In one of my other lives, the one that doesn’t blog about writing and reading or do design projects at an urban scale, I am a teacher. This semester I am teaching design to architecture students at RMIT University here in Melbourne, Australia. The theme for our semester-long design studio Is the ‘uncanny house’, a theme that is close to my heart. I love the sense of the uncanny even more than the sense of the sublime; it is a state of mind and aspect of our internal landscapes, and external world, that sparks my imagination.
The uncanny is a sense or state of mind given much thought by Freud, who wrote a significant essay on the topic. I won’t confess to my students (some of whom might find me confessing in this blog anyway) that I have not yet read the full text of Freud’s essay. It’s on my to-do list for the State Library, which will undoubtedly have a copy; I might go there this weekend. Writing and reading in the La Trobe reading room (pictured above) is a wonderful experience; cool air, silence and such wonderful light in a soaring volume.
My students will be designing an uncanny house for a client who was a historical figure near the site, which is out in the forest northwest of Melbourne - a Dr. Gweneth Wisewould. Dr. Wisewould is a fascinating woman who died in 1972; she will be our client for the house design, represented by me in her posthumous absence. Dr. Wisewould liked to wear men’s clothing, and was something of a bohemian in Melbourne before moving to the country in 1938. All things considered, she is a fitting and robust figure to base a design exercise around. I suspect she will be a demanding client, as well.
Some time in the midst of all the work and teaching, I will have to find time to write - in the usual haunts, which now include a rotation in the library of the RACV Club on Bourke Street. I have become a member of this private club, and they have a delightful library, a nice high space filled with books and light. I confess I have been writing there more than in cafes in recent times. Never mind!