This website shows the results of The Grand Section journey which was documented and exhibited nationally in the exhibition, Girthy: with Slim Edges. All of this work is documented and displayed here. +Explore the girth of the country and may the girth be with you.
What is “The Grand Section”?
In 2017 Bobbie and Owen undertook an architecture and cycling odyssey from the east to west, through the guts of Australia, including Alice Springs. This was called "The Grand Section", it was a year-long, 7650km architectural study along Australia's metaphorical heart-line, Uluru's latitude. It was an attempt to better understand their own country slowly and without a bloody windscreen in the way. The pair stopped for one week in 19 places, engaging with locals, documenting and analysing the place; how and why people are living the way they are, presenting their findings back to the communities they stayed with. This cross section of studying Australia's Architecture so closely is unprecedented.
The broader ‘Australia’ is largely unknown. The fringe, in which 85% of Australians inhabit, is only a part of the broader whole. A typical Australian myth pervades; Girt by sea, Girth by Desert. The reality of Australia though, is in fact much more diverse than this.
It is clear as the layers and patterns of this island continent begin to be overlaid, we begin to appreciate the value and influence of the layers; geology, ecology, hard & anecdotal data have to slowly uncover and realise the nature of Australian habitation. Further overlaying the Indigenous language map and the commonwealth borders (see image on home page) it’s possible to visualise how very different approaches to in-habitation exist. All of which are outside our knowing as fringe dwellers.
Changing societal living trends and expectations, increasing urbanism and housing density, the fringe is creeping further from the ground plane into the sky and from the edges to our red center. As the fringe creeps, we have a responsibility in the built environment to have a sensibility, to go beyond replicating and continuing to transpose the generic Anglo-Saxon, mongrel-esque typologies of habitation which exist. To fully understand the reality of our own country it is crucial that we begin to explore, invest in and understand the nature of the entirety of Australia and its respective habitations.
‘The Grand Section’ combines the principles of The Grand Tour; the educational rite of passage looking abroad for inspiration and teaching, and an architectural section; a crucial drawing to understand interrelationships. A participatory Australian based journey attempting to increase our understanding of the reality of nature of its habitations and the in-between.
A section, through the guts, from east to west, using latitude 25 Deg as the arbiter to remove preconceptions. Slowness over a 10 month duration, journeying and taking refuge in landscape for shelter.
Latitude 25 Deg. is book ended by two islands flanking our island continent.
From the most easterly point on Fraser island the journey began February 2017, along the latitude, travelling through fringes, deserts and The Red Centre to the most western point, Dorre Island arriving Late December 2017 - some 7650kms later.
A journey by bicycle, deliberately slowing the pace. An immersive experience forcing a direct interaction and understanding of place, people and stuff.
Both conventional and radical, adhering to proven architectural doctrine whilst attempting to break the mould of architecture, time was spent in ‘places’ en-route, conversing, observing, listening, documenting, studying and experiencing the variations in habitation.
An exhibition at each place allowed us to document the variations of habitation across Australia and was our exchange with the locals who gave us their time. Showing what we had observed and learned from their town to encourage dialogue of the wider public around Australian habitation.
We used a system of tools to produce a rigorous analysis of what we saw, felt and experienced along the journey. As a homogeneous lens, our analysis sort to answer one question; How does Place influence in-habitation? and, a stolen hierarchy of; Place, People, Stuff to focus our study, ensuring our analysis did not conform to a conventional architectural appreciation.
What was “Girthy; with Slim Edges”?
It turned "The Grand Section" into a national touring exhibition called, "Girthy; with Slim Edges" which roamed through towns and cities delivering Australia’s innards to its outer fringe giving insight into the reality of Australia and the regional and remote areas of this incredible country. All out of a recycled tent "art-gallery"!
"...the health of cities depends on the health of rural areas...the pre-condition of all economic life, takes place in the country side...to restore a proper balance between city and rural life is perhaps the biggest task in front of modern man"
- E.F. Schumacher, "Small is Beautiful"