Robin Boud

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Arrogance and Sophistication in Australian Architecture: The importance of idea behind Robin Boyd. James Carter
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When one looks at Robin Boyd’s “The Australian Ugliness,” the apparent lack of

artistic knowledge of Australian architecture and architectural knowledge becomes

somewhat of an overpowering presence. Ideas of featurism and the Austerican way of

life filter through one’s mind as it reminds us that such ideas are as prevalent today as

they were when Boyd wrote the book. However when one reads the book again and

seeks out further detail, one cannot stop to read the obvious attacks and prejudice

feelings towards uneducated people and Boyd’s loathing for how they succumb to

fads and different styles of any time, to keep themselves in the vast realm of fashion.

This prejudice, whilst being extremely well used by Boyd as a point of passion into

the argument of the downfall of Australian architecture, can be misunderstood as

Boyd’s belief that his educational background in the arts and his subjective artistic

beliefs are better than others of the populace. And it is his idea to eradicate what he

calls Featurist architecture, by creating a neutral background in which to control all

featurists’ desires, whilst bringing to the forefront the pioneers of Australian design,

that comes across as ignorant, arrogant and ill thought out.

Boyd’s main aim in his writings and especially in this book was to pinpoint and attack

the problems of the suburbs in Australia. He saw the fleeting position of taste of the

people of Australia, which was bathed in apathy,[1] as a detriment to Australia’s own

identity and individuality. This loss of individuality, he believed, was brought about

by the people’s obsession with “features” and what Boyd called “featurism.” Boyd

believed featurism was the “subordination of the essential whole and the accentuation

of the selected separate features.”[2] What is meant by this, is the necessity of people to

fit in with society, as unified architecture or objects’ integrity are destroyed by

peoples fears. This fear is the fear of blank spaces, the truth and the silence of

architecture. Thus Australian featurist homes were tampered with added ornaments

endlessly repeated or filled in blank spaces with arbitrary features.[3] All of which

lacked any significance in terms of meaning or ideas towards the architecture itself,

and thus destroyed the architecture’s integrity and overall meaning.

Featurism in Australia had not come about through Australia’s obsession with

America or consumerism that had engulfed Australia in the 20th century, but, as Boyd

believed, an underlying sensation of the first Australian people, that were too young

to have witnessed a coherent phase of architectural development or architectural

style.[4] Instead indulging in eclecticism in an attempt to cover all bases of styles and

fashions. Featurism continued to grow, as few architects were around to guide and

teach their knowledge to people in order for a coherent Australian architecture to be

created. Therefore as consumerism and advertising flourished from the early 20th

century, Australians, never knowing their own identity, followed on the whim of the

internationals, such as America, with the belief that the copy could be just as good as

the original. However Boyd believed Australia was taking the approaches and

fashions of America without consideration of the underlying ideals behind them. He

coined the term “Austerica” that described the imitation of American values and

ideals but with the added “trace of Australian accent (whilst) subtract(ing) a measure

of sophistication.”[5] That is to say Australians, too obsessed with keeping in fashion

and up to date with the world, chose from fashions and crazes of America and other

countries to maintain that they indeed were just as up to date and...
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