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The post-war international style

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As the twentieth century draws to a close, there seems to be little doubt that historians of the future will acknowledge that the century’s most significant brand of architecture has been that which, from the 1920S onwards, grew from the twin seeds of functionalism and abstract painting—the International style. As outlined in the essay on the POSTWAR INTERNATIONAL style, the idiom came into common parlance in many parts of the world during the 1950s. Two decades later, and in spite of the sophisticated alternatives late modernism and post-modernism were offering, the International style had become so entrenched that it remained in general use, even though it featured less prominently in the glossy architectural magazines. The style’s insistence on rationality, comprehensibility and simplicity made it attractive to business enterprises which sought unpretentious efficiency and economy in their buildings.
While the International style had to a large extent become the ‘bread and butter’ style of the 1970s and 1980s, it continued to be developed and used creatively by some architects who had been deeply influenced by the modern movement’s key figures in mid-century. Foremost among these were I. M. Pei in the United States and Harry Seidler in Australia, both men being products of Walter Gropius’s Harvard Graduate School. The most obvious new features of Seidler’s work in the Late Twentieth-Century period were his exploration of non-orthogonal geometry (especially that of the quadrant), his use of reinforced-concrete members shaped sculpturally in response to structural forces, and his use of high-quality ‘traditional’ materials such as polished granite cladding.
In Australia, as in most parts of the world, the Late Twentieth-Century International style was used mainly for commercial and institutional buildings. Compared with examples of the International style from the Post-War period, the exteriors of many buildings in the 196os and 19705 had a greater three-dimensional quality and displayed more assertive textures through the use of sculpturally modelled precast concrete cladding panels instead of a flat, metal curtain-wall treatment.

City of Bayswater Administration Centre, Broun Avenue, Morley, WA. Christou & Vuko Pty Ltd and Peter Gala & Associates, architects, 1982—83.
Trade Group Offices, King’s Avenue, Barton, ACT. Hariy Seidler & Associates, architects, 1974. A new-generation wide- span prestressed concrete building.
Viney house, Edith Street, Sandy Bay, Tas. Mick Viney, architect, ‘979. A timber house with flush windows.
BHP House, Bourke Street, Melbourne, Vic. Yuncken Freeman Py Ltd, architects,from ‘96g. A smooth steel-and-glass prism reticulated by a graphic statement of its frame.

Quoted from:
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.

The modernist international style came to prominence again after the end of the Second World War. Unlike the classicism employed in Nazi prestige buildings, it was a style with no undesirable political connotations.

In the United States in particular, architects such as Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe who had emigrated there during the 1930s were able to further develop their modernist ideas in the immediate post-war period.

There was surprising continuity in the ideas and forms of the international style from the 1930s. With new materials and construction techniques, reinforced concrete and glassy facades became symbolic of post-war capitalism.

In Australia, the post-war international style increased in popularity during the 1950s through the curtain-walled, reinforced concrete office block and the flat roofed, cubiform glass walled house. Such houses were considered radical when they first appeared in Sydney. Harry Seidler and Sydney Ancher had several well publicised battles with Sydney councils, who were opposed to residences with flat roofs. These early examples by Ancher and Seidler were characterised by their extensive use of steel, glass and open planning.

With thanks to http://www.canberrahouse.com/index.html 

Modern architecture came comparatively late to Australia, and the 'heroic age' of modern masters like Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius in the 1920s and 1930s had relatively little impact here. But a milestone in the post-war architecture was ICI House in Melbourne (Fig. 49) designed by Bates Smart and McCutcheon in 1956. The responsible partner, the late Sir Osborne McCutcheon, was the first architectural Fellow of this Academy. The building achieved distinction for several reasons: it represented a break from the previous height limitations of 40 metres to 70 metres: it was the first major curtain wall structure in Melbourne, to counter the increasing costs of site labour, a modular system was adopted which incorporated lightweight prefabricated building components. The rigid frame structure was designed by Harvey Brown by methods developed at Purdue University, U.S.A., it was the first occasion in Melbourne when site welded joints were adopted for a major rigid frame building, and fire protection was provided by light-weight precast gypsum units. 

Some years after completion a number of failures occurred in the blue/grey heat strengthened glass in the curtain walls. These failures were ultimately proved, after exhaustive tests by CSIRO, to have originated from minute nickel sulphide impurities in the glass. 

Further impetus to the modern idiom, came with the arrival in Australia in 1948 of Harry Seidler, who had trained at Harvard University under Gropius. In his Australia Square project, Sydney (Fig. 50) (1967), Seidler demonstrated his mastery at solving a central-city high-rise situation thus effectively introducing large scale modern architecture to the Australian public. By freeing the ground level of this previously congested inner city site, it won much-needed public open space, and its structural forms clearly evidenced the design imprint of the famed Italian engineer, Pier Luigi Nervi, who collaborated with Seidler on the scheme. 

50 Australia Square, the office Tower, Sydney. Nervi's structure design is evident.
Several years later they again collaborated on the larger and more complex MLC Centre (1975) (Fig. 51), fronting Martin Place in Sydney, and incorporating a redesigned Theatre Royal. The high-rise office tower, octagonal in plan, its great structural corner shafts tapered towards the top, and the foyer ceilings to tower and theatre demonstrating anew Nervi's structural artistry, again allowed at street level significant public open space, here arranged on two levels. But Seidler went further and integrated the air-conditioning and service ducts into the concave-shaped beams that formed the spandrels to each floor, their deep reveals providing sun-protection for the offices within. It marked an overall design synthesis of structure and services rare in modern Australian architecture.