Pop-up radio towers, dreaming of architecture


Since pointing a laser beam at passing cars from our second floor warehouse window in the 90s, to cut into their radio broadcast as they waited at the lights (we called it "Radio Panic") I've loved a bit of pirate radio action. Ok so this is a legal narrowcast licence, so my pirate dreams may be overstated...but it's going to be a legal high! The Pop-up Pirate Radio tower is a part of the Melbourne State of Design festival. It's a tower made from re-purposed, up-ended shipping containers, with a radio studio on the top floor.

The narrowcast will be tune-able in a 1km radius around Melbourne from 22 July – 31 July - the frequency is 96.9 MHz - and also streaming at pirateradiotower.com (we are after all, already in the future). They'll be interviewing just about all the designers and artists involved in the fest, as well as some live music, all day every day.

On Friday July 22nd, I'm warming up for some great local bands and DJs (including the brilliant Pataphysics) at the base of the Tower on the opening night. From 5.45 in the VCA courtyard, if you are Melbourne-side. Will try to play warm voices! Towards the end of the festival, using spoken word content gleaned from recorded interviews and forums with the guest designers, architects, and other creative souls, I'll be performing special Lapkat mixes live from the tower.

It's nice to see this concept coming to Australian festivals. Perhaps because community / local radio is a such a big thing here, and generally so supportive of their local artistic scenes, narrowcast across the analogue airwaves has been underutilised especially for festivals in the CBD. Big kudos to Grace McQuilten of the Social Studio, and Anya Trybala, and the students at Swinburne, VCA, RMIT, for pulling this together!

Creating mixes to "sum up" a festival, on the spot live, is a good challenge, and also kind of humbling. Combining what I do with a personal passions is always a rich mine. I'm a fan of architecture, dreaming up buildings, spending hours diving into photos, mainly the likes of Marcio Kogan (so much air!) It's a private passion that was likely first sparked by our neighbor (architect/potter) Ian Sprague's 60s house which I spent a bit of time growing up in - and the book on Frank Lloyd Wright I found in his library.

This custom built radio tower, by US architect and artist Adam Kalkin, looks like a beautiful little super-structure. I've just spent some time at his website (prior warning - electric red!) Recycled materials, mechanized shipping containers, redefining prefab! Mercurial, but also eco-aware and searingly practical (ok maybe not the flying house).

His quick-build refugee ecosystem is along the same practical lines as Vinay Gupta's hexayurt, whose adventures I've been following this year. With the obvious reality of refugee camps' tenures turning into years, even decades, to make conditions as comfortable as possible is a sad necessity. To make actual insulated solid structures, prefab slums? An uncomfortable idea. Perhaps a pipe dream. I'm inspired in any case by those who turn their talents to this sort of innovative thinking.

Of course I'm keenly aware of the gaping chasm there between what I desire (so much air!) and what I also desire for those who have so little, air. Those Brazilian houses of Marcio Kogan are Expensive, and Expansive. I'm already privileged, to even be dreaming of them.

I'm looking forward to listening to architects as well as other designers during the festival, hoping some discussion turns to this stuff. Maybe also hoping there's going to be some big-ass sideshows of beautiful modernist houses by the sea. I'm a kat of privilege, I guess. But dreaming is free.