Brisbane Open House 2014 Picks

This years Brisbane Open house (BOH) is on again for two days: Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th October!

Below is a list of my recommendations for the weekend.

As there a quite a few new buildings this year, I have focused on these in the list. If you are new to BOH, I’d recommend also looking at my post from last year.

Note that 27 of the 89 of the buildings have a ballot system for access. This closes 9am Monday 6th October!

There is also a speakers series in the weeks leading up to the 11/12th including a retrospective of Robin Gibsons work (the architect behind the Cultural Centre precinct) and a talk by NSW architect Peter Stutchbury.

41665 BOH Logo_horizontal_cmyk_with date


We are hosting visits to the JRA Christian Street House on the Saturday & John Railton’s amazing 1960s home on the Sunday. Entry to these two is via ballot, so get your name on the list by the 6th October!

post_BOH_PHOTO1Photo: Richard Stringer

post_BOH_PHOTO2Photo: Toby Scott

Travelling with a custom Google Map and using it offline!

I’m not too sure what’s going on but all my posts of recent times have been travel related. Probably the most important thing in life right?!

On a recent trip to New York @wintera and I found this awesome way to plan the places you want to eat, drink, visit or stay using a Google Maps service called My Maps (formerly Maps Engine).

After we had made the map we realised that it didn’t load terribly well on our iPad or phones so I went searching for an native iOS app. Google do not make one, but a 3rd party developer does, and its quite good. Its called ‘MapsEngine Viewer‘. There is also a native Android app made by Google.

The way we used it was to research and load all our pins while we had wifi and a nice big web browser (before and during the trip). You can add your own descriptions (opening hours etc) and change the pin icons to help order the information. You then log into your Google account within the app and your custom map loads. All your pins are searchable; your notes / descriptions are available offline; and you can download the map tiles so you can navigate with the phones GPS only offline. It even lets you choose to use Apple or Google map tiles!

Checkout our NYC map here…

Here is my top 5 things that we did on our trip if the map is all too much!

  1. Central Park free bike tour
  2. Bushwick graffiti tour
  3. New York Public Library Main Branch
  4. Met rooftop
  5. Tenement Museum

Oh, and a food top 5:

  1. Eleven Madison Park
  2. Katz’s Delicatessen
  3. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  4. Ed’s Lobster Bar
  5. Freemans

And finally a coffee top 5:
(Don’t let anyone tell you all coffee in NYC is crap. Highly recommend ordering a cortado too.)

  1. Happy Bones
  2. Little Collins
  3. Cafe Grumpy
  4. Bakeri
  5. La Colombe


post_mapsengine_4 post_mapsengine_5

post_mapsengine_6 post_mapsengine_7

post_mapsengine_9 post_mapsengine_8

Stanthorpe road tripping tips

In the next instalment of my series of ‘recommendation’ posts, we are travelling to Stanthorpe in South East Queensland. I’ve been visiting here since I was a little kid as my uncle has a farm in Eukey. My Mum & Dad have retired up there, so we visit quite often.

Photo by @wintera


In order of my favourites. Checkout also the Strange Bird wine trail.


I’ll break this one down a touch more. Places for lunch, dinner and to generally stock up for a picnic or take home.








Being a three hours drive each way, I’d suggest staying for the night at least! Here are a few places to have a look at:





Precast time-lapse

A little time-lapse video of a JRA project at Clayfield under construction. Shot over 6 hours between 6:30am and 12:30pm.

The completed precast floor now sits at street level with the main living areas of the house below, all opening onto a north facing courtyard. Up until now the work below street level has looked an archaeological dig in Pompeii!

Japan travel tips

So you just bought a really cheap Jetstar flight to Japan? …and you have never been there before?

Oh, you’re going to have so much fun!

This is an article I have been meaning to write for a long time. I think it is one of my most requested emails from friends. The back story is that I have been travelling to Japan pretty regularly since I was 12 years old.

The first time was in 1993 when I was in grade 7 at school. I studied Soroban which is a traditional type of maths learning using the abacus. For some reason the teachers liked me and sent me on a 2 week junket to Tokyo. Anyway, to the point…


  • Jetstar plane flights should really only cost $250-300 each way and are on sale every 3–4 months. Be patient and at the ready!
  • If you want to treat yourself to ‘Business’ on the overnight home leg, it is about $550 on sale. Worth every cent as it includes food & luggage. Jetstar will sometime send out an ‘upgrade’ offer a month before your flight if you have already booked an economy ticket.
  • Rail pass will set you back $300–320 for seven consecutive days depending on the exchange rate. Try: or
  • The accommodation at Andon Ryokan in Tokyo is awesome: $89/night for two ppl on the upper floors, sometimes cheaper on the ground floor.
  • Allow the usual $80-100 a day for food and local travel + shopping money. I think it is on par with Brisbane cost wise. The idea that Japan is super expensive is a myth. Maybe in the boom of the late 80s & 90s but not anymore compared to Australia!

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto



Getting around Tokyo is super easy. All signage and the interfaces on screen based ticket machines are in English. Rather than buying individual journey tickets each trip (around 160 yen) get yourself a Plasmo card at the first Metro station you come to. They work on the Metro, JR lines in Tokyo and many food vending machines.


A JR rail pass may be your best option if you are exploring outside Tokyo. It saves you booking a ticket for each journey and if you intend on going any further than a return trip to Kyoto, it will work out cheaper and give you an excuse to go somewhere else you weren’t planning to go to.

It is worth reserving seats if you are doing a number of journeys, particularly during peak time (morning, arvo, weekends). You can do this at the english speaking JR offices where you swap your prepaid voucher for the official rail pass when you get to Japan. I usually go to the office at Ueno Station.

Note: You have to purchase the pass before you get to Japan as it is only for international visitors!


Tokyo is amazing. Have I said that too many times yet? I actually left this section until last as I wasn’t quite sure where to start!

If you’ve never been then I highly recommend contacting the Tokyo Free Guide service. It’s free because you are helping them practice their english skills. They just ask that you pay for their train tickets and it’s probably nice to shout lunch!


Andon Ryokan is my first choice for any visit and I have sent many friends there who have loved it also. I first stayed there because it was so much cheaper than a ‘western’ hotel and well, looked fantastic. Since then a number of hostels have popped up (mostly in Asakusa) which could be a touch cheaper if budget is an issue…. but seriously, you will love the experience at Andon. Their breakfast is fantastic and they have a decent bottom-less coffee machine (decent for Japan!).

Kimi Ryokan also looks good as a backup – some sort of F1 pun? K’s House which I will mention for Kyoto, now also has a hostel in Tokyo.

Andon Ryokan, Tokyo
Andon Ryokan, Tokyo


If you don’t eat near big western hotels or in a fancy financial district then food should be cheaper than back in Australia! A couple of favourites below:

  • Tonki near Meguro Metro Station has been operating be the same owners since the 1960. Seriously the best meal I have ever had in Tokyo. We’re not talking a fine dining meal here, just simple fare int he form of Tonkatsu.
  • Omotesando Koffee, in the back streets of Omotesando – The best coffee in Tokyo in my opinion. Enjoy the volley little courtyard out front.
  • Monocle Cafe, Ginza.
  • Mos Burger –Well this used to be a novelty, but you can now get this in Australia :(
  • If you are flying Jetstar you will probably arrive in the evening. Ask the reception at Andon for a local food recommendation. The is a great place, open late, above the McDonalds opposite Minowa Metro station.

Tonki tonkatsu resturant, Meguro, Toyko
Tonki tonkatsu resturant, Meguro, Toyko


Below is a list of key districts I’d recommend visiting:

  • Ginza – Shopping capital of Tokyo. On weekends the streets are closed off  to vehicles. Check out eh 14 story Uni Qlo store!
  • Yurakucho – Close to the International Forum, located here is the biggest Loft and Muji in Japan. If you have lived in the UK then you will know Muji. Super simple, unbranded, well designed products. Imagine a Muji the size of a small IKEA. It even has a restaurant  and you can buy a prefab Muji house here..
  • Omotesando – Quickly overtaking Ginza as the place to position your flagship store. There is a list of archi building that are worth seeing in this area in the architecture section that follows.
  • Meiji Shrine – A great place to escape commerce after your walk down Omotesando Dori (Street).
  • Harajuku – When your done recovering at Meiji, take a stroll though winding streets of Jarajuku to see some extreme teenage fashion!
  • Shibuya – This is where all the cool kids hang and shop. Make sure you visit Tokyu Hands, Parco and Loft.
  • Asakusa – Originally a village outside Tokyo, Asakusa became an entertainment mecca not unlike Blackpool in the UK or Atlantic City near NYC were locals when to relax, bet on horses, take a ride in roller coaster all while making the pilgrimage to one of Tokyo’s most famous temples, Sensoji. Infront of the temple the Nakamise shopping street lined with stalls full of Japanese tourist ticky tacky. Actually worth checking out to do your gift shopping for friends back home. The street you want to find however is called Kappabashi Street which is lined with stores selling amazing dishes, pots, pans, cooking utensils, stoves, tables, chairs, signs, lanterns aimed at restaurant owners, but perfect for visitors!
  • Ueno Park – I went to Ueno Park for the first time on my last visit to Tokyo. Amazing space, especially doing Sakura (cherry blossom) time.
  • Nanyodo Architectural Bookshop is also worth the trip to if you are an architect / student. Amazing array of new and old books and really well prices – Yasukuni Dori, Jinbocho, Kanda, Tokyo
  • Superfuture also has a pretty awesome PDF guide to Tokyo.



A lovely little beach side area just south of Yokohama which happens to be just south of Tokyo. While you are there keep an eye out of the surfers in black wetsuits sitting on the boards in flat still water… just hoping for that wave. The other lovely place to visit in Kamakura is the Big Budda and its very large thing/flipflop.


Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. A hill side area with an amazing shrine / temple complex. Look out for the three monkeys! Plenty of Onsen’s to visit here. An onsen if you haven’t heard of them before is a hot spring fed bathhouse. Almost all are segregated male or female. You basically get your gear off, wash yourself in the little shower area and enjoy the heated pools inside and outside (sometimes surrounded by snowy hills). It is a great way to get to know the friends you are travelling with!


This is the national park area that surrounds Fuji San (Mt Fuji). Plenty of opportunities for walking, boating in the lake or eating black boiled eggs on the side of the mountains. The eggs become black after being cooked in sulphur waters from the volcano.

Pot Plants of Japan
Pot Plants of Japan



3-4 hrs travel from Tokyo. I’ve been to Kyoto four times now and have never needed to go to the same thing twice! Other highlights there include Arashiyama, the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Nishiki Food Market, the Ryoanji Temple, and the Kiyomizudera Temple. Bikes are also a pretty awesome way to get around!

Two options for accommodation in Kyoto. The first is a fairly western hostel called K’s House, the second is a series of amazing traditional houses or ‘Machiya‘. There are a few smaller Machiya available, otherwise a large house with a big group of friends is an amazing experience.

Kyoto Machiya
Kyoto Machiya


An amazing smaller town up in the hills known for wood working. The train journey there is fantastic. It is 4-5hrs travel from Tokyo and you can stay in this temple!


A really interesting place for historic reasons, but while you are these, visiting the island of Miyajima is a must, as is eating proper Okonomiyaki.


A bit involved to get there, but totally worth it for the art sites and Setouchi Triennale. If you leave it until later in your trip, you will be all over working out train timetables and connections! Worth thinking about flying out of Osaka if you end up at this end of the country. Here is a bit of a list of places to stay or eat:

Naoshima Ferry Terminal, by SANAA
Naoshima Ferry Terminal, by SANAA

Benesse Art Site, Naoshima

Benesse Art Site, Naoshima
Benesse Art Site, Naoshima


A good way to get all the value out of your rail pass! It’s at the very southern tip of the mainland and a good day trip from Hiroshima and possibly Kyoto if you can make the train work for you. The volcano is active and you’ll often see ash in the gutters in the street. The volcano forms an island in the bay which you can visit and take a soak in the hot foot baths. Not far from Kagoshima is the subtropical island of Yakushima. I’ve not been there, but it is on my list.


A couple of apps I always have with me. Some I have mentioned earlier, but here they all are in one place. With a quick Google I am sure you can find their Android equivalents.






If you are an architect, student or just a partner of one, then I have a few suggestions for you:


The Galinsky website is a pretty good resource of place to visit around Japan, particularly in Tokyo. Archdaily always has features to help you compile a list.

Residential houses are generally very hard to organise a visit to, so unless you have a connection, with a connection, with a connection, good luck! We were lucky enough to go to the Suzuki House in Tokyo last visit!


Here are a couple places to visit that can be tough to find or involve train + bus + walking… so basically need a day / half day reserved to get to them.

  • Museum of Wood Culture by Tadao Ando. A big thank you to Louisa Gee and Hellen Norrie for helping me navigate to the place on my trip in 2011. This one involves quite a journey of exact timetable coordination. If you are keen to give it a go, email me for instructions!
  • Tama Art University Library, by Toyo Ito is truly amazing. This one is a bit easier to get to. Just one train and a half hour walk. I guess you could cab, but you see so much more by foot. This place is amazing. You can’t take photos upstairs and you kind of need to convince them to let you up (and they will if you say your an architect/student). I have never seen such precise concrete work in all my life. The point at which the arched columns touch the ground is literally 80-100 wide.
  • The Church of Light by Tadao Ando in Osaka – Note it is only open a couple of days a week and you need to book.
  • Sendai Mediatheque by Toyo Ito – I’ve not made it here, but on my list!

Suzuki House, Tokyo
Suzuki House, Tokyo


Let me know if you find anything else awesome that I should visit next trip!


As I find interesting links / visitor directories / new places to visit that are great, I’ll add them here over time:

The trams that ruled Brisbane

Some colour photos of the amazing tram system that existed in Brisbane until they were ripped out in 1969!
More info here.

I am not 100% on the source of these all of these images. I suspect the BCC for many of them. The Youtube clip at the end of this post suggest a chap named Richard Jones . They came to me via a friends mother via email. If anyone does know I will add due credit.

[UPDATE 27/04/16] Richard Jones contacted me recently confirming his connection to many of the photos which where taken below. More of his Brisbane photos can be viewed at the Brisbane Tramway Museum. Thank you Richard for sharing your lovely work!

Map of tram network via @jackbryce

Top of Queen Street (Corner George Street), 1965

Corner Queen & Albert Streets, 1958

Tram Depot Ipswich Road, Dutton Park, 1969

Trams on Gilchrist Ave with St. Bridgid’s Red Hill in the background and Roma Street goods yard in foreground

South Brisbane Railway Station

Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, 1965

Gympie Road, Kedron, 1968

Stafford Road Terminus, 1968

Belmont (now Carina) Terminus, 1968

Grey Street, South Brisbane, 1969

Kingsford Smith Drive, Hamilton, 1969

Melbourne Street, South Brisbane, 1969

Ipswich Road, Annerley, 1969

Queen Street, North Quay, 1969

Stones Corner, 1969

Nursery Road, Mt Gravatt, 1969

Stanley Street,  Wooloongabba, 1969

Breakfast Creek

Possibly Adelaide Street (cnr Albert), 1960s

Days Road, The Grange, 1968

Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, 1968

Dutton Park  or Buranda? (tram depot in back-ground)

Camp Hill, 1958

Petrie Bight (Customs House in background), 1965

Latrobe Terrace, Paddington, 1967

Milton Road, Milton (XXXX sign in background)

Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley (Corner. Wickham Street), 1968

Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley (same corner different angle), 1968

Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, 1968

Video of above.

Fringe Experience Map

I put together a map for the the recent national architecture conference ‘Experience‘ held in Brisbane. As the conference hadn’t been held here for a couple of decades, a group of us (mainly EmAGN / YAQ members) decided to put together a fringe programme of events for the local and interstate visitors. The Fringe Experience programme was a great success with sore heads all round, after each evening of the 4 day programme!

The map features our recommendations architectural spots to visit, places grab a decent coffee, have a bite to eat, and fantastic drinking spots. It’s really a pretty good resource for anyone coming to Brisbane, not just architects.

Download map here.

Essential apps for the iPhone – UPDATED

Here is a bit of a follow up to an original post on the same topic from 2009. You might also be interested in my post on mac apps.
This page on general iPhone tips is pretty handy too.


I keep my home screen in a fairly default app arrangement. Not sure why, perhaps it’s an OCD issue or my fingers have just learnt where all the main apps live. The only thing I have replaced is the default Music app with Instacast which is a fantastic little podcast player that lats you stream and download podcasts over the air independent from iTunes.


Page 2 is reserved for my most used / every day apps… just one flick away from the home screen.

The official Twitter app. Used to be called Tweetie. UI is great. Swipe over a tweet for a quick shortcut to options.
The best alternative is probably Tweetbot, but I’m not really into the over the top UI crap.

Reeder is fantastic if you are into Google Reader. The UI is beautiful and you can cache a whole heap of unread stuff to read while you are offline. Great for travelling. Swipe a story to star it.

Instagram is by far my favourite app. It a photo sharing community that enables you to friend and share within the app, but also send the photos out to Twitter or Facebook. There is a whole bunch of really inspirational stuff going on there. Particularly in Brisbane.

We all know what that is about. I often delete it off my phone when I realise I am playing on there too much… :o
Once again a far nicer interface then the real website in my opinion. Right below it is the FB Messenger app. This is great if you need to curb your FB usage, then you still get inbox messages without the distractions of the other crap.

Another great find of 2011. It’s a visual bookmarking tool that I use to categorise inspiration images, but can be used for any purpose you like really. This app lets you look up your pins on the go.

Beehive IM:
Instant messenger app for Google Talk, MSN, AIM etc. Always been reliable. Verb is a nice alternative.

Doesn’t really require an explanation. VOIP over 3G or WiFi. Also lets you send SMS from your phone number if you like too.

Dropbox is amazing. Install it here on your computer and it setups a folder called ‘Dropbox’. Anything you put in here is synced to the ‘cloud’ (internet) and is then available on any other computer (or iPhone via this app) you install Dropbox on.

A tool to collect and read long articles you find on web pages. A small bookmarklet in your web browser adds the article’s text to Instapaper, which is then available for you to read on the iPhone via this app.

A note taking app that syncs with text files in a designated folder via Dropbox.

Audio recording app that is much better then the built in Voice Memo app I feel. Its super simple, you open it up, press record (which works in the background) and then uploads the small audio file to a designated folder in Dropbox.

The fantastic magazine now as a 24 hours radio station. This app plays it live, time shifts it and will send to the Hifi via Airplay.

Oh and the Travel folder is just full of stuff I am using at any given time while travelling to a certain destination. Currently there are a few Japan Rail and Tokyo Metro apps in there.


This page is still full of good apps, but I use them less often. Here are a few selected favourites…

Oz TV:
Probably the best tv guide app I have found for the iPhone. IceTV is good if you have a TV tuner with built in IceTV functionality for scheduling recordings on the go.

AirVideo & Plex
Both allow you to stream channel BT content from your computer to an iPhone, iPad or AppleTV without re-encoding file formats. You install a small server app on the computer and it handles the live conversion. AirVideo lets you navigate folders of media by folder and filename. Plex is a bit more sophisticated and retrieves metadata on the media files and constructs a navigation system based on this data – name, genre, date etc. The best thing is if you have a cheap AppleTV box connected to your TV. You choose what you want to watch on the phone and just ‘send’ it to the TV via AirPlay.

Apples app for letting you control iTunes or  an AppleTV via your iPhone. Great for a party situation so you can keep your lappy in a back room. If you use the iTunes DJ playlist, multiple people running the app can add tracks to a ‘request’ queue.

TV Forecast:
A great little app that lists the upcoming air dates of your favourite TV shows in whichever country they screen first. Great so you remember to grab them on channel BT.

Autostitch, Photosynth, Snapseed, Photoshop Express & PicFrame:
All great little camera apps you might like to play with. The first two are for doing panoramas, the rest for manipulating images.

If you are using Transmission on your computer, enable the web interface. To add a website to your Home screen, visit the page in Safari and tap the Go To icon at the bottom of the Safari window. Tap Add to Home Screen.


Great Australian made app to monitor the usage of your accounts such as your home ADSL, mobile phone cap / data usage, car flow tag, loyalty cards and other services.

Pocket Weather:
This app is an Australian replacement for the supplied weather app on the 1st page which seems to be fairly inacurate, particually for forcasts. Pkt Weather uses data direct from the Australian Bureau of Metorology (BOM) and inclrudes animated radar images.

I manage quite a few websites and this app serves up all the Google Analytics traffic data presenting it in an easy to digest UI.

This one has an awesome animated user interface. Converts just about anything. Be sure to go into the settings and activate some of the hidden conversion options… only the common ones appear by default.

FTP on the Go:
Really useful while traveling to make small changes to code in websites for clients.

At the pub disagreeing on a fact? Wikipanion is a great mobile interface for the site.

Nice little app that syncs with the desktop version. It’s a place to keep all your passwords, serial numbers, ftp logins etc etc and have them with you on the road. All the data is encrypted and you need to enter a pin and password to access the data.

This is the iPhone app for the web service at that I use for tracking time for work projects. Nice to be able to enter your time while out and about.

Thats about it for my list of current apps that I use on my phone. Hope you find one or two that are useful for you as well!