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Inter-War Gothic c. 1915—C. 1940
Memorial Art Gallery
|Perhaps surprisingly, the use of revived
medieval styles for ecclesiastical buildings not only outlived the
nineteenth century but actually survived throughout the first four decades
of the twentieth century. One of the most influential architects to design
in medival idioms during the Inter-War period was the American Ralph Adams
Cram. Fortified by his strong religious beliefs and his understanding of the
architecture of the Middle Ages, Cram designed buildings in a Gothic style
which had recognisably modern qualities of directness and clarity.
Between the wars, some monumental Gothic structures conceived at the turn of the century were still under construction. There was more than a touch of pathos in the way that these buildings were affected by wars and financial crises just as the great cathedrals of the middle ages had been. In 1903, Giles Gilbert Scott won a competition for the design of an Anglican cathedral for the great English seaport of Liverpool. For the rest of his life Scott watched the huge building slowly take shape until it was nearing completion when he died in 1960. On a similar time scale, the Episcopal cathedral in Washington, DC, designed by G. F. Bodley and Henry Vaughan, has slowly grown from its 1907 foundation stone to a state approaching completion in the late 198os.
There were parallels in Australia. The red brick Christ Church Cathedral which presides over the central area of the City of Newcastle, New South Wales, was designed by John Horbury Hunt in 1869 and started to rise above the ground in 1890. The nave and chancel were not completed (in somewhat altered form) until i 928, long after the architect’s death, and the central tower remained unfinished until the late 197os. The impressive Sacred Heart Cathedral in Bendigo, Victoria, was designed by Reed, Smart & Tappin in 1895, but its eastern end, tower and spire were not completed until as recently as 1977.
In general, Inter-War Gothic buildings tend to lack inspiration. Churches by the Melbourne architect Louis Williams were exceptional, however, as evidenced by one of his finest works, St George’s Church in Parkes in the central west of New South Wales [5051, a building of great power and originality.
These overseas and local examples show that when, in the first half of the twentieth century, models were sought for buildings with religious or collegiate associations, there was in the minds of many no real substitute for a medieval style. If Gothic was a dead style, as the modernists claimed, it certainly would not lie down.
St George’s Anglican Church, Church Street, Parkes, NSW. Louis Williams, architect, C. 1930. A landmark brick church endowed with powerful medieval character without copying Gothic detail.
Anglican church, Pinjarra, WA. Sir Herbert Baker, architect, 1928. Rigorous simplicity, and the decision to restrict materials to brick and timber bestow compelling unity.
Bonython Hall, University of Adelaide, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA. Woods, Bagot, Laybourne-Smith & Irwin, architects, ‘933. Traditional collegiate Tudor architecture richly re-created.
|Newman College (gallery) opened 1918. Strong Cubist influences.|
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
RICHARD APPERLY, ROBERT IRVING, PETER REYNOLDS. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SOLOMON MITCHELL.
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.