In Print

Take A Gander At Australia's Iconic Art Deco Pubs

From a rural roadstop to your local watering hole, most Australian adults have visited, if not frequented, a pub. There is a fair chance it was an Art Deco one, with hundreds of these streamlined hotels being built across Australia to service the population booms of the 1930s and 1940s.

Geoffrey Goddard’s new book, Australian Art Deco Hotels, spotlights many of the surviving gems. While these buildings may be famed as cheap refuges providing hot meals and, of course, cold beers, the photographer’s project also offers a uniquely Australian interpretation of architecture, and reflection on its contribution to our culture.

Elle Murrell

Photograph Geoffrey Goddard’s new book Australian Art Deco Hotels. Pictured: North Annandale Hotel, Sydney. Photo – Geoff Goddard.

(left to right) Tea Gardens and Hollywood Hotel, Sydney. Photo – Geoff Goddard.

Royal Sheaf, Sydney. Photo – Geoff Goddard.

Clare Hotel, Sydney. Photo – Geoff Goddard.

Bay View, Whyalla. Photo – Geoff Goddard.

Elle Murrell
17th of July 2019

I basically grew up in a pub (don’t be alarmed, my Grandparents ran one for 25 years), yet I didn’t even know where that word came from, until I learned about photographer Geoffrey Goddard’s decade-long project.

The Sydney-based lensman has been photographing Art Deco ‘public houses’ over the past 10 years. This quest has taken him on over 35,000-kilometres of road trips, and the result is a fascinating, self-published book featuring more than 300 photographs. Complementing his original photographs with archival images from local historical institutions, he has explored examples from the bush to the city, and honed-in on decorative details and typography too.

A prize-winning photographer, art director and designer, Geoffrey has held numerous solo exhibitions and had his work exhibited from China to New Zealand, India to France and in the U.S. He took us through the pages of his new tome…

How did the idea for this book come to you, and why did you decide to specifically focus on Pubs and those in an Art Deco style?

I have been a passionate collector of all things Deco for many years, including buying and selling Deco furniture and collectables for a while, as a way to make money back in my uni days.

A trip to some of America’s great Art Deco cities of New York, Chicago and Miami back in 2007 became a launching pad for my passion for photographing architecture, in particular, Art Deco (this has now progressed to include other styles such as Mid-Century Modernism, Brutalism and Googie architecture).

When I got back from that trip I started to photograph the Art Deco architecture around Sydney where I live, and from there I started to research and compile a repository of buildings right around Australia that I slowly started to photograph one road trip at a time.

During one of the many road trips, I was thinking just how many Art Deco pubs I had photographed and what a unique Australian contribution to the architecture of the period they are. From there, the idea for the book was born.

A decade-long project is SUCH a commitment! What has been the highlight for you?

The most rewarding part of the project has been to finish it. It’s been quite a long journey, from initially taking the photos to researching and writing the book, then designing and producing the book to now distributing and selling it.

To sit back and be happy with the final outcome and to have publishers and other photographers I admire complimenting both the images and final production has been very rewarding, as well as all the lovely comments from people who have bought the book.

Also, knowing you have documented a slice of Australian history and contributed to the awareness and hopefully preservation of that history, has been very satisfying.

Did you encounter any *road bumps* along the way?

Apart from the long hours on the road it would definitely be the self-publishing aspect and learning about the business and production side of things.

After getting a few publishing offers, I decided to do it myself which involved a lot of time trying to get the production to a standard I was happy with and at a cost-effective price point.

Why do you think pubs hold such a special place in the Australian psyche, and do you think they will/can continue to be an important part of our cultural identity into the future?

It’s interesting to note that in the time I have been working on the book, a few of the pubs have closed or been converted for other uses, but generally, compared to many other buildings of the era, these Art Deco hotels have survived.

This is due to the fact that their function within the community, as a social hub and place to get a cheap room, a meal and a cold beer, is essentially the same today as it was when they were built. All be it, that these days the big band has been replaced with an indie band, the food is likely to be gourmet and served with a local craft beer.

Geoffrey Goddard’s Australian Art Deco Hotels can be purchased from or in Sydney at Kinokuniya Books, Better Read Than Dead, The State Library Bookshop, and at Melbourne’s Hill of Content Bookstore. You can see more of the project on Instagram @australianartdecohotels

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