We recently returned from central Australia on a visit to the West MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
While the focus of the postcard industry is on the iconic big rock, the region is in fact dominated by three monoliths, Mt Conner, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. While Mount Conner is some way away, Uluru and Kata Tjuta sit much closer to one another as a pair in the low scrub of the desert. Uluru is monolithic from a distance but spatially and ecologically diverse close up. Kata Tjuta on the other hand is a collection of objects from afar, sensuous in their plasticity, that up close coalesce into heaving forms of conglomerate red rock. The most startling experience is the realisation that at many points in the region the two landforms are visible simultaneously, capturing and defining the interior space of a desert whose primary concern I had previously thought was about objects centred on flatness.
The trip was the first leg in an ongoing piece of research into monolithic landscape and architecture. The research, funded by the NSW Architects Registration Board Byera Hadley travelling scholarship. In May and June we will be visiting, among other things the LA River, the Luxor Pyramid in Las Vegas, Monument Valley, Roden Crater (with any luck… it may have to be a drive by as it is proving exceedingly difficult to get access to the site while construction is still underway), Donald Judd’s art foundation in Marfa Texas, the Kubrick archives in London (yes), Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Klaus Chapel, Eisenman’s holocaust memorial in Berlin and finally the Pyramids in Cairo.
The research attempts to further some of the thoughts behind our Australian Peacekeeping Memorial project, namely the quiet resonance and transformative potential of monolithic structures and spaces.
In any case, I have set up a Tumblr site — MNLTH — where I will be posting images and reference material if you would like to follow along.