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Australia Modern, An Architectural Legacy

In Print

If you were at a quiz night and were asked to list key modernist architects in Australia, you might be able to name Robin Boyd, Harry Seidler and Walter Burley Griffin….but what about the lesser known designers of the Australian built environment?

In Australia Modern, editors Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad have collated 100 significant sites that tell the story of the nation’s design heritage – and show their enduring legacy in informing contemporary architecture. From private homes to civic institutions, Australia Modern documents the buildings that have helped inform and shape the Australian experience. A must for every designer coffee table!

31st July, 2019

Binishell dome, North Narrabeen Primary School, 1975. Source – State Library of New South Wales.

Kitchen, McIntyre House, 1955, Kew. Photographer – Michael Wee.

Australia Modern Architecture, Landscape & Design 1925–1975 by Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad published by Thames & Hudson.

243 Foukes Taylor Showroom, 1965, Nedlands, WA. Photographer – Robert Frith.

(Left to right) Lobster Bay House, 1971-72, Pretty Beach NSW. Photographer  – Michael Wee.
Outdoor Plaza Australia Square, 1961-67, Sydney. Photographer – Max Dupain.

Floreat Beach kiosk, WA, 1970. Photographer – Robert Frith.

Capitol Theatre, 1921-25, Melbourne. Source – State Library of Victoria.

Dorney House, 1952 (rebuilt 1966 and 1978), Sandy Bay, TAS. Photographer – Leigh Woolley.

Miriam McGarry
Wednesday 31st July 2019

After many years of discussing the importance of Australian modernism, and documenting locally significant sites for the international organisation Docomomo, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad decided to create a more permanent survey of key architectural designs. With a wealth of knowledge up their sleeves (both Hannah and Philip are professors at the University of Melbourne), the pair embarked upon collating all of this information into a book, stunningly designed by Stuart Geddes.

Australia Modern includes significant works from 1925 – 1975, which takes it beyond the conventional ‘modernism’ period, but the editors wanted show that ‘modern and ground-breaking design extends well before and well after the WWII mid-century decades.’ Australian Modernism is here understood as a timeframe of the nation maturing, where the Australian dream was driven by ideals of accessible home ownership, access to health and education, and investment in civic infrastructure. Beauty meets functionality, technology and equality of access!

All of the sites included in this book still exist today, highlighting the enduring legacy (and structural success!) of the designs. The examples were selected in consultation with experts from all over Australia, to ensure national representation from cities as well as regional locations. Hannah also highlights the breadth of building types, from residential to education, health and leisure. She explains ‘our definition of modern is the highlighting of places and design ideas that helped usher in and support modern living and working in Australia in all its variety, and adapted to all kinds of contexts.’

Hannah flags that due to the huge breadth of modernist buildings in Australia, the largest challenge in compiling this text was narrowing it down to 100 examples! But whilst celebrating the buildings that have stood the test of time, the book also draws attention to the important buildings that have been lost. In promoting and celebrating the varied and vibrant Australian Modern identity, Hannah hopes the publication will ‘lead to a wider appreciation and a better understanding of the diversity of Australian Modern, so that we might be better equipped to face conservation challenges, and sensitively adapt more buildings and landscapes into the future, rather than destroying them.’

Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape & Design 1925–1975 by Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad is published by Thames & Hudson and available to purchase here.

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