3 December 1984

Bhopal disaster: A methyl isocyanate leak from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, kills more than 3,800 people outright and injures 150,000–600,000 others (some 6,000 of whom would later die from their injuries) in one of the worst industrial disasters in history.

22 January 1984

The Apple Macintosh, the first consumer computer to popularize the computer mouse and the graphical user interface, is introduced during a Super Bowl XVIII television commercial.
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8 June 1984

Homosexuality is declared legal in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Homosexuality was criminalised in New South Wales under section 79 of the Crimes Act 1900 which stated thus: “Whosoever commits the abominable crime of buggery, or bestiality, with mankind, or with any animal, shall be liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.” In 1951, with the support of Police Commissioner Colin Delaney, who was noted for his obsession against homosexuality, Attorney General Reg Downing moved an amendment to the Act to ensure that “buggery” remained a criminal act “with or without the consent of the person”, removing the previously existing legal loophole of consent.

The Campaign Against Moral Persecution, also known as C.A.M.P., was founded in Sydney in September 1970 and was one of Australia’s first gay rights organisations. C.A.M.P. raised the profile and acceptance of Australia’s gay and lesbian communities.

On 24 June 1978 gay rights activists in Sydney staged a morning protest march and commemoration of the Stonewall Riots which took place in New York in June 1969. Although the organisers had obtained permission, this was revoked, and the march was broken up by the police. Fifty-three of the marchers were arrested. Although most charges were eventually dropped, the Sydney Morning Herald published the names of those arrested in full, leading to many people being outed to their friends and places of employment, and many of those arrested lost their jobs as homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1984. The event was held each year thereafter and is now known as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2008. Following the first parade, New South Wales saw dozens of gay-hate murders from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, of which 30 remain unsolved. The prevailing climate of homophobia and lack of trust between the LGBT community and the police hampered the resolution of these cases.

The first attempt in New South Wales to bring about Gay law reform was in the form of an amendment to the ‘Crimes Amendment Act 1981’, brought forward by Labor MP George Petersen in April 1981. This would have legalised consenting acts between adults. However, despite support from the Attorney General, Frank Walker, Young Labor, and public opinion polls that supported reform, it was defeated by the Catholic-dominated majority right faction of NSW Labor from inclusion before the act’s introduction and was prevented from being included for debate in the Legislative Assembly by the Speaker, Laurie Kelly, who ruled it out of order. He did not appeal the ruling under threat of expulsion from the party. Undeterred, in November 1981 Petersen introduced a private member’s bill which sought to decriminalise homosexual acts in NSW as well as equalise the age of consent to 16. However, after its first reading, the bill was adjourned at the request of opponents of law reform, who used it as an opportunity to rally opposition to the bill. When the bill came to a second reading, the Liberal/Country opposition voted as a bloc against it and over half of the Labor side, freed by the ability to vote according to conscience, joined them, to defeat it 67 votes to 28. During the 1980s and 1990s, Sydney was hit by a spate of gay bashings, hate crimes and murders, a large number of which remain unsolved. This has been the subject of a Police investigation, ‘Operations Taradale’, and called into question issues relating to Police methods at the time and the state of homophobia in society and the police at the time.

It was in 1984 that the Neville Wran Government introduced, as a private member’s bill, the ‘Crimes Act 1984’, which eventually decriminalised homosexual acts in NSW. The bill was supported by the absence of a conscience vote from the Labor side, was subsequently passed with support from some of the Opposition, including the leader Nick Greiner, on 22 May and was assented to on 8 June 1984. However this was done with an unequal age of consent of 18. It was only in May 2003, 19 years later, that the New South Wales Government equalised the age of consent to 16 under the Crimes Act 1900, with NSW being the third last jurisdiction to reform its unequal age of consent law.

17 May 1984

Prince Charles calls a proposed addition to the National Gallery, London, a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”, sparking controversies on the proper role of the Royal Family and the course of modern architecture.

THE design by the architect Robert Venturi for an extension to the National Gallery in London, which may be the most significant architectural commission in Europe ever awarded to an American architect, was made public yesterday.

Construction of the Venturi design, which will cost roughly $48 million, will start ”early next year,” according to a spokesman for the gallery. It will be called the Sainsbury Wing in honor of the family whose grocery-store fortune will finance it.

The announcement of a final design for the National Gallery addition ends a chapter of one of Europe’s longest-running architectural sagas. The gallery has been trying to expand its building at Trafalgar Square for more than a decade, and in 1981 it announced a design for a starkly modern gallery-office building combination by the British firm of Ahrends Burton & Koralek that was denounced by Prince Charles as ”a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend.”

The embarrassment over Prince Charles’s remark, coupled with the growing trend toward re-use of classical forms in architecture, led to the abandonment of the first design and to an international search for an architect who would create a building more sympathetic to William Wilkins’s neo-classical gallery of 1838. In early 1986 Mr. Venturi, of the Philadelphia firm of Venturi, Rauch & Scott Brown, was chosen over five other architects, each of whom had been invited to submit preliminary proposals.

The five losing designs for this critical public building in London were made public last year; the winning design was held in rigid secrecy until this week. It turns out to be a highly complex form, like so much of the work of Mr. Venturi, the architect who is often considered the spiritual father of the current post-modern movement but who in fact disdains any simple or direct return to historical style.

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The Sainsbury Wing will be sheathed in stone, and will have certain classical details that allude to the original National Gallery building, including clustered pilasters and ”blind,” or stone-covered, windows. But other aspects of the Venturi building will be more clearly modern, such as a wall of glass several stories high enclosing a grand staircase along the east side of the structure, opening up a clear view to the original National Gallery building and to Trafalgar Square.

The main internal features of the building will be the grand monumental staircase and a top floor of galleries that will house the gallery’s Early Renaissance paintings, including such masterworks as Piero della Francesca’s ”Baptism” and Jan van Eyck’s ”Arnolfini Marriage.” The galleries will vary in size and ceiling height, but they will all be fairly formal in organization and classical in mood, and will all be lit by daylight from skylights.

The new building will be a composite of old and new elements, then, and it appears from preliminary drawings and photographs of a model to have been put together with the sure compositional hand that is characteristic of Mr. Venturi’s work. It is an unorthodox building, full of quirky plays on classicism, such as one blind window that lacks a bottom sill, and a large engaged column beside the facade that appears to support nothing.

But it appears to be right for Trafalgar Square, a monumental square that is one of England’s greatest, but most difficult, urban spaces. The square presents a particularly tough architectural problem. It is dominated not by the National Gallery, which is its largest building and which fills its northern side, but by Nelson’s Column, the slender monument in its center, and by St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, the church with a pointed spire by James Gibbs that is surely the square’s greatest building and the loose model for almost every small-town church in New England.

Too much is going on in Trafalgar Square for a modern building to be comfortably added to the mix, even if esthetic – and political – opinions were not moving away from modernism as they have in England since Prince Charles’s remark in 1984. But too quiet and proper a classical building would run the risk of appearing too timid and proper and of not being able to hold its own amid this active urban agglomeration. And it would surely collapse beside the weight of the old National Gallery building, the facade of which rambles on and on and could well overwhelm any building that did not have a striking presence of its own.

The architectural dilemma, then, was to create a building that would be many things at once. It would have to have sufficient presence to be an element of its own in Trafalgar Square, yet it would also have to contribute something toward pulling the mix of buildings on the square together. And it would have to relate comfortably to the original National Gallery building without either dominating it or being dominated by it.

The Venturi design appears to succeed at striking this difficult and tremendously subtle balance. It is different on all of its sides, to inflect toward the different buildings that surround it, yet it is also a coherent whole. The building is a case of classicism transformed, a design that is clearly of the late 20th century and not of any other period. But this is the late 20th century trying not so much to abandon classicism as seeking to make its own comment upon it.

In its somewhat gentle quirkiness, the design is in the tradition of English classicism, which has often favored the eccentric and complex over the simplistic and direct. So much English monumental architecture, from the work of such figures as Nicholas Hawksmoor in the 17th century to that of Edwin Lutyens in the 20th, has broken the standard rules of classicism and been the better for it. Clearly Mr. Venturi is aspiring to continue in this mold.

16 October 1984

Desmond Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Bishop-Desmond-Tutu-10-7-1931-South-African-activist-opponent-of-apartheid-is-awarded-the-Nobel-Peace-Prize-10-16-1984

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has chosen to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 1984 to Bishop Desmond Tutu, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.

The Committee has attached importance to Desmond Tutu’s role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa. The means by which this campaign is conducted is of vital importance for the whole of the continent of Africa and for the cause of peace in the world. Through the award of this year’s Peace Prize, the Committee wishes to direct attention to the non-violent struggle for liberation to which Desmond Tutu belongs, a struggle in which black and white South Africans unite to bring their country out of conflict and crisis.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a South African once before, in 1960 when it was awarded to the former president of the African National Congress, Albert Lutuli. This year’s award should be seen as a renewed recognition of the courage and heroism shown by black South Africans in their use of peaceful methods in the struggle against apartheid. This recognition is also directed to all who, throughout the world, use such methods to stand in the vanguard of the campaign for racial equality as a human right.

It is the Committee’s wish that the Peace Prize now awarded to Desmond Tutu should be regarded not only as a gesture of support to him and to the South African Council of Churches of which he is leader, but also to all individuals and groups in South Africa who, with their concern for human dignity, fraternity and democracy, incite the admiration of the world.