Philip Goad

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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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 buildi ...

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

by
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 ...

Architectural distinction was conferred upon most Australian towns and cities in the nineteenth century. This was achieved largely through the construction of public buildings designed by architects employed within colonial works departments – a practice that regrettably does not exist anymore. Town halls, post offices, courthouses, hospitals, lunatic asylums, and jails were the product of highly skilled public servants who shared a common view that civic decorum was best expressed through the architecture of the Classical Tradition. Within the pantheon of these government architects, there are famous names of Australian architecture. Francis Greenway, Mortimer Lewis, James Barnet, William Wardell, Charles Tiffin, F.D.G. Stanley, and Walter Liberty Vernon are the best known among a host of others. All in some way bequeathed a certain seriousness to the endeavour of building in a place where such structures had never before stood, and in doing so contributed to defining the future mood and character of that place.

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This is an impressive publication, a massive tome with high gloss pages, beautifully designed with the highest production values, lavishly illustrated, with entries provided (on my count) by 229 separate contributors. This monumental collective effort makes a defining contribution to the study and documentation of architecture in this country, and to Australian architectural history. It is astonishing in its breadth, and gives us for the first time as near to a complete understanding of the trajectory of architectural ideas and practice in this country as is possible. Put simply, we have never before had so much information instantly available in a condensed form.

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A striking work by Adrian Feint and Hera Roberts appears on the cover of Modernism & Australia: Documents on Art, Design and Architecture 1917–1967. It shows an aeroplane, a locomotive and an ocean liner travelling in opposite directions through a vivid landscape of radiating lines and concentric circles. On the circular forms, which are reminiscent of abstract paintings by the French artist Robert Delaunay, we read the legend ‘Paris, Rome, New York, Cairo’; on the diagonal lines, ‘Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane’. This 1928 work is typically modernist for its celebration of the exciting possibilities of modern technology, and in its use of bold colour areas and geometric shapes. It is also a declaration of a perceived, or wished-for, globalisation of culture, which Feint and Roberts, by adopting styles from international modernism, have realised in the work’s very design.

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