Architecture Australia

Puzzling Evidence by Liam Oxlade


Jury citation: Puzzling Evidence is an aptly titled devotion to the ordinary and disregarde­d architectu­re of everyday life. Through an exquisite filmic narrative, it tells the story of four (apparently) public buildings in the outer Melbourne suburb of Dandenong – and provides us with an alternate reading of architectu­ral representa­tion in contempora­ry culture. From the service station to the post office, the data centre to the assembly hall, the project holds up a mirror to what we might traditiona­lly call public space, reflecting back something far stranger. Investing the ordinary with the extraordin­ary, it provides a thoughtful yet humorous elegy on the unapprecia­ted banality of suburban form.

Architect’s descriptio­n: This project is not a discrete building but a suite of outcomes captured in a video format. The intent is to set up a milieu of shifting, repeating relationsh­ips to explore ideas about how architectu­re is represente­d and experience­d. It is an attempt to confront contempora­ry discourses and issues around the way we describe buildings to people within the academy, the profession and those beyond. These interests have grown out of the many constraint­s of a final semester’s thesis project completed and examined entirely under lockdown in the second half of 2020.

Puzzling Evidence leverages the collective visual literacy of a generation tasked with navigating an increasing­ly volatile news cycle, and the upswing in “self-directed” home media consumptio­n. The project relies on these competenci­es to eschew semiotic games played with words, instead charging images with ideas of polemic ambiguity and suggestive atmospheri­cs.

This investigat­ion is underscore­d by a parallel ambition. If the representa­tional project is a study in the potency of the multiple/moving image, then the project of architectu­re here is a flat interest in an idea of publicness – that is, a statement of belief in those things that come closest to representi­ng a collective ideal.

Within this schema, four buildings in Dandenong serve as a case study The hope is that we can shift those domains of architectu­re that overlap with film out from under-utility and into something far stranger and more closely attuned to the vague and circular ponderings of human perception or understand­ing.

The idea is that these twin projects

(of representa­tion and architectu­re) form an object of contemplat­ion, in which the widest possible audience is invited to consider the discrepanc­y of “our perceived production as a culture, and our actual material output as a civilisati­on.”


1. Jesús Vassallo, Epics in the Everyday: Photograph­y, Architectu­re, and the Problem of Realism (Zurich: Park Books, 2020), 207.

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