Gordon Cullen; Visions of Urban Design


A group of us are beginning a project based on Gordon Cullen’s walk through a city, but ours will be through Volterra in Italy. I hope to get started today.

Originally posted on DESIGNABILITY:


Last week I started to read a book about Gordon Cullen’s activities in urban design and illustrating instructive visions from the city as our built environment. This fantastic book, written and collected by David Gosling, stimulated me, even more than before, to go inside the city and watch every facet of social life through urban spaces and places and capture them in my visual memory by “sketching” them! In this path of architecture there were a few people who influenced me, and recently Gordon Cullen was added to my heroes list. Here I present the foreword of this book by Sir Norman Foster, I hope this would be a source of inspiration also for you!

“When I think back to the influences which led me to study architecture I still recall Gordon Cullen as one of my heroes. His drawings and writings were an inseparable part of the numerous copies…

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monte_de_pieteFinally I am going to post this sketch i did a few weeks ago. What has been holding me up is the COLD. My desktop computer is in the spare room, and it’s like ice in there.  So here I am at last. I scanned the sketch in there and got it onto WordPress, and now I can write the post in another room where it’s warmer. 

We went to Redfern with Sydney Sketch Club. Several of us were late, as there was track work on the railway lines. Buses replaced trains, but the problem was, they were skipping Redfern and going straight into the city. However, once we arrived we got right into sketching. Again, I am sketching right across the spread of two pages and using the width of the pages as the height. So, a big sketch. 

Monte de Piete was a Catholic pawnbroker and moneylender, dating back to the Middle Ages. Mr A. Margoschis was a local pawnbroker who in 1877 was involved in a murder at his nearby residence. You can read the story here. The things you learn from going out sketching!

Redfern is only two train stops from where I live. At one time I spent a bit of time there, because I had a friend who worked there and I used to go often and have lunch with her. Because it is so close to the city there are some more interesting shops springing up there now.


Filed under Copic Multiliner, sketchbook, sketching, Sydney, watercolour

USK Chinatown

chinatown_uskJust back a few days and the weather turned icy cold. Such a shock to the system. Nevertheless I braved the cold and went to the Urban Sketchers monthly get together in Chinatown.

On this occasion we had an unusual task. Each person was given a slip of paper with a building on it, and they were to sketch that building. Several people had the same building as there were quite a lot of us. The aim was to get a complete streetscape of Dixon Street, the main street of Chinatown in Sydney.

Apart from the cold, it was just a little rainy. However, cold as I was, I persevered and the rain did not. After finishing sketching we went to one of the food halls for a hot Chinese soup.


Filed under Copic Multiliner, sketchbook, sketching, watercolour

The turtle fountain

tortoise_fountainIn the garden at Cendana Hotel are many wonders. Among them is the turtle fountain. Not far from our room, we walked past it a number of times before realising that it was inhabited by quite a number of turtles. Three or four big ones and two babies. This one with the colourful shell is one of the babies.

Having turned over two pages at a time in my sketchbook, I needed to rectify this by doing extra sketches to fill the empty space, so one hot afternoon I sat in a pavilion and sketched the turtle fountain.

imageSo much wildlife at Cendana! Turtles, cats, Bird and two other caged birds, plus wild swallows flying over the pool at the back of the hotel. In the ricefields right next door  ducks and herons, and dragonflies, both orange and green. No monkeys. Although it is in the Monkey Forest Road, we are well up the road from the forest itself.

rambutan_umbrellaThe umbrella was sketched on a different day at Rambutan hotel, to fill the other empty page. Ceremonial umbrellas are such a feature of Bali. It’s good to get one or two in the sketchbook to capture the flavour of the place.


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Filed under Bali, Copic Multiliner, sketchbook, sketching, Travel, watercolour

Gate at Tirta Empul

tirta_empulI did this one before my May trip to Bali. It was from a photograph taken during my February trip, and it was experimental.  The gate is at Tirta Empul, where there are holy springs, but I think it was a private gate. Two men came out and looked at me strangely while I was taking the photograph. The light was falling beautifully on the different levels on the fence and I may well use this photograph again.

Holy springs at Tirta Empul

Holy springs at Tirta Empul

I sketched it with my Hero pen with water-soluble ink. I thought I had green ink in the pen but it turned out to be brown. Then I threw a lot of watercolour, allowed it to dry, then a bit more with the pen.


Filed under Bali, Hero pen, inks, sketchbook, sketching, Travel, watercolour

Light entertainment in the lounge

rat_orchidSad to leave. Tempted to stay. Nevertheless we caught our flight that evening. A late departure around midnight. A visitor before we left. My friend Nyoman who I have known for over twenty years. He brought us a farewell gift…….the wonderland KRUPUK with peanuts that we had at Mumbul. And now we know what they are called. ……REMPEYEK. Now we can ask for the by name. Write it down!  They’re yummy.

A quick meal at Cafe Wayan after checking out of our room, then into the car and off to Ngurah Rai airport.  Through all the usual trials of check-in and  immigration, but quick, with our priority pass. Then we settle in the Garuda business class lounge. Still the same underwhelming area, screened off from the main concourse.  Food – abysmal. However we asked for a glass of wine and got one . ONE. I said ‘What about my friend?’.

I settled down and started on my sketch. But there was something going on behind me. What’s happening? I asked Broni. There’s a RAT in the lounge, she said. Some passengers told the girl who had brought our drink. She squealed and ran away. The two girls from the reception desk came next. Some Aussie women in front of me, giving a bit of a running commentary said, “They’re holding hands ….THAT’LL be useful.”

By this time there was a buzz of very much suppressed mirth from the passengers. We continued munching our delicious rempeyek.  The girls came back accompanied by two boys with a shovel and brush. They chased the rat a bit, cornered it for a minute but it broke away. Came nearer to us. But the passengers weren’t upset – they were enjoying it too much. Finally the boys cornered the rat, killed it, and carried it out on a shovel. There’s a case for cats at Ngurah Rai airport, I think.

I believe the new Garuda business class lounge opens this month. Or maybe jam karet.

Yes, I will be flying Garuda next time.



Filed under Bali, Copic Multiliner, sketchbook, sketching, watercolour

The big tree at Mumbul

Woke up to rain on our last morning in Ubud. Stuck around the hotel waiting for it to stop. Packed the bag, then sat on the verandah to sketch the garden in the rain. Our flight was not leaving till midnight.

We decided to go back to Mumbul to have the same lunch again. Very friendly staff there. It is the main street of Ubud. It runs back from the street along the side of a huge ravine, with a terrace looking out over the ravine.

IMG_5065It was always a favourite in the past, due to Best Lemon Juice. We used to sit there and write postcards on hot mornings. Broni remembers going there on her first trip to Bali, twenty years ago. We sat under a huge tree and watched squirrels scamper about in the branches.

We mentioned to the waitress that it was a shame the tree had gone.. She said, yes, we had to get rid of it. We have accommodation at the back, and sometimes at night pit vipers would drop from the tree, because the ravine is full of them. We needed to stop that happening to our guests.    Over the other side of the ravine, some quite tasteful development is going on. I don’t think I will visit those places. I will stick to Mumbul and have more of their delicious prawn crackers with peanuts.


Filed under Bali, Copic Multiliner, sketchbook, sketching, Travel, watercolour