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Editor Harriet Edquist. RMIT University Press, $34.95.
Frederick Romberg - described by Conrad Harmann as one of the most important architects in Australia this century - is now mostly remembered as the architect of Melbourne’s Stanhill flats and as the lesser-known partner in the practice Grounds Romberg and Boyd ("Gromboyd"). Harriet Edquist has set out to widen our knowledge and intensify our understanding of Romberg’s oeuvre and influence with this scholarly, generously illustrated publication. Born in China, raised in Berlin and Harburg - with access to the "best of Germany’s intellectual and cultural life", trained in law at Geneva, Munich, Berlin and Kiel, and in architecture at the renowned ETH-Z, Zurich, Romberg arrived in Australia in 1938. Edquist argues that understanding the experience of migration is key to understanding Romberg’s architecture. Her substantial essay outlines Romberg’s impressive architectural and intellectual biography: from Swiss education to Stephenson and Turner; to private practice - including Stanhill and other work with flamboyant developer Stanley Korman; to "Gromboyd" and then Romberg and Boyd; to foundation Professor of Architecture at Newcastle, and his design of the new building for the school and other Newcastle work; to further private practice in Melbourne. Edquist concludes with a further consideration of Romberg’s long relationship with Robin Boyd, speculating that a case could be made for "analysing Boyd’s development as a theorist and an architect in relationship to his partnership with Romberg". Helen Stuckey then provides a detailed case study of the 1957 ETA Foods Factory reminding us of the importance of factories and other industrial buildings. Isobel Crombie discusses the "creative interactions" between Romberg and photographers Wolfgang Sievers, Mark Strizic and Max Dupain, demonstrating the active role these photographers played in interpreting and underlining Romberg’s modernism. The book ends with an illustrated catalogue of works compiled by Edquist and Vanessa Bird. This slim volume presents the breadth of Romberg’s work and opens tantalising avenues for further investigation

Noting new books at Architext

Editor Sheridan Burke. Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, $32.95.
This is an important and timely book. Timely, because the buildings, landscapes and interiors of the mid-century are still frequently disregarded. Important, because many of the essays skillfully and thoughtfully negotiate the relationship between mid-century architecture and heritage strategies. Heritage debates are often under-theorised, but the introduction of mid-century buildings to these discussions forces a reconsideration of the often-unstated assumptions of heritage practice and philosophy. As one essay points out, many of modernism’s tenets are anti-pathetical to heritage beliefs - but does that mean that one simply pulls the buildings down when they have reached their functionalist use-by date? How else might this apparent impasse be negotiated? More pragmatically, the materials, structural innovations and building practices of the mid-century can not always sustain the "conserve as found" approach prevalent in much conservation practice. This strategy, of course, is based in William Morris’s Society for the Protection of the Ancient Buildings, which was itself an argument against over-preservation. The book reminds us that it is a historically and culturally situated theory. It is particularly useful to have it compared to the approach pursued by DOCOMOMO (Documents and Conservation of building, sites and neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement) who argue for the importance of the "image" of the place as conceived by the architect, rather than the original fabric. The mid-Twentieth Century is itself a complex period: it is when modernism really hit Australia, but it also encompasses the time of Team 10, and of Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction - the beginning of the questioning of modernism. And, as the title suggests, built heritage is much more than "Architecture". What does this complexity mean for mid-century heritage? Just what aspects of Australia’s built heritage should be preserved? Essays engaging with such questions sit alongside more pragmatic discussions of strategies that might be adopted when the owners - both of fibro houses and of key public buildings - resist heritage classification. The book brings together an array of academics, historians, conservation and heritage consultants and practitioners, as well as architects who were there (Ken Woolley), and those who are now engaging with the issues (Richard Johnson and the Opera house, Louise Cox and the RAIA register). It is the outcome of a conference last year, which also saw the formal establishment of the Australian Working Party of DOCOMOMO

Peter Hyatt, Davina Jackson, Philip Drew, Leon Paroissien. Jennifer and Peter Hyatt, $27.90.
This collection of Olympic buildings, athletes, advertisements and eclectic groovy-retro graphics adds up to an unusual publication, which seems to encapsulate the competing agendas at play in the Games themselves. Neither book nor magazine, this is an affordable souvenir edition designed to be sold on newsstands as well as in bookshops. Peter Hyatt, along with Davina Jackson and Philip Drew, provides the architectural comment while Leon Paroissien outlines the public art projects, but the athletes get to have a say too - and sometimes to be pictured in the buildings. The title invites a certain ironic attitude, but it also signals an attempt to capture the event, as well as the buildings. Bridget Smythe, Director of Urban Design at the OCA, writes, in the foreword, that cities must use the staging of Olympic Games to "make concrete nationally held values". She argues that it is the ensemble of buildings, public spaces and landscape - not individual isolated architectural endeavours - which identify a national image. While this publication presents the projects as discrete works, it also goes a step further. By pulling the athletes, advertising and some gratuitous graphics into the picture it presents another version of the Australian Olympic event

Notices by Justine Clark.
Architext bookshops are at Tusculum, Sydney, ph 02 9356 2022 and 41 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, ph 03 9650 3474



Published online: 1 Nov 2000


Architecture Australia, November 2000

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