During a recent visit to the Australian National University an old love was rediscovered – a building that until recently was all but a distant memory – the Australian Academy of Science Building by Grounds, Romberg & Boyd.
It was an admiration that began some fourteen years ago during a second year architectural history class. The first encounter was only brief – it was probably only one slide of many in a session that covered Australian architecture in the 1950s and 60s – but it certainly captured the imagination. The Academy of Science Building, which was designed essentially by Roy Grounds with the rest of the firm of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd being brought in during the documentation process, was a building so different that anything that I had seen before, it was so futuristic in its appearance and so “out there”. Like many architectural loves at the time, it was a brief affair as one’s head was constantly being turned from week to week with new architectural curiosities.
Fast-forward fourteen years and like many old loves the memory of them has faded but suddenly you find yourself in the same city and that’s when the chance meetings start to happen. First there was the glimpse at night on the bus trip home, on a bus that you normally don’t take home. But of course you are not exactly sure if you. Then there is second encounter after a trip the National Museum of Australia and you thoughts about the first encounter are confirmed – it is indeed the building you thought it was – it is indeed the Australian Academy of Science.
What follows is change of bus route in the morning just so you can grab a clandestine glance on your way to work. You take it is as a moment of inspiration before the daily grind kicks in. Then you think that you really should take the next step – a meeting that lasts more than the couple of seconds viewing from a bus.
So on a rather chilly Saturday in June (aren’t they all) you finally take the plunge and meet face to face (in a matter of speaking). It is everything you expected and maybe a little more. You wander around taking photos from different angles but then you realise that it is a round building and those photos will all look a bit the same.
You then take a closer inspection admiring the copper cladding sitting atop the concrete structure, noting that it has weathered a little and could do with a bit of clean. But you don’t really mind. Then there is time spent admiring your reflection in the pool that surrounds the building like a moat. There is the wish to take a look inside, especially to take a look at the much talked about conference room but the day you visit it is closed to the public. At first you a disappointed and make do with a furtive glance through a window but then you realise that it means you have to come visit again when that opportunity arises. Plus it would be a little presumptuous to go all the way on your first date.