Habitus is a new quarterly Australian architecture magazine of some promise. The Australian architecture and interiors magazine market is pretty well stocked, led by the likes of Monument, Architecture Australia, Architectural Review Australia, (Inside), Artichoke, C+A (the extraordinarily elegant publication of Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia - yes, really), and several others. There are some failings in this set - they’re perhaps overly fixated on image (though this tends to come with the medium); perhaps overly focused on domestic architecture - a particular local strength (and failing) - and Architecture Australia occasionally suffers from being the ‘house mag’ of the AIA and so can be a little “uncritical” (in the words of a local architect friend). There’s nothing particularly avant-garde here either, for which we’d turn to a few of the good university offshoots, such as Mongrel/Subaud. All told, though, there is often good value in all of these publications and it’s a pretty strong showing.
However, Habitus launches unperturbed into this feisty local market with a smart new take on what local actually is. The editorial stance that particularly interests me is its focus on the architecture of Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia, seeing this region as a broad continuum of spaces, places, terrain, climate and culture. In the words of editor Paul McGillick:
“Habitus is about cultural engagement - about architects and designers from Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia enriching one another in an on-going dialogue. The differences and commonalities all add up to a matrix of ideas which can lead to better outcomes for the environment we live in.”
This is not only a great idea but a strong guiding mission, recognising that Australian and New Zealand cities are essentially Asian now, and also the potential for local architects and designers in this wider ‘common market’. It also means the pages are replete with gorgeous tropical houses from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, all warm concrete and burnished wood slowly being engulfed in verdant foliage, surrounded by green-tinged pools and dense eruptions of palms and Tembesu trees. The sheer fecundity of these environments often combine to make the Aus/NZ houses look as if they’re situated in positively spartan terrain, no mean feat. The projects range from enormous mansions to the smallest interventions in the environment, and are balanced with contributions from across the region (though there’s little from Australia north of Sydney in this particular issue, unfortunately.)