The Shine Dome at the Academy of Sciences

In the early 1960s we took a family holiday which included a visit to the Shine Dome at the newly established Academy of Sciences in Canberra. Designed by Sir Roy Grounds and built in 1959, it was the first building in the Australian Capital Territory to be added to the National Heritage List. I always liked this photo from the visit but only now realize the significance of the building. “Life can only be understood backwards; but must be lived forwards”, Kierkegaard. 

Travel options

It all began with days added on to work travel, such as the Taj Mahal in India, the Parliament Buildings by Louis Kahn in Bangladesh, the Pompidou Museum in Paris and the exhibition of Zaha Hadid’s drawings and models at the Design Museum in London. Time was very limited and these encounters powerful and addictive.

Next I started travelling with Martin Randall Travel (, a British company that specialises in cultural tourism and a focus on modern architecture. I’ve clocked up five to Finland, Norway, the East Coast, West Coast and New England in the USA. These trips were an important way to experience significant buildings first hand and to develop a framework for understanding them.

The Open House Movement ( starting in London in 1992, provided access to architecture, design talks and forums linked with the national or local Institute of Architects. In some cities such as New York, the Open House Programme promotes and takes place along side the Architecture and Design Film Festival ( It’s on in Hobart on the 5-6 November with opportunities to visit commercial and residential buildings.

The Institutes of Architecture in cities like London, Chicago or Sydney offer comprehensive  websites, great book shops and vast expertise about what is going on. Self guided or sponsored architecture walks are an intimate way to get to know areas of cities. Many buildings, such as the Barbican and the Oslo Opera House, also offer regular guided tours that provide a concise overview and local insights. Architectural Institutes in smaller cities can often suggest local guides or other options even if there is no scheduled programme.

The global London Design Festival ( this year was comprehensive, stimulating and addictive, and I plan to go back next year 16 – 24 September 2017. More posts about #LDF16 to come. The London Festival Architecture held every June is another possibility. While the World Architecture Festival in Berlin ( linked with the World Festival of Interiors look more focused for professionals, the websites provide vast amounts of information.

Many cities have architecture and design festivals such as Beijing Design Week (,  the Istanbul Design Biennal (, the Sydney Architecture Festival ( and the Adelaide festival of Architecture and Design (

Airbnb is another way to experience architectural masterpieces. Just google Airbnb and architecture and then explore further via the app. Hosts who are are architects or designers provide great photos and descriptions and a wish list of architects house to visit is a great way to start. Also keep an eye on open gardens which often provide opportunities to see rare houses and real estate ads for hidden gems that are occasionally for sale and have open days.

Future posts will provide more information about the highlights and lessons learned during my travels for friends and others interested. Equally it will hopefully connect me with like minded travellers.  


It started with a Swedish dish

It started with a small Swedish dish, hand painted by Stig Lindberg as I later discovered. My father, David Hartley Wilson, travelled to England in the 1930s, newly graduated from Hobart Tech and jobless; it is said that he lived on a houseboat in London for a time. Travel runs in the family as his great grandfather, William Hartley Wilson, arrived in Tasmania, then Van Diemen’s Land, on 27 November 1820. A stone mason, he was seen by many as the first colonial architect. His great grandson, my father, was persuaded into architecture by his aunts and his practice was considerable, covering residential and commercial projects and a number of partners, including Dirk Bolt. He and my mother travelled together to Europe and the USA in 1954 and 1962 and the Stig Lindberg dish was doubtless a keepsake. Towards the end of my years in the United Nations I started to explore design and architecture through extensive travelling. Understanding my aesthetics roots in retrospect!