due to the fact that these buildings largely act in service of our daily lives and routines, they are often perceived as exceedingly ordinary and overlooked as serious architecture.
Led by architect and academic Guillermo Fernandez-Abascal, photographer Hamish McIntosh and a team of contributors – including Jordan Bamford, Jack Cooper, Christopher Kerr, Billy McQueenie, Nyoah Rosmarin and others – Regional Bureaucracy corrals these buildings as a distinct, if not idiosyncratic, collection. Utilising new drawings, photographs and stories, the book outlines a body of work that stands as recent evidence of how modern architecture can construct a state – albeit a complicated and ambitious one.
This is not a monograph of the GAO. The goal was not to capture an exhaustive or historical ‘truth’, nor to form a clear argument about the GAO’s output and production. Rather, Regional Bureaucracy – anecdotally, analytically and always critically – presents a selection of relevant regional works that reveal an architectural mode that is distinctly ‘good enough’. None of the GAO’s projects are presented in a comprehensive manner here. Instead, this book draws a looser fabric of observations and details, leaving the reader with the space to make their own interpretations and, perhaps, the inspiration to visit the buildings themselves.
Nicole Ho and Samson Ossedryver
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