[Edited by Andrew Wilson. University of Queensland Press, 2005. $30.
Edited by Andrew Wilson. University of Queensland Press, 2005. $30.
The house occupies a special place in the Australian architectural imagination, and the postwar period was crucial in forming this. The pragmatics of housing shortages and the ideals of making a home in the new world, far from the ravages of war, combined with government policy, public interest and architects’ commitments to privilege the house. The growing affluence and associated rise of “lifestyle” in the late fifties and early sixties both changed and reinforced the emphasis on the house. To understand the role of the house in Australian architecture today, we need to understand the postwar period in all its complexity, particularly as contemporary designers continue to revisit Modernist forms and styles.
This small volume makes a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the period and the ongoing contemporary interest in the house in two key ways. Firstly, by inviting us to reconsider the domestic oeuvre of Brisbane practice Hayes & Scott, it brings a body of work, largely unknown to readers outside Brisbane, into the public realm. As Jo Besley points out, the progress of Hayes & Scott’s domestic work closely mirrors the general postwar housing situation, which makes this book particularly useful. Secondly, the essays expand the ways we might approach architecture and its history.
The book begins with an outline by Andrew Wilson and Angela Reilly of the partnership between Eddie Hayes and Campbell Scott, their influences and the characteristics of their work. This is followed by a catalogue of projects.
A series of essays then discuss particular aspects of the work through more specific situations. Julian Patterson considers the murals of the Harvey Graham house, taking the opportunity to discuss postwar use of colour and pattern, and to suggest a complex interplay between local circumstance and international influence.
Elizabeth Musgrave’s detailed analysis of the Jacobi House also offers an alternative to stories of regional stylistic development, discussing instead the close relationship between structural and spatial possibilities.
Alice Hampson follows the lead of American historian Alice Friedman to consider the role of the independent woman client in the production of modern architecture. She tells the fascinating story of Ethne Pfitzenmaier, who, in articulating her particular domestic requirements, provided an opportunity for Eddie Hayes to produce two of his most significant houses.
Jo Besley’s beautifully written piece attends to what she calls the “secret history of modernism”, the profession’s work in popular housing, through speculative houses, display homes, homes for returned servicemen and so on. In Hayes & Scott’s case this included the design of a “dream home” organized through a Woman’s Day competition. The discussion is both engaging and highly relevant at a time when many have forgotten Modernism’s ethical imperatives.
The book closes with Igea Troiani’s use of interviews to address the idea of legacy and the ways that architectural ideas are taken up and transformed by succeeding generations.
The book is generously illustrated. However, given the importance of the “splash of colour” in Hayes & Scott’s work, it is disappointing that there are no colour images – undoubtedly an effect of economics.
The authors point out that although Hayes & Scott were locally influential, they have received little critical attention. This volume, then, is both timely and a little overdue.