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Post-War International Style 1940—1960

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21 Griffith Taylor Building
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06 Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga  
       
Modernism

Style Definition
The most common building style worldwide, standard modernism has evolved from utilitarian forms introduced in the 19th century. Modernist buildings are generally simple in design and lack any applied ornament. Their architecture is basically a modification of the International Style but is less strict in its geometry.

After about 1960 modernism began to play more freely with shapes and structures, producing a wider variety of designs including cylindrical buildings, sloping roofs, and unusual shapes. This trend runs parallel to Postmodernism, which rebelled against the strictness of modernism by reviving historical tropes; but during this period the aesthetic and economic advantages of simplicity kept modernism alive in all parts of the world.

One of the leading proponents of modernism is the architecture firm Walter Gropius, which has also worked in other styles but is closely associated with the evolution of 20th century modernism. An equivalent firm in the Far East is the Japanese company Nikken Sekkei Ltd., and one of the most famous design firms of the late modern period is The Stubbins Associates, Inc., architects of Yokohama Landmark Tower and Citigroup Center.

The Rose Seidler House in the northern Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, New South Wales.

The Rose Seidler House built by Harry Seidler for his parents between 1948 and 1950 in Sydney incorporated Modernist features of open planning, a minimal colour scheme, and labour saving devices that were new to Australia at the time. The house won the Sir John Sulman medal in 1951 and is today preserved as a museum as a very influential house.
House designed in 1954 by Robin Boyd at Bedford Street, Deakin, Australian Capital Territory. The house is typical of the post-war Melbourne regional style of architecture: long unbroken roof line, wide eaves, extensive windows.

After the second World War, architects in Australia were influenced by the development of the International style of architecture. Some regional variations developed. In Melbourne, Robin Boyd and Roy Grounds articulated a Melbourne interpretation of the modern style. Boyd's book Victorian Modern (1947) traced the history of architecture in the state of Victoria and described a style of architecture that he hoped would be a response to local surroundings as well as the popular international style. In particular he nominated the work of Roy Grounds and in some outer suburban bush houses of the 1930s as being the early stages of such a style. Grounds and Boyd later worked in partnership.

The houses were typically narrow, linear, and single storey with a low pitched gable roof. They had exposed rafters and wide eaves. Walls were generally bagged or painted brick and windows were large areas of glass with regularly spaced timber mullions.
Triple Front (With 4 Fronts), Heidelberg, Victoria
Distinctly recognisable by their front facing walls have 3 and sometimes even 4 front facing falls. This led to the front entrance sometimes brought round to the side within one of the alcoves created by the multiple fronts. Roofs were medium pitched and hipped with concrete tiles being used towards the end of the style in the late 60’s. Front fences had a castellated top and feature piers raised above the top of the rest of the brick fence. Decorative iron was used very minimally, in gates to driveways, and balustrades to entrances.
 
While it is clear in retrospect that there were very few winners at the end of World War II, it could be claimed that one victor emerged in the form of what was then called ‘contemporary architecture’.
When it was decided to build a world peace headquarters in New York to house the United Nations Organisation, a team of famous and not- so-famous architects from many countries was assembled and given the task of producing a design. Disappointingly, though perhaps predictably, bickering among the architects triumphed over brotherly love, but the building complex that eventually emerged was sleek, undoubtedly modern and instantly recognisable. Soon after, in 1952, Lever House in New York showed the world that American capitalism had embraced the rectangular prism (or ‘the matchbox on its end’) wrapped in a glossy, impersonal curtain wall. The acceptance by governments and big corporations of modern architecture was certainly a vindication ofthe work ofthe pioneers in the i 9205 and i 93os, but on the other hand it blunted the modern movement’s revolutionary fervour and led to a certain amount of self-indulgence on the part of some of its leading lights in Europe and America.
In Australia, modern architecture won acceptance during the 1950S through two building types:
the curtain-walled office block and the radical, fiat- roofed, glass-walled private house. Office buildings designed by Bates, Smart & McCutcheon for the MLC insurance company [560] exemplified the former; houses by Sydney Ancher [552] and by Arthur Baldwinson the latter. What were at that time radically modern buildings were distinguished by their extensive use of steel, reinforced concrete and glass, by their predilection for open planning, and by the gradual realisation on the part of their designers of the need for sun-control if large areas of glass were to be used.
Starting with houses and progressing to office towers, Harry Seidler, a Viennese-born graduate of Walter Gropius’s Harvard Graduate School, was Australia’s best-known practitioner in the PostWar International style. From the early 19505 onwards, the steady stream of uniformly high-quality work from Seidler’s office set a standard against which the work of other modernists has tended to be judged.

ICI Building, Nicholson Street, East Melbourne, Vic. Bates, Smart & McCutcheon, architects, 1957. When erected, it was a revolutiona7y curtain-wall building and Melbourne’s tallest.
   
  Quoted from:
"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.

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