Ordinary – Amazing – Beautiful

Owen Architecture | Thompson Tachinid Fly | Curators Of Cool | © Geoff Thompson, Queensland Museum
Words by Paul Owen
Images by Geoff Thompson, Queensland Museum
For Queensland Museum: Curators of Cool & the Google Cultural Institute.

I work in an architectural studio where many of our ideas come from the ordinary things found around us. We think that beautiful work can be made from ordinary ideas and observations.


In everyday life there are things that seem amazing – and things that seem ordinary. I wonder if sometimes we get them mixed up.


When asked to explain the work of our architectural practice, I sometimes liken us to scientists. Our work can involve collecting ordinary data – words / photographs / mapping / sketching / numerical data. A few years ago it occurred to me that we were conducting a kind of research into the field we work in – the Australian suburbs. Many of our architectural ideas and values came from this research. From this notion comes the idea that it’s possible to make beautiful things from ordinary ideas.


When visiting a museum, the work of an entomologist can be seen by looking at displays of pinned insects. Some insects appear to be beautiful, and some appear to be ugly – but this information doesn’t reveal the whole story.


Susan Wright is an entomologist at the Queensland Museum. Because of her research into hoverflies, she knows that they are important pollinators of plants – and in some species their lava can help to eradicate pests.


To know the whole story of things is empowering and important – it represents authenticity.


The things I’ve collected from the Queensland Museum collection shows the back-of-house work of an entomologist next to amazing imagery of the inspects they research. It shows the daily work of an entomologist next to amazing imagery of the insects they study.


To find some of most amazing things imaginable, a museum entomologist undertakes countless ordinary tasks – and they can recognise beauty in unlikely places.


Trusting in ordinary things and doing simple, honest work can lead to discovering something beautiful and amazing.

Queensland Museum Curators Of Cool


Our exciting new project shows you our collection through the eyes of six internationally influential stylists, editors, authors, architects and designers.


We invited them to go behind the scenes in our collection stores and choose a few special objects or specimens that epitomise ‘cool’ in their eyes from more than 1.2 million treasures. The result is a series of micro-exhibitions showcasing their choices.


What is “cool”?

What is and isn’t cool at different times and in different places tells us a lot about the culture and society we live in. What is cool has the ability to change the way we think about the world around us.

What do you think is “cool”? Why? Often the answer says a lot about your self-expression, your view of the world and the meaning and identity you attach to objects.


The Curators of Cool

Sibella Court – International stylist and designer
Benjamin Law – Author (Gaysia, The Family Law)
Carl Lindgren – Editor, Map Magazine & The Weekend Edition
Paul Owen – Architect, Owen & Vokes & Peters
Alexander Lotersztain – Multidisciplinary Designer & Director, Derlot
Nick Southgate – Faculty Member, School of Life (UK) teaching in “How to be cool”

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