Architecture

After The Australian Ugliness edited by Naomi Stead, Tom Lee, Ewan McEoin, and Megan Patty

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August 2021, no. 434

Robin Boyd was that rare thing, an architect more famous for a book than for his buildings.

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Amid all the hoopla surrounding the centenary in 2019 of the Bauhaus – naturally more pronounced in Germany – it is gratifying to see such a fine Australian publication dealing with the international influence of this short-lived, revolutionary art and design teaching institute. Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond – written by Philip Goad, Ann Stephen, Andrew McNamara, Harriet Edquist, and Isabel Wünsche – explores the Bauhaus and its influence in Australia.

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Philip Johnson – lagging well behind the founding fathers – may not be the most profound architect of the twentieth century. Nor does he have the resonance of Louis Kahn or the form-changing genius of Frank Gehry, among his contemporaries. Yet the pattern of twentieth-century architecture cannot be fully understood without him ...

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In the 1970s, before Malcolm Fraser (ahead of his time) tightened security and made most of the place a no-go zone, Australia House – a regular embassy – also functioned as an informal social amenity for visiting Australians. There was a howling disjunction between ...

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Researching Australia’s most iconic building and writing about its beleaguered history from the time Jørn Utzon resigned in 1966 until it opened in 1973 might result in an indigestible plot for many of the building’s enthusiasts. Yet narrating the fraught circumstances behind the completion of the Sydney Opera House by Australian ...

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The twenty or so elegant Georgian buildings designed by Francis Greenway that stand in Sydney today are a civilising presence. Yet these represent less than a quarter of his output. The destruction has been wanton and impoverishing.

Greenway was born in November 1777, near Bristol. His father was a stonemason and builder, as had been generations of Greenways. Nothing is known of his early years, but, judging by his knowledge of literature, he probably had a respectable education. He worked in the Greenway family’s mason’s yard and spent time in London from 1797, attached in some way – maybe as an apprentice – to the architect John Nash. By 1805, Greenway was back in Bristol working with his brothers, and by 1809 he was bankrupt.

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Among the diaspora of European-born Jewish artists, architects, academics, and intellectuals who made a life on Australian shores pre- and post-World War II, Harry Seidler (1923–2006) was, arguably, the most successful and at various times during his life, one of the most visible and most controversial. As an architect, he left behind signature office buildings in five state capital cities, a brace of stunning modernist houses in Sydney, Canberra, and Darwin from the 1950s to the 1990s, the much-acclaimed Australian Embassy in Paris, as well as buildings in Acapulco, Hong Kong, and Vienna. He also made sure he was remembered. He published Houses, Interiors, and Projects, the first book on his work, in 1953 and then, almost without fail, every ten years a book on his architecture would appear, culminating in 1992 with the magnum opus, Harry Seidler: Four Decades of Architecture, complete with essays by architectural historians Philip Drew and Kenneth Frampton. The last word? Certainly not. Four more books followed, and now, in the tradition of marking each decade, another book has appeared on Seidler, this time by journalist and author Helen O’Neill.

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Public Sydney: Drawing the City edited by Philip Thalis and Peter John Cantrill

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July–August 2013, no. 353

Public Sydney: Drawing the City is a large and beautiful book. Its size recalls William Hardy Wilson’s Old Colonial Architecture in New South Wales and Tasmania (1924) and other folio-sized books produced by architectauthors such as Andrea Palladio, James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, and Richard Phené Spiers. Their luxurious size was dictated by the reproduction of drawings at a scale where maximum information might be imparted – like the encyclopedic data provided by a map or an atlas, or an architect’s working drawing. The size of Public Sydney has been determined by the scale of Sydney’s plan view, and special note should be made of the book’s consistent placement of historic drawings – very carefully done – so that, at various moments, one can deduce a longitudinal account of the city’s development.

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When Paul Raphael Montford (1868–1938) settled in Melbourne in 1923, one press report claimed that he was ‘one of England’s best-known sculptors’, but despite having created works for the façade of the Victoria and Albert Museum and for Westminster Abbey, as well as numerous public sculptures in Australia, his work is not well known in either country. His reputation has always been overshadowed by his infinitely more successful and slightly older contemporary and rival, Bertram Mackennal.

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It’s absurd to pretend that we are or ever have been no more than exiled Europeans … forever condemned to inhabit some irrelevant, Antipodean limbo.’ This statement encapsulates Joan Kerr’s determination to rewrite established codes of Australian art history and to expand the lexicon of its cultural heritage ...

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