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Federation / Queen Anne

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  09 British Seaman's Hotel 04 Queen Victoria Record Reign Hall 13 Grace Bros Department Store
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  14 Annandale Post Office 25 Taronga Zoo 13 Pyrmont War Memorial
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  10 Pyrmont Bridge    
       
Do you ever feel like nobody loves you any more and you're past your use-by date? Well that's exactly how the Victorian Terrace was feeling at the end of the nineteenth century. It's hard to believe now, but back then it had become synonymous with poverty, overcrowding and disease. And to make matters worse as fashions had changed, it'd become a style criminal too; all that plaster work, frilly iron lace and those ridiculous classical urns.

As the Australian economy marched towards political federation, Australian housing was heading towards a federation of its own. Historically, this type of building marks a seachange in architectural style. The frilly iron is still there, but something very strange is growing in the attic. 

The gablet soon became gables, bursting out and taking over the whole facade. The row house had split up, taking a friend along for company. The semi- detached was born; more spacious housing for Australians.

Influenced by the work of British architect Norman Shaw, the cult of Merry England was under way. With brick, tuck pointing, stained glass, timber joinery and gables, gables, gables everywhere. And soon it was everywhere as new suburbs sprang up along expanding tramway lines, the paddocks filled with gabled, single family dwellings.

Habberfield in Sydney's inner west, is one of Australia's first gardened suburbs. And when it was built, in 1901 it represented a revolution in urban design. The nature strips, the avenue of trees, the houses on their own family blocks. The middle classes were delirious with joy, because finally their dreams had turned to masonry, timber and glass.

It wasn't always an entirely democratic revolution, though. The wealthy industrialist George Hoskins, didn't want the masses messing up his view of Eden. So he built his own personal Federation village and selected the tenants to populate it. It's architectural Gilbert and Sullivan, where even the tennis courts put on Medieval fancy dress. 

Federation peacocks, vie for attention behind their picket fences. While the Victorian terrace often hid rooftops by flying behind a parapet, these houses flaunt them with elongated chimneys, towers and of course, tiles. It's a kind of literal one up-man-ship: look at the steepness of my pitch. Get a load of my gables. How do you like my candle snuffer. That's a turret to you and me. 

Corrugated iron rooves, hopelessly Victorian were out. Federation Australians developed a passion for slate and an addiction to terracotta. Terracotta roof tiles, terracotta finials and terracotta ridge crests. Overnight, entire towns and cities turned in to carrot tops. It couldn't have done much for the balance of payments. Between 1892 and 1914, over 75 million Marseille tiles were imported from France before production began here during the first World War. Charles Dickens would have loved it. From Marseille to Sydney, a tile of two cities. 

The rooves sweep down to verandas, the verandas rush in to the gardens. It's Austral-Eden, suburban Nirvana. If those gablets in the attic of the Victorian terrace represent the very beginnings of Federation architecture, then a small window from 1911 boasting a stained glass red Waratah, must be the climactic moment. Finally, an Australian icon, celebrating the beauty of its own landscape. 

With special thanks to Michael Garbutt
 
 
  A Queen Anne style residence in Ivanhoe, Victoria.
 
  Former ANZ Bank building in Albury, New South Wales
 
  The Austral Buildings, Collins Street, Melbourne. Completed 1891. Queen Anne style.
 
  Professional Chambers. Collins Street, Melbourne. Completed 1908. Queen Anne style

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