Architecture in Melbourne

Topics: Art Deco, Modernism, 20th century Pages: 7 (1981 words) Published: September 9, 2012
The interwar period 1919- 1939 showed some major evolution in the world of architecture within Australia. The influences such as world war one and great depression triggered the need for a new mindset as a way of demonstrating regeneration and positive growth. One side of this was the journey of modernisation which allowed for new trends and styles to be created that no longer payed such homage to the past and tradition, but rather moved forward in obvious progress and difference. We can view this evolution in architecture with new materials, technologies and ideals becoming available, new methods and possibilities were also opened up.   

The interwar period saw architects draw their inspiration from either one of ‘the two ways of being modern’ (RMIT, 2008) – modernism or art deco. Modernism being solely Europe’s influence and art deco coming from both Europe and North America. The change in orientation from our ‘mother country’ England to Europe and North America allowed changes to occur as we were allowing ourselves to gather inspiration from different sources.

The arrival of art deco and modernist architecture within Australia arguably had three root causes. 1) Australian architects travelling abroad either to study or work. These architects then returned to ‘design and execute work in the new idioms’ (RMIT, 2008). Percy Everett is an example of this who designed buildings based around the art deco and modernism principles he had learnt about whilst studying in North America.

Percy Everett’s Technical School Essendon, 1938, a successful three dimensional design incorporating both the full range of geometric shapes and motifs, plus the finishes utilized by the Modernists in Europe, image courtesy of the National Trust- Victoria Australia.

2) International architects who immigrated to Australia bringing with them the influence of their knowledge. 3) Journals and research from overseas ‘which dealt with fresh international impulses’ (RMIT,2008) Through these ways new modernist approaches and ideas began to spread and take root throughout Australia.

The interwar period sees the movement from neo-gothic buildings to either art deco or modern designs.

Neo-Gothic style 1840-1930:
Neo-Gothic means new gothic. It was the revival of Gothic style that originated in medieval times. England was at the centre of this revival. The amount of neo gothic buildings Melbourne features, demonstrates we were still taking our design inspiration and cues from England.  

Old arts building Melbourne University, built in 1919, designed by S C Brittingham, representing the neo-gothic style, the detail and decoration around the windows is particular to this time, it was the last stone building to be built on campus, image courtesy of Melbourne University.

Art deco style 1930-1940:
Art deco originated in France in the early 1900’s, It’s style had strong impact upon many of the American architects and from there it continued to spread.  American art deco went through two phases; the first in the 1920s was the geometrical and angular phase. The second was more curved and streamlined. The streamlined style came to be a metaphor for progress, representing readiness and speed.

One of the most prominent Australian architects who evoked the art deco Style wasHarry Norris. Norris took regular trips abroad to observe architectural trends and because of this his work constantly transformed and evolved with the current styles.

Harry Norris’s Burnham Beeches, 1933, photo courtesy of Wikipedia 2010 In 1933, Norris designed Burnham Beeches a luxurious country residence for millionaire Sir Alfred Nicholas. His design featured a streamline modern style, with a zigzag motif as decoration.

Modernist style 1930-1940:
Modernist architecture emphasizes function. ‘It attempts to provide for specific needs rather than imitate...
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