Architects in Australia during World War II had it Tough. The government had strict rules concerning the size and price of any new project. Each new construction could be no more than 1,400 square feet or price more than 3,000 lbs. However, the close of the war saw the return of servicemen and the influx of immigrants from many European nations. This combination resulted in a housing deficit — 400,000 new homes were urgently needed. The ornate bungalows of the ’30s and ’40s — with their eaves, verandas and fireplaces — were no longer economical to build, so the prefab was first born.
Rows and rows of quarter-acre blocks with box-like homes seemed, with no evident architectural capabilities. But soon a few youthful, well-traveled and optimistic architects adopted the arrival of the 1950s. Economic prosperity was on the rise, new construction materials and technologies were being explored, and Australians were thirsty for the latest styles. These architects were ingenious and daring in their strategy, taking principles from European and U.S. architects and designing for the Australian environment.
Early 1950s avant-garde structure in Australia saw the emergence of two schools of thought and practice. One was famous for displaying the principles of global style. The other showed certain similarities with Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs.
Both colleges may have had quite different approaches and outcomes, but they did reveal the exact same essential principles. They desired to restore the dignity that they believed had been missing with all the prefab boom. They also believed that simplicity was the secret to great design. Both teams agreed they would not design facades only to comply with the strict regulations of the moment. Spatial article became a kind of expression. Finally, both groups believed that a building’s purpose was the only foundation for preparation and should be expressed from the building’s form.
6 Important Examples of Midcentury Australian Home Design
1. Rose Seidler House. A young architect named Harry Seidler, who had trained at Harvard beneath Marcel Breuer, was a leading proponent of the first style mentioned previously. In 1950 he built a modernist home in Sydney’s bushland that stuck to these principles. The house, known as Rose Seidler House, seemed to float with spindly legs and a side ramp for support.
Using Breuer’s binuclear design, he designed one arm of the home to include the living areas along with the other arm to include the personal areas. A playroom joins both internally, and also a courtyard joins them externally. With few internal walls and floor-to-ceiling glass, Seidler created a sense of openness that is currently crucial to contemporary living.
Photo by Flickr consumer Rory Rory
2. The Fenner House. Produced by Robin Boyd in 1952, the The Fenner House draws its inspiration from Marcel Breuer’s Geller House.
The house, shaped like an H, was set out based on the period of day and the accompanying sunlight. Turn right at the glass entrance and you’ll find a north-facing living room, dining room, laundry and kitchen that cater to all of the daytime activities. Turn left and you’ll find south-facing bedrooms, a study, a playroom and a garage door.
Photo by Flickr consumer Canberra House
3. The Audette House. Peter Muller was just another young Australian midcentury architect who has powerful new ideas. The Audette House, designed and built in Sydney in 1953, was his first commission as a qualified architect.
Although Muller’s design was greatly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, his selection of substances honored the Australian atmosphere. Copper, timber and rock all blend into the surrounding flora and fauna. The powerful use of flat lines link and integrate the home into the landscape.
Before construction began, the client bought cheap wire-cut bricks instead of sandstone, without Muller’s knowledge. Experimenting with the cheap bricks, Muller obtained the surplus mortar to ooze dry and out between the layers. Random bricks were subsequently removed and parts of terrazzo were slotted in, as seen on the exterior, which gives the building a much more organic feel.
Even by today’s standards that this residence is an example of dynamic and important architecture — it must have caused quite a stir from the 1950s.
Photo by Henry Tapia
4. The McCraith House. In the ’50s holiday homes began to develop into an inexpensive idea. In 1955 architects David Chancellor and William Patrick were commissioned to design a house overlooking a favorite beach destination beyond Melbourne — The McCraith House. Influenced from the architect Richard Neutra and his Miller House layout, the construction makes heavy use of glass and steel.
The house has been assembled with two triangulated truss frames fixed at four points to concrete footings. C-section steel beams and steel cross legged tie the most important framework together. Both steel floor beams support the timber floor joists, which are cantilevered at either end.
The McCraith House was seen as highly creative and experimental; its triangular layout made use of Chancellor’s history in structural engineering to complete effect. Conventional building materials were scarce after World War II, so the idea of utilizing prefabricated steel on this scale in a domestic setting was inspired.
Photo by Sean Guy
5. The River House. Peter McIntyre designed this revolutionary house for his family in 1955. Perched high on a hill overlooking the river, the house is visible just in winter due to the dense foliage.
This three story A-frame was built using stainless steel. The construction cantilevers 39 feet (12 meters) outside and almost 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground. The exterior cladding was originally made of compressed straw — an experimental product at the moment. However, the house got too cold in winter, so the material was replaced in the 1960s.
Photo by Flickr consumer Rory Rory
6. The Round House. Produced by Alex Jelinek in 1957, this house was described as one of Canberra’s most important postwar international-style buildings.
The Round House was equipped with a circular steel frame that radiates from a central pool to make many chambers. Massive sheets of glass were also utilized to achieve what was thought to be among Australia’s first modern, intricate geometric home designs.
In Australia you do not have to look that far to find a contemporary architect who is inspired to design with similar principles of simplicity, dignity and durability. The innovative and ground-breaking architects whose work is described here have provided terrific inspiration.
Photo from Flickr consumer Canberra House
More: Midcentury Designs Respond to Modern Life