The Birth of Cool: Australian architecture in the 1950’s and 60’s.

The River House (1955) by Peter McIntyre

The post-war years were a time of great productivity
as many Australians embraced a wave of modernism that
offered the promise of leaving the war years behind,
along with it’s old fashioned architecture and design.

As the population continued to grow, so did a demand for
housing that met the needs of the modernist paradigm,
as well as the desires of a population who were arguably
somewhat intrigued and captivated by the new ideas and
products that make up the post-war design vernacular.

Robin Boyd’s ideal interior for a modern house exhibition

International in it’s origins, yet arguably Australian in it’s
interpretation, the post-war design boom presented opportunities
for architects, designers and consumers to create a brave
new world in which design would play a major role in shaping
a positive future.

It’s interesting to compare the housing boom of the 1950’s
with the current housing boom and it’s ever extending suburbia.
The tropes of modernism can be found in many new homes,
yet these new homes, which are cut from the same cookie cutter,
seem to lack the passion and inventiveness of the best post-war
modernest architecture. Rather than look to the future, these new
homes look to the past, and are arguably simply a pastiche of the
modernist home, rather than a celebration of the ways in which
good design can enrich our lives.

For me, the new modernist home is one which is designed to improve
our quality of life and wellbeing. It should use new technologies and research
to minimise our environmental footprint in a way that considers a future
for the next generation. It may be situated in a housing estate with a
communal veggie garden, with parks and excellent public transport links.

For a fascinating discussion on the Birth of the New Suburb in 1950’s and 60’s,
“Join Professor Adrian Franklin of the ABC’s Collectors program as he
leads a panel discussion with guests including Howard Lindsey,
brother of Tessa Furniture founder Fred Lowen; Geoffrey Hatty,
20th century design specialist and proprietor of Geoffrey Hatty
Applied Arts; and Peter McIntyre, practice director of McIntyre
Partnership Pty Ltd and emeritus professor of architecture”.


For more information check out:
Heroic Melbourne: Architecture of the 1950’s
By Norman Day. Published by the RMIT Department of Architecture, softback, $50.

Listen to an excellent radio program about Design, including an interview with architect Peter McIntyre.


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