An exhibition of material from the Monash University Library, Rare Book Collection




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51. “Home-building 1951 style”, Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 October 1951


In 1951, 44% of the houses started were by owner-builders (see The Australian Dream / Powerhouse Museum, 1993, p. 76) Wep’s cartoon cover shows the bright side of the plight such amateurs faced, but we can also sense the discomfort of living in temporary accommodation on-site, and the look of despair in the man’s face as he sits and surveys the half-finished timber frame speaks volumes.


52. Costs and quantities for a modern house : a guide for every intending homebuilder / prepared by the Small Homes Service of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and "The Age". 2nd ed. ([Melbourne] : The Institute, 1953)


This was published to help the homebuilder in estimating the full cost of his project. It is open at two of the typical Small Homes Service designs, both of ten squares, one is rectangular, the other L-shaped.


They represent approximately the extremes in the range of shapes adopted for the plans of the vast majority of Victorian small houses.


53. Age (Melbourne, Vic.)

Specification of The Age dream home, 1955 : built at 45 Union Road, Surrey Hills and awarded as first prize in "The Age" news quiz. (Melbourne : The Age, 1955)


This was designed by the Small Homes Service.


America in the fifties

54. A treasury of contemporary houses / selected by the editors of Architectural record. (New York : F.W. Dodge Corporation, 1954)

55. The second treasury of contemporary houses / selected by the editors of Architectural record. (New York : F. W. Dodge Corp., 1959)

56. The House Beautiful treasury of contemporary American homes / by Joseph Barry. With an introduction by Elizabeth Gordon. (New York, Hawthorn Books [1958])


These all feature houses in the “contemporary” style usually built in natural settings. Their interiors are also described and illustrated in detail, being mostly open-plan with plenty of glass, looking onto gardens of bush settings.


The introduction to the House Beautiful volume, sets the confident tone of the period. It is entitled, “The beauty of common sense”,


These houses have in ample measure the three qualities that Vitruvius recommended during the Roman Empire that all houses should have: commodity, firmness and delight. But they have them in a magical mixture that creates an aura around the life lived there. They all have a near-spiritual quality which you recognise in some secret part of you, when you enter them, but which is very elusive and difficult for the camera to capture. As a result, they create a rewarding and uplifting environment for the people living within.


It is as an environment for people to live within that you should view these homes. These are not facades to copy, for they have a full depth of quality having nothing to do with stylistic labels. A really good house tends to elude classification by common style labels, for other qualities stand out instead: rationality, poetic beauty, sympathetic relationship to the site, tolerant understanding of people’s needs and foibles – and recognition of the inescapable demands of climate.


The appeal of such modern designs together with their adaptability to the Australian climate saw these styles eagerly taken up by architects and home-buyers in Australia.


Australia in the sixties


57. Woman's world / edited by Alleyne M. Jukes. (Melbourne : M.A. White, [196-?])


This is an encyclopedic work published for the bridal market. It includes information on all aspects of married life, and has a large section on buying or building a home. It is open at a photograph of the couple inspecting the partly-completed, modern house on a sloping, wooded site.


58. Kalmar, Steven.

You and your home / by Steven Kalmar. (Sydney : Shakespeare Head Press, 1964)


Steven Kalmar was best-known as the writer of the “You and your home” section in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph.


This is a compendium of the taste of the period, both in the house-styles and especially in the interior décor. It was written partly to cater for the early wave of home renovators.


59. Hillier, Rob.

Let's buy a terrace house / Rob Hillier. (Sydney : Ure Smith, 1968)


The 1960s saw the beginnings of the craze for buying up older residences and renovating them. The inner-city terraces in Sydney and Melbourne were being demolished for high-rise flats when people began to look at them with a different gaze, seeing their heritage value, if properly restored.


In his introduction the author comments,


Over the past five or six years terrace houses have been “taken over” by authors, artists, architects, and actors, who have bought houses, often in conditions which at first sight look beyond repair, and with great flair, “done them up”.


Terrace houses have a lot to recommend them to present-day buyers, not only for their attractive exterior design, but their compact and adaptable interiors. Many visiting architects have praised the terrace house for being so superbly suited to the landscape and climate of Australian cities. Naturally enough, over the years many houses have been left to fall into disrepair and are no better than slums. But as has been proved in recent years, terrace houses need not be slums; they are structurally sound and well built, and even though they may lack some modern amenities, they lend themselves to conversion to individual needs without major structural alteration and at quite reasonable cost. (p. 7-8)


After lamenting that “the recent boom in terrace house buying has raised prices so that they now tend to be out of all proportion to the real worth of the house”, Mr. Hillier, who has, we are told, “completely transformed two terrace houses in Sydney from a dilapidated state into houses of immense charm”, warns the prospective buyer to check especially the wiring, the plumbing and the rising damp.


For examples of renovations to terrace houses which we would now consider unsympathetic, see item 121.


Wunderlich


60. Wunderlich Limited.

Wunderlich art metal ceilings : their application in the modern home. (Sydney : Wunderlich Limited, [1921])

61. Wunderlich Limited.

The roof defines the building. (Sydney : Wunderlich Limited, [1922])

62. Wunderlich Limited.

Realising your dream of home / Wunderlich Limited Manufacturers. (Sydney : Wunderlich, [1925?])

63. Wunderlich Limited.

Durabestos, asbestos-cement, building sheets / Wunderlich Ltd. (Sydney : Wunderlich, [1926])

64. Wunderlich Limited.

Prize winning designs for your post-war asbestos-cement home. (South Melbourne : James Hardie & Co. and Ltd., [1945?])

65. Wunderlich Limited.

Colourful modern home designs : Wunderlich "durabestos" building sheets / Wunderlich Ltd. ([Sydney?] : Wunderlich, [195-?])


The Wunderlich Patent Ceiling and Roofing Co. Ltd. was set up in Sydney in the 1890s, by the Wunderlich brothers. They had taken out a patent for stamped metal ceilings. By 1897 they had become the sole agents in Australia for Marseilles tiles. They opened terracotta tile works at Brunswick in Melbourne and at Rosehill in Sydney, and developed an asbestos mine in Tasmania to enable them to market fibro sheeting. This part of their business was taken over by James Hardie in 1964.


James Hardie

66. James Hardie and Co.

Fibrolite homes : (fibro-cement) / James Hardie & Coy. (Melbourne : The Company, [1934]

67. James Hardie and Co.

Hardie's genuine fibrolite asbestos cement products made in Victoria / James Hardie & Coy. (South Melbourne : James Hardie & Coy., 1941)


Under the line on the cover, “Made in Victoria”, a previous owner, with an agenda, has made a note, “by sweated labour.”

68. James Hardie and Co.

Don't dream, build : your guide to building beautiful new style homes of Hardie's "Fibrolite" / issued with the compliments of James Hardie and Coy. Pty. Ltd., "Fibrolite" asbestos cement building material manufacturers. (Sydney : James Hardie & Coy, [195-?])


James Hardie was a Scottish businessman who

migrated to Melbourne in 1887. He started a tanning business, but after a trip back to Britain, Europe and North America in 1903, he became interested in a new type of roofing and lining material made by the French Fibro-Cement Co. It was made from cement and asbestos and had the advantages of being fire and pest resistant, as well as being light-weight and cheap to manufacture. The firm began to manufacture “fibrolite” in 1917, and it was seen as being very useful in building especially in the lower end of the domestic house market. Robin Boyd’s “House of tomorrow” for the 1949 Melbourne Modern Home Exhibition was made of fibro, and he built a fibro “mansion” in Eltham as an example of what could be achieved to offset the malaise analysed in

his book The Australian Ugliness (1960)


It was not until the 1970s that a general awareness began to develop as to the dangers in working with asbestos. The dust generated in the manufacture was causing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.


Masonite

69. Masonite Corporation (Australia)

Masonite home plans : also garages, interiors & storage walls. ([Sydney : Masonite Corporation?, 195-])

70. Masonite Corporation (Australia)

Masonite built-in furniture. (Melbourne : Masonite Corporation, 1955.

71. Masonite Corporation (Australia)

Masonite : furniture designs. (Sydney : Masonite Corporation (Aust.), [195-?])


The “home plans” book begins with the question, “What is Masonite?”


Masonite is a scientifically manufactured board, made entirely of exploded wood fibres of Australian timbers hitherto thought valueless. It is grainless, knotless, has no protruding fibres, slivers or other defects found in timber.


Although it is best known now as a material for indoor fittings, the company initially tried to promote it for exterior use as well. As a rival for fibrolite sheeting they marketed a special line, “Masonite Tempered Presdwood”. Despite their claim that this was more moisture resistant than timber it did not prove so in practice.


Problems with water notwithstanding, demand for Masonite was strong, for interior finishing and especially for cupboards and cheap furniture.


The most famous piece of Masonite was Rolf Harris’s “Wobble-board.”


Counter-culture


72. New Zealand whole earth catalogue. no. 2 (Wellington, Alister Taylor Pub. 1975)

73. Mudbricks : making & laying. (Birregurra, Vic. : Compendium, 1978)

74. Lin, Wei-Hao, 1944-

Basic mud brick / by Lin Wei-Hao ; illustrated by the author ; edited by Ron Edwards. 2nd (enl.) ed. / [enlarged by Ron Edwards] (Kuranda, Qld. : The Rams Skull Press, 1986)


The late 1960s and early 1970s saw an upsurge of interest in alternative lifestyles. People formed themselves into communes and purchased land on the edge of cities, or in the countryside. There they built their own houses; often they were geodesic domes or made of mud-brick.


The article, “An ecologically sound architecture is possible” reprinted in the New Zealand whole earth catalogue no. 2, (p. 202-203), appeared originally in Architectural design (July 1972). It was by the American architect Malcolm B. Wells. He believed that


We lost a precious thing when we became the only animals incapable of building their own nests. The miracle that is a brick will be forever lost to the man who never lays one. Build with your hands as much as you can; you’ll never regret it. (p. 203)


He was not in favour of “instant domes and throwaway buildings” but recommended the “A-frame”, a plan for which accompanies the piece.

75. “Made of mud bricks : builder’s story and “How to do it” pictures”, Australian Home Beautiful, January 1953.


In the hills around Melbourne, areas such as Warrandyte and Eltham were the preferred locations for the “back to the earth” architects.


The magazine article begins,


Looking east to a Dandenong’s view on a gentle slope of Lower Plenty, Victoria is the adobe house of artist Lindsay Edward and his wife.

The designer, Alistair Knox, formed earth from the site into mud-brick to make the walls. (p. 7)

Interior Decoration

76. Ionides, Basil.

Colour and interior decoration / by Basil Ionides. (London : Country Life, 1926)


Interior decoration books give us an important insight into the taste of each generation and are useful to those interested in restoring period homes.


Basil Ionides has arranged his book into chapters on particular colours, adding at the end one on the “Disrepute of colours.”


Pale blue of a hedge-sparrow-egg tone also was once used: it is never considered now by those of taste. It seems to have died out slowly, its last gasps being in cheap silk blouses. (p. 73)


His general principles remain sound,


One great influence on colour is the window space allowed by the architecture of the rooms; when large windows were fashionable, then bright colours were not. …


The light from large windows is too strong for bright colours: one must have soft colours. In the same way a dark room must have bright colours to penetrate the gloom. (p. 72)


The frontispiece chosen for the book shows, “A bedroom with brown walls enlivened by bright colour,” which I fear would still be far too gloomy for today’s taste.


77. Patmore, Derek, 1908-

Colour schemes for the modern home / by Derek Patmore. (London : Studio Ltd.; New York : The Studio Publications, 1933)


78. Miller, Duncan.

Interior decorating / [by] Duncan Miller. (London, The Studio Publications, inc., 1944)


The Studio magazine as well as its Year-book of decorative art and its occasional publications such as these are key indicators of the taste of each period.


Derek Patmore’s illustration of a modern study is in the rounded deco style adapted for a small, utility space. The wood is Oregon pine “which has a pleasant gold colour” and the room is brightened both by sunlight, a “BP” print, and a large novelty wall clock.


Duncan Miller’s book is open at “before and after” photographs of a sitting-room in a London flat. We see it in its bare state with walls, windows and a fireplace. After its “make-over” it looks quite modern, an effect partly achieved by the lighting.


The moulded cornice and the panels on the walls have been taken away and the plain surfaces increase the apparent size of the room.


The lower photograph also illustrates the lighting of curtains from the floor, this time by two floodlights placed on the ground behind the large sofa. (p. 74)

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