If there was another Perth out there in the multiverse — as a recent Oscar-winning movie would have us believe — the East Perth power station would not be a derelict building waiting to be turned into apartments.
Instead, it would look like large planks of wood had been dramatically shuffled against it, like a giant, messy deck of cards.
In this parallel world, the power station is an art gallery designed by Hassell architecture firm.
The cantilevered planks in the design, which were inspired by the cliffs along Australia’s rugged coastline, play up the drama of land meeting water.
Despite its potential to have been a landmark, the building was never commissioned.
It is one of several unbuilt projects in a PDW Unbuilt exhibition which highlights how the development of Perth has been the result of an interplay between planning and passion, strategy and chance.
Hassell principal Mark Loughnan said the architecture firm was not commissioned to create the tower, but had volunteered the design to highlight the site’s potential to draw Perth’s cultural and sporting precinct further along the river.
The Unbuilt exhibition — curated by PDW co-founder Sandy Anghie — looks at several designs that did not eventuate as real projects.
Ms Anghie said architectural practice is at the mercy of larger societal forces, and for every building constructed, there are several designs that are not.
“Creative incompletion is a core part of architectural practice, and every architect has unrealised passion projects,” she said.
Which begs the question of what Perth could have been.
St Georges Terrace could have been very different, with a futuristic glass monolith once proposed — but not developed – adjacent to the old Treasury building.
Julian Bolleter, the co-director of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre, said Elizabeth Quay is one such area that could have taken several different design paths.
Dr Bolleter, who was previously at ARM architecture when it was commissioned to create artist impressions of what the developed waterfront could look like, knows all too well how different it could have been.
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