CONFERENCE PAPER This paper focuses on the work of Don Watson; more specifically on the TAFE (Technical and Further Education Buildings) that he designed in Queensland (Australia) between 1992 and 1995, while working for the Queensland State Government Department of Public Works. These are an inventive collection of geometrically precise educational buildings that draw on a wide palette of references. Robert Venturi, Aldo van Eyck, Frank Gehry, Louis Kahn and Robert Graves are only a few of the architects whose work Watson cites, and cleverly combines with references to Japanese architecture, 18th century Jeffersonian ideas of campus planning and local (Queensland vernacular) patterns of exterior timber studding.

Watson’s TAFE colleges present some of the purest expressions of postmodernism in Queensland. And yet, these buildings have thus far not been well studied or comprehensively theorised. Focusing on Watson’s first five TAFE buildings – the technology buildings at the Toowoomba College of TAFE (1992-1995), the computing amenities building at the Ithaca College of TAFE (1992-1995), the administration and teaching building at the Gateway College of TAFE (1992-1995), the applied sciences complex at the Logan Institute of TAFE (1995-1996), and a student centre at the Southbank Institute of TAFE (1996-1997) – this paper investigates what Watson cites and to what end.

Drawing on interviews with the architect himself, and relying on select quotations from these conversations, the paper highlights the rationales that informed the selection of references that Watson chose to incorporate in his designs. Positing that Watson did not quote to reactivate the past, but to (quite literally) construct new, contextually apposite realities, “Elementary, my dear Watson?” will demonstrate that more than arbitrary (or ‘elementary’) assemblages, Watson’s buildings constitute eloquent expressions of Venturi’s concept “the difficult whole”.

Janina Gosseye, “Elementary, My Dear Watson? The Difficult Whole Down Under”, in Gevork Hartoonian & John Ting (eds.), Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, 33, Quotation (Canberra: University of Canberra, 2017), 181 — 192.

The full paper can be read/downloaded here.