The Architecture People
This novel chronicles the life of an architect who becomes obsessed by his work to the exclusion of all else. Michael Grant, born in working class Fitzroy in the Thirties, gets caught up with the modern movement in architecture and the possibilities for social transformation inherent in the architectural process; his wife describes it as his religion. Michael recounts how his wife Lotti often described modern architects in a faux serious routine, telling people,
'What you have to understand is that modern architects are a tribe, they are the Architecture People,' she would say, 'in the same way that gypsies are the Romany People, both are world wide tribes, both a bit at odds with the modern world. They all have Eames chairs or Aalto furniture, and most have made pilgrimages to Falling Water and the Villa Savoye. They have a strong preference for the music of J S Bach and cool jazz, and they all take the same sorts of photographs, they're very keen on arcades and courtyards, and townscape sequences are big too.'
Written in the first person with Michael speaking about his life and work, his wife Lotti, a painter, their children Luca and Sara, Luca's wife Vicki and their children Victoria and Adelaide, they all reflect light on different aspects of Michael's life. There is no complex plot but the novel portrays the tenor and strains of his personal life and the trials and tribulations of a working architect, and gives insights into the day-to-day professional concerns behind the final buildings. The novel is not strictly chronological but is anchored in its time and place by real political events, real people, and by the parts of Melbourne and Sydney in which it unfolds.
The Architecture People sets out to portray Michael Grant as an architectural 'type', a composite of the many architects the author has known, set in the contemporary architectural world. Many insights and psychological truths are revealed during the course of Michael's life. Michael is both likeable and obsessive, interesting and self aware, but also self-absorbed and can be a bit tedious with his obsessive pursuit of the ideal of true contemporary architecture as a vehicle for social transformation. However he is someone you would probably like to know even though he's so obsessed about his creative work. And the background of the novel attempts to give a real sense of the architectural world in contemporary Australia, that although in the broadest sense Architecture with a capital A is an art, it is also a hard business behind the scenes.
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