Between 1880 and
1920, nationalism was a great source of motivation for Australian architecture
and architects.1 Conrad Hamann converses about this theme in
‘Nationalism and Reform in Australian Architecture’, and states that there were
three main movements in Australian architecture during this period. They are
the ‘Queen Anne’ style, ‘Colonial revival’ and ‘The radicals’. These three
movements could serve the demand for “design for climate” and “inspiration”
for “stylism”.2

Romanesque, Shingle Style and the red brick architecture styles were not the
end solutions for the “Australian Design” but from these developed a “modern
architecture” feature and were linked to reform in the new Australian
architecture.3 Gradually these designs became known as “Queen Ann”4
and many architects and critics called this a new Australian national style.5
Robin Boyd has claimed Queen Anne as “a post-depression symptom of a new
wave of public sobriety”6. Influences of reform movements could
be found of its “decoration” and also its “homestead form”.7

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The second
nationalist movement in Australian architecture is ‘The Colonial Revival’ which
is simple and unornamented architecture consisting of “shadows on the
white walls”.8 Hardy Wilson’s many New South Weal’s and
Tasmania’s Georgian building drawings are recorded as revival activity.9
James Barnet’s faithfully recreation of Frances Greenway’s “Macquarie
Light house” was praised by John Sulman as “the old colonial” and
Thomas Sisley, a critic praised “the primitive builder”.10
It was clear that the revivalism or revival movement became popular when the
features of the  Federation Villa designs
appeared in mainstream construction.11 The progression of the
tradition was steady, and George Sydney Jones stated that “the cloying
forces of tradition” “bound Australia’s spirit”12  , creating a unified Australian design

Early twentieth
century modern Australian architecture began to be dominated by new forms such
as a “cuboid form frequently with flat roofs, reduction or abolition of
applied ornament, the use of new materials, such as steel and concrete”.13
The motivation of Harold Desbrowe Annear was for the nationalist motivation.14
He stated that we needed “our own, born of our own necessities, our own
climates and our own methods of achieving health and happiness”.15
Annear’s simplification of form designs became very popular. Robin Boyd and
J.M. Freeland were impressed by Annear’s “eccentric character”.16After
that many other architects, such as Haddon, George Sydney Jones explored and
tried to represent the Australian context through the architectural elements
and structures.17

Finally, ‘Queen
Anne’, ‘Colonial Revival’ and ‘The Radicals’ had a common motive which is
“highly localised”, thus the location of the construction informing
the form and function of the construction.18 All three motions had
create a great impact on “Australian modern architecture and reform”.19


The Dialectic of Desire and Disappointment

“It is the
dialectical relationship between these two positions of desire and
disappointment that is examined in this paper”.20 Winsome
Callister’s “The dialectic of Desire and Disappointment”, defined that Robin
Boyd and Australian architecture had an order which began with Robin Boyd’s
first book Victorian Modern in 1947,
where Boyd argued that “all artists was looking anywhere and everywhere but in
Australia for their inspiration”.21

In 1951, Boyd pointed out in the journal Architecture, that “a similar
recognition for Australian architecture” and in contrast, Boyd’s final book The Great Great Australian Dream which
published in 1972, he said “a cry of despair for Australia”.22 Desire
and disappointment, these two emotions are standing in a dialectic

Up to the mid-1950s
Boyd was suggesting that “a regional image with strong local reference as the
way Australian architects, like the painters, could best identify an expression
of Australian culture”.23 Boyd continued the investigation on “many
small Australian homes of 1949 that featured white walls, low asbestos gabled
roofs, wide eaves, and large windows and pergolas”24 which
“introduce the term Peninsula”.25 Boyd hoped that the American ‘Bay
Region Style’ and ‘The New Empiricism’ both international style could help
develop a clear, distinct Australian architectural modern movement.26

Boyd wrote an
article ‘The New International’ where he praised and “tussled with concepts of
nationalism and internationalism”27. It is written that Boyd was
very positive for international recognition for Australian architecture.

“When many
architects and some critics were polarized between the ‘functional’ and the
‘organic’ in architecture”28, Boyd’s statement was contradiction and
his “attitude was closely related to international architectural debate”29.

 Boyd shifted his critical position in 1955 and
“saw a way for architecture to be essentially Australian and share common
international themes”30. “Boyd’s critical position became less
subtle and the dialectic of desire and disappointment more apparent”31
when he started experiment on “draped shell design of 1952″32.

By 1960s, while
Boyd was very disappointed about the Melbourne architecture, his personal
interest grew about Sydney’s regionalism.33 Moreover, Boyd was
interested in brutalism, “the brutalist aesthetic with vernacular reference in
the ‘Sydney School’ seems an important combination for Boyd”.34 In
the mid-1960s, However, Boyd’s focus on brutalism developed to a deep interest
in Japanese architecture. 35 “Boyd admired the strength of the
Japanese brut concrete designs from”36. Additionally, the brut
concrete designs on ‘Hale School Memorial Hall’ in Perth revealed his
preference for Japanese masonry tradition on Perth regional style.37

As a great writer
and critic and encouragement on Australian architects, Boyd’s knowledge and
skill are renowned.38 However, “the failure of Boyd’s particular
great great dream for Australia”39 became evident of his doubt about
“the notion of pluralism”40. 


The ‘Sydney School’?

Early 1960s, “‘The
Sydney School’ was an interesting notion”41 to the well-known
Australian architectural writers. They were involved in a “discussion were
searching for an aesthetically pleasing Australian architecture”42.
In this article, Stanislaus Fung conversed about the potential of “‘the Sydney
school’ or the ‘Nuts and Berries School'”43. The discussion never
“attempts to demonstrate the non-existence of ‘the Sydney School'”44
but is “implicating attitudes of the writers who first tackled this problem and
unleased much confusion and contention”45.

“One important
cause of confusion is inconsistent usage of the term ‘Sydney School’. For Milo
Dunphy, ‘the Sydney School’ is a group of ‘young’ Australian architects alleged
to have shared a ‘unity of sentiment and aim’. For Robin Boyd, ‘the Sydney
School’ is an architectural movement which ‘had no time for looking wistfully
to a reluctant technological future’. For David Saunders, ‘the Sydney School’
is either ‘a very humanist style’ or a very romantic approach’. For Philip Cox,
it is ‘the architecture which used natural materials’. For Jennifer Taylor, it
is either a style, or ‘a romantic movement’.”46  

In 1962, in a short
article Milo Dunphy recommended that ‘the Sydney School’ is seen “as a sign of
the maturity of Australian architecture”47. Fung, however, claimed
that Dunphy neglected the important points such as “anti-ornamentalism”48,
“truthfulness of material use”49, “rejection of the
internationalist idiom”50 and that it had the wrong “choice of

After Milo Dunphy,
Fung moved on to Robin Boyd. Robin Boyd raised some new points such as the
“folksy, crafty style”52 in Sydney and contrasted the ‘Sydney
School’s regional style with ‘Melbourne School’s adventurous and iconoclastic

“Instead of
discussing ‘the nearest thing to a regional style’, Saunders proclaimed that
‘Sydney have a lively architectural theme or style’ and refers to this
phenomenon as ‘the backward looking avant-garde'”54 which was
“related ‘the Sydney School’ to overseas styles such as the Californian

Next was Philip Cox
who “saw ‘the Sydney School’ as ‘a return to the vernacular'” 56. Then Fung finish his article by discussing about Jennifer Taylor who
dealt with the question about ‘the Sydney School’ which raised by Cox.57
Taylor was concerned about the “development of a regional architecture in

Finally, it is
clear that “the writers, interested only in presenting their own views”59,
therefore, it is fails to establish the existence of ‘the Sydney School’ and
“it is meaningless to ask ‘was there a Sydney School’?”60


Genius Loci

The concept of
“Genius Loci”61 which refers to a locality or “Spirit of place”62is
explored in the article by Harriet Edquist. In this article of “Genius Loci”63
Harriet Edquist analysed and discussed the past and current Australian architecture
with observations and architectural investigation.64

In the beggining of
the article, Harriet Edquist began with Norberg-Schulz, who
expressed  “the genius loci of Rome”65,
which is “close to nature”66. There are three kind of landscape in
Rome which “gathers together and makes unified and whole”67. They
are forre, classical landscape of gods and the natural surroundings.68
Furthermore, Harriet Edquist discussed the “double character” of Roman
spatiality in this article.69

The author found
from Norberg-Schulz’s text that some political issues drew significant
characteristics on Roman genius loci.70  There was also worry about Norberg-Schulz’s
ignorance of “historical reality”.71

Harriet Edquist was
mentioned in his paper that “genius loci” has been found on Australian
architecture and compared it “with some of the major themes located in the
Norberg-Schulz text”.72 He also mentioned that “shaping our
nationalist identity” and “seeking an ‘authentic’ genius loci” is a potential.73

According to Philip
Cox Australian Aboriginal architecture was distinctive, which contributed “in
shaping nationalist identity”.74 Philp Drew and other critics
discussed the Australian “genius loci” which could be found in Glen Murcutt’s
works and the idea of his production. which is “culture as with architecture”.75
Finally, Harriet Edquist identified that “Murcutt’s building do not provide a
critique for the city: they are its other face”.76


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