Kenneth McDonald: A Tale of Two Chairs.

The architect Kenneth McDonald is an interesting character from the mid-century period. During the early 1950’s, McDonald operated an architectural practice from 86 Collins St, Melbourne. The address is important for a number of reasons, as it was also the home of the architectural magazine ‘Architecture and Arts’, and a small furniture business called Meadmore Originals.

‘Architecture and Arts’ was first published in 1952, with the first 5 issues edited by young architecture student Peter Burns. By issue 6 (see above), McDonald had moved on from his position as Advertising Director, taking over Burns’ role as Editor.

In late 1952, McDonald had also formed a business partnership with Clement Meadmore. The business was simply called Meadmore Originals, but Meadmore’s involvement was to be short lived. In April 1953, planning to permanently move to London, Meadmore sold his share of Meadmore Originals to McDonald, who within 6 months onsold the business, along with the rights to some of Meadmore’s designs, to Wim Roosen. Meadmore would not contribute any further designs to the company.

McDonald’s dalliance with design was short lived, but during this time he produced 2 known chair designs. The first was a proposed new design for Meadmore Originals; a stackable corded chair based on Meadmore’s ‘Corded Chair’ (1951) first advertised in the Sept/Oct issue of Architecture and Arts in 1953.

The other chair, a far more intriguing proposition, appears in a registration application submitted by McDonald to the Commonwealth Patents Office on March 18, 1955. McDonald was notified on the 6th of April that he had not enclosed the prescribed lodgement fee of two pounds. On the 14th April McDonald posted the fee, which was received 4 days later, thus changing the date of the registration application to the 18th of April. Described in the application (33980) as the ‘Three Legged Stacking Chair’, and made of iron rod and plywood, the design is reminiscent of the work of high profile American designers Charles Eames and Paul McCobb.

One need only look at Eames’ 3 legged ply chair from 1944, or Paul McCobb’s 1535 Iron and Maple Dining Chair from the Planner Group (see above) to see similar design motifs to that used in McDonald’s chair.

In 1955, there was also another 3 legged stackable Chair created by an Australian designer. Meadmore had returned from London in November 1953, and re-established himself as a designer. In 1954 he released his now iconic Calyx lighting range and in February 1955 Meadmore’s 3 legged timber stacking chair was featured in Australian Home Beautiful magazine.

Whereas McDonald’s chair might be described as crude, Meadmore’s 3 Legged chair was arguably a far more elegant and resolved design, perhaps taking in European influences from designers such as Carlo Mollino and Gio Ponti.

Ultimately McDonald’s 3 Legged Chair was never registered, due to objections by the Patents Office that included small errors in the paperwork and his not supplying photographs of the underside of the chair. On the 8th August, 1956, McDonald was advised by the Commonwealth Patents Office that “as no action had been taken by you to remove the objections within the time allowed, the application has been deemed abandoned … unless an extension of time is applied for within fourteen (14) days from the date of this letter.”

On the 16th August McDonald applied for an extension, which was granted, but in the following year McDonald had still not addressed the objections and the application was deemed abandoned on 2nd May, 1957. It’s possible that McDonald had designed the 3 Legged chair as part of an intended new range for Rosen’s Meadmore Originals. Perhaps, he also felt that his design would ultimately be compared to Meadmore’s sophisticated design which had already found a place in the market.

By the later half of the 1950s, Architecture and Arts had moved away from featuring industrial design and interiors, shifting its focus to modern architecture and trade suppliers. It would appear that neither of McDonald’s chairs went into production, but the designs tell an interesting story of the influences and processes that shaped industrial design in mid-century Australia.

Images:

[1] Front cover of Architecture & Arts, Issue 6. Image: Author

[2] Advertisement in Architecture & Arts, Issue 6. Image: Author.

[3] 3 Legged Stacking Chair, designed by Kenneth McDonald. Source: Design Registration File, 33980, NAA. Image: Gordon de Lisle.

[4] 3 Legged Ply Chair, designed by Charles Eames, 1944.

[5] 1535 Iron and Maple Dining Chair, designed by Paul McCobb, c.1950s.

[6] 3 Legged Chair, designed by Clement Meadmore, 1955. Harris/Atkins Collection. Image: Author.

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Lind House receives State Heritage Listing

The battle to save Lind House, designed by emigre architect Anatol Kagan, united mid-century enthusiasts from across the country in a battle to save the important home from demolition. Too often, important buildings are demolished and replaced with lack lustre apartments, and that’s exactly the fate the developers had planned for Lind House. But this is no ordinary home, Lind House is an important example of European Modernism in Melbourne, a building that retains many of its original features.

It was great to see so many people getting behind the campaign to save Lind House and putting pressure on the Glen Eira Council and State Government to rescue the important home from the wrecking ball that has claimed far too many modernist buildings in Australia.

The good news is that the cultural significance of Lind House has finally been recognised and it has been added to the Victorian Heritage Register. According to an article in the Herald Sun, the developer sold the house to a young family who are keen to restore and maintain the home.

The campaign to save Lind House is proof that people power can work, and that it’s worth fighting to save the things that you value in life. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took the time to contact the council and politicians, and those at the coal face who wrote detailed submissions to secure the future of Lind House. Together we are many, so let’s keep spreading the mid-century love so that others can see the beauty of mid-century modernist design.

You can read all about the decision to heritage list Lind House here: https://architectureau.com/articles/anatol-kagan-house-receives-state-heritage-listing/

Grant and Mary Featherston: Design for Life

One of the most anticipated events this year has to be the Grant and Mary Featherston exhibition to be held at the Heide Museum of Art in Bulleen, Melbourne. Curated by Kirsty Grant and Denise Whitehouse, the exhibition explores the Featherston partnership, acknowledging the design contributions of Mary Featherston.

Grant, the senior curator of the popular Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design exhibition held at NGV Ian Potter in 2014, and Whitehouse a Featherston scholar, make an ideal team to deliver this important survey of the Featherston’s design practice. Whitehouse’s knowledge of the dynamic design duo is built from years of detailed research, including extensive interviews with Mary Featherston. Whitehouse is also a fantastic writer, so the catalogue essay is sure to be a highlight.

The exhibition is a rare opportunity to see many rare Featherston chairs, and gain some insight into the influences that shaped the planning and production of these iconic furniture designs.

Australian Mid-Century Design continues to capture people’s imagination, and this exhibition showcases the work of one of Australia’s most iconic design partnerships. Don’t miss out and be sure to get a catalogue before they sell out.

The exhibition opens in June, so in the meantime head over to the Featherston Archive for more Featherston design pleasure.

Date:  30 June 7 October 2018

Location:  Heide III: Central Galleries

Curator/s:  Kirsty Grant and Denise Whitehouse / Project Curator: Kendrah Morgan

Admission:  Included with Museum Pass

Clement Meadmore and the Art Of Mid-Century Design

At Australian Modern we are truly passionate about Australian Mid-Century Design, so it may not come as a surprise when we tell you that we have been working on a very special design project. What is this project you may well ask? It’s the first major survey of Clement Meadmore’s industrial design practice from 1951-1963.

The exhibition will include newly discovered designs that have never been exhibited and a rare opportunity to see Clem’s furniture and lighting designed for the iconic Legend Cafe and Teahouse in Melbourne.

At the moment we are busy working on the catalogue, but I can say that the exhibition will is planned for November, 2018. You can expect an official announcement in the coming weeks.

The Legend Cafe, designed by Clement Meadmore, 1956.

The exhibition is 10 years in the making and will feature furniture, lighting, graphic design, and archival images. We have managed to locate most of Clem’s designs, but there are still a some designs from the Meadmore Originals catalogue that have managed to allude us. Can you help find the missing designs? It would be fantastic to include them in the exhibition.

If you have any information on these missing designs (see below) please email me at: australianmodern@yahoo.com.au

The Other Moderns: Sydney’s Forgotten European Design Legacy

I recently got a copy of the brilliant new book ‘The Other Moderns: Sydney’s forgotten European Design Legacy’. Edited by curator Rebecca Hawcroft, the book features a collection of expertly researched, and beautifully written essays that highlight the contributions of European designers and artists who came to Australia before or after World War ll. 

The book is the companion to ‘The Moderns’ exhibition which is currently showing at the Museum of Sydney until 26th November, 2017.  If you are yet to see the exhibition, I suggest you make it a priority. It is a timely and much needed contribution to our design heritage.

The exhibition features a range of vignettes by important designers of the period. This is a rare opportunity to see rooms of original furniture by George Korody, Steven Kalmar, Michael Gerstl and Paul Kafka. The curator Rebecca Hawcroft, has done an incredible job of bringing together archival photographs, artefacts and design objects to create a spellbinding exhibition that leaves you wanting to know more about the lives of these incredible people.

The book expertly builds on the material covered in the exhibition, and is crammed full of archival images and contemporary photographs of stunning vintage pieces from the Hotel Hotel collection. 

The stories are inspiring, and it’s good to see women being acknowledged for their important contribution to architecture and design.  In a time when refugees are too often vilified, this book provides a rare insight into the ways that Europeans, many fleeing war, have significantly influenced architecture and design in Australia. 

It’s a credit to all of the authors, and evidence of their craft, that they were able to write such detailed and evocative accounts that conjur such a vivid sense of the challenges and cultures that shaped the experiences of these remarkable people.

The book is limited, so get yourself a copy before it sells out. And don’t forget to check out the exhibition for a rare chance to see the beautiful furniture designed by these creative and talented Europeans who brought so much knowledge and culture to Australia. 

Update: Keep up the good work. Save Lind House from demolition

Hi All,

Mid-Century enthusiasts from across the country are getting behind the national campaign to save Anatol Kagan’s masterpiece ‘Lind House’ from demolition.

Thousands of everyday people like you and I are frustrated and disappointed with the lack of protection afforded Lind House, and many of us think it’s time that councils, like the Glen Eira Council, went the extra mile and sent a message to developers that they can’t destroy our most treasured cultural icons. 

At this stage you need to keep up the  pressure, and for those who are yet to contact the Glen Eira Council, please submit your objection asap using the link in my previous post. 

I was told today, at a council meeting last night, Mayor Mary Delahunty said the council would write to the Planning Minister asking for interim protection control measures to save the house.

Well, we can also write to the planning minister.  Please email Richard Wynne MP or give his office a call at the link below:

http://m.vic.gov.au/contactsandservices/directory/?ea0_lfz99_120.&roleWithSubordinates&1deea11c-53f3-429b-9dda-80a3d0318f5e

Please leave a message on his Facebook page asking him to take action now to save Anatol Kagan’s architectural gem. https://m.facebook.com/richardwynnemp/

Keep up the good work everyone, and thank you to all the modernisters out there working hard to save our cultural heritage for future generations.

You can read about the latest developments in this excellent article by Bianca Cardona

As always, we are ever grateful for the tireless work of Modernist Australia, who are committed to saving our mid-century architecture. 

Please share this post widely and ask your friends to join the campaign to save an outstanding example of Melbourne Modernist architecture. 

Iconic Anatol Kagan home faces demolition. Can you help save it?


The ‘Lind House’, 450 Dandenong Rd, North Caulfield, designed by Anatol Kagan.

It seems strange that Robin Boyd’s book The Australian Ugliness should have such relevance more than 50 years after its publication, but here we are again dealing with the same issues. In an era where ugly has arguably become an industry fuelled by profit, too often we see architect designed mid-century homes destroyed and replaced with poorly designed boxes with little architectural merit.

These generic boxes are like tombstones that represent the destruction of another home, and too often the loss of yet another iconic architectural landmark. With increased frequency we read or hear stories of people mourning the loss of significant buildings that have been touchstones in our design history.  Mid-century homes designed by Boyd, Chancellor and Patrick, Fooks, Holgar and Holgar, and many more, here one day and gone the next, and ironically in its place another high density ‘modernist inspired’ box.

The buildings that replace these architectural gems often purport to be modern, but are instead simply examples of what Boyd terms featurism. You’ve all seen the photos, open plan spaces with replica American mid-century furniture, an island bench in the kitchen and a faux Danish pendant light. A pastiche that is neither modern or inspiring.

Recently, we saw Boyd’s Blott House (see above) on the chopping block, but thankfully it was saved by mid-century enthusiasts who valued and understood the importance and qualities of this iconic home.

Well, here we are again. This time it’s the ‘Lind House’, an architectural treasure designed by Anatol Kagan, one of the best architects from the Melbourne mid-century movement. You can read all about the home in this wonderful article by our ever vigilant friends at modernistaustralia.com.

I have walked past the ‘Lind House’ many times, admiring its form and it’s gentle modernism. I have dreamt of winning lotto and moving in to this ‘dream home’. But alas, the developers are poised, and the house looks certain to be another casualty in a housing market that values profit over substance. It is astounding that such an important home should not be protected, but perhaps councils too often talk of  revenue rather than rescue.

Whereas Boyd and other Australian mid-century architects had sought to create buildings that inspired new ways of living, it looks like the spectre of the ‘Australian Ugliness’ is now threatening to erase the very buildings that demonstrated that thoughtful and creative architecture is the key to a better future.

What can you do about this?

rosie-riveter
A developer is planning to replace Lind House with 8 dwellings. You can see the planning permit application details on the Glen Eira Council site.  Lodge an objection today, you can do it here. I suggest you let the Glen Eira Council know that they have a role to play in protecting our design heritage. We also have a duty to protect the things we value, so please click on the link above and make an objection. Do your bit to save this important example of mid-century architecture.

If you care, please share this post to help raise awareness. Together we are many, and submitting an objection sends a clear message to the council. Let’s all try to save this truly magnificent mid-century home.