Architecture Foundation Australia


Dorothy : 1983-84

I have always felt that there is something of the ‘vessel’ in architecture. There is a sense of holding, keeping safe, nurturing, as does a mother. Vessels in western cultures are generally called ‘she’ – and named after a woman. Hence our little skiff is called Dorothy, after my mother. She was launched by her at the age of 76.

The boat is delicate sanctuary – the architecture, a varying degrees, a more robust one. Perhaps the first church was an upturned boat on the sea of Gallillee with Christ and the apostles who were fishermen. The ‘nave’ of the church has the same word root as ‘naval’ – a marine etymology. The symbol of the ship hanging in the roof space of Danish Churches is a powerful one - and who cannot be reminded of the upturned sheltering boat when in the body of a traditional church? All the roofs of these few works shown here have been conceived with the thought of a vessel very clearly in mind. The etymology of vessel I believe is vase – as in ceramics, one of human society’s most enduring (and fragile) artefacts.

An old Scandinavian saying: “Bound is boatless man”.

The body plans of a boat are the most important drawings – it is the pure form that determines the ultimate performance. They are quite difficult to do – for me anyway. Dorothy is a skiff that borders between sailing boat and rowing boat. For sailing she must be stable, for rowing unstable – i.e. thin and fine. It is a difficult equation. 

Dorothy was built to my model by Bruce Kerr – shipwright friend of over 40 years duration (the friendship). I had the pleasure of working with him for the  seven full weeks period to complete the hull. When I asked him how long it would take to build it by himself he said – “six weeks”!

Text and images taken from ‘Richard Leplastrier : Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award 2004’ published by Rakennustieto, Finland, 2004. Photos : Leigh Wooley and others. Text : Richard Leplastrier.


Dorothy Boat 2 copy.jpg
Dorothy Boat 3 copy.jpg