I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Gothic, not Bluestone Ormond

I was chatting about my bluestone project last night with a friend visiting from Adelaide. "Ormond College is bluestone, isn't it?" she said.

Alas, no, Ormond College (shown here in a rather lovely, but rather old photograph) is a sandstone building. It was designed by Joseph Reed, and built between 1878 and 1881.

So why did she think it was bluestone? We thought it was something about the gothic associations of its style, but I think it might also have something to do with the unhappy associations of this College with a nasty sexual harassment case that was current at one point during her sojourn in Melbourne (of about thirteen years). The affective associations of university architecture, residential colleges and institutional darkness are powerful indeed: no wonder they produced an image of dark bluestone.

Our discussion also made me realise that although bluestone features extensively around the campus — in fountains, ponds, foundations, walkways, etc. — there are no bluestone buildings here. And if not in Melbourne, then probably not in any Australian university (unless I have gone blank and am missing something here). The main stone for universities here mimics the honey-coloured buildings of Oxford and Cambridge. Even Melbourne's old Wilson Hall, destroyed by fire in 1879, and also designed by Joseph Reed, was a sandstone gothic building.

If bluestone is appropriate for houses of worship, why not for houses of learning?

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