What do St George’s Cathedral, Fremantle Prison, and Cottesloe’s controversial Indiana Teahouse have in common?
Answer: They’re among 50 Perth architectural icons featured in a new book, Built Perth, by Tom McKendrick and Elliot Langdon.
The two architectural graduates, friends and former colleagues, collaborated on the book to celebrate some of our most noteworthy buildings.
And though tragically, so many Perth’s most magnificent historic buildings were lost to skyscrapers in the 70s and 80s, this little book, published by Fremantle Press, is a reminder that some gems still do lurk in our midst.
Elliot, 28, chats to The Starfish.
Elliot, congrats on this book. How did it come about?
It started with a graphic drawing I did of the State Theatre – and ended up becoming this book. We wanted to showcase some of Perth’s iconic buildings and provide the reader with information about them as well. And we wanted it to be something that was interesting to everybody, not just architects.
How did you do the illustrations?
In our work, we commonly transform images into a “flat elevation” on the computer. I did one illustration three years ago and showed it to Tom. He liked it and suggested we perhaps should do a book. So we put together a sample of ten buildings, sent it into Fremantle Press and a week later we got a call.
How hard was it to pick which buildings made it into the book?
Very hard! We got it down to 100 and then worked from there. We wanted to catch a variety of architecture, and each building had to have cultural significance, for past or present generations. And we also chose architecture we love.
Of course, many people lament how so many wonderful Perth buildings were destroyed in the 70s and 80s.
Yes, it’s heartbreaking, what’s been destroyed. But this book is about celebrating what is here, old and new.
You’ve made a few controversial choices. For example, you haven’t featured Fremantle’s Round House (built in 1830) – but you have featured Cottesloe’s polarising Indiana Teahouse!
Leaving out the Roundhouse; that was a tough one. We really wanted to include it. But to be honest, our illustration wasn’t looking terrific, and we’ve included other great Fremantle buildings. There are so many great buildings in Fremantle, which thankfully weren’t pulled down when so many of Perth’s wonderful historical buildings were being destroyed.
And Indiana – does it really deserve to be in this group of 50?
I think it earns its place. I don’t think it’s amazing, it’s one of those buildings made to look old which is something discouraged in architecture, but you can’t deny it’s iconic. Everybody knows about it and talks about it.
Do you think it should be demolished?
Hmm.. It would be a shame for it to go. Having said that, if it could be replaced with an internationally recognised piece of architecture, public-focused, with something for everybody, I think I’d replace it! Indiana is not public-focused.
As well as these fine illustrations, you’ve compiled useful information about these buildings. Was it hard to dig it all up?
Yes, it did pose a few challenges. We got a lot of useful information from the State Library. We went there quite often, wearing white gloves and sifting through the records.
Did you learn much about our architectural history in the process?
Yes, so much. That’s been one of my favourite parts of the whole experience.
Do you think most of us are too ignorant about some of WA’s finest architects of yester-year?
Definitely. One of our early architects, George Temple Poole, (1856-1934) for example deserves to be much better known! I didn’t know who he was until a couple of years ago; there’s an architectural award named after him but I hadn’t realised the extent of his contribution to early Perth . It’s a shame more people don’t know about him.
Planning to do any more books?
Yes, we’d like to do a series, visiting cities around Australia.
The skyline’s the limit!
Built Perth, Discovering Perth’s Iconic Architecture, is published by Fremantle Press.