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

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8. Victoria and its metropolis : past and present / by Alexander Sutherland. (Melbourne : McCarron, Bird, 1888) 2 v.

This celebratory work, published to coincide with the centenary of Australia’s first settlement, shows some of the boom-period mansions. Those on display are, “Tara, the residence of Matthew O’Shanessy, Esq., Camberwell”, and “Como, Toorak, the residence of Mrs. C. M. Armytage.”

. Leavitt, Thad. W. H. (Thaddeus William Henry), 1844?-1909.

The Jubilee history of Victoria and Melbourne, illustrated / T.W.H. Leavitt, editor. (Melbourne : Duffus Bros., Printers, 1888) 2 v.

This was another of the boom-period publications. It is open at the illustration of the “Residence of Hon. M. H. Davies, Toorak.” This was on the corner of Lansell and St. Georges Roads, Toorak. Davies was one of the speculators involved in the land boom in Melbourne in the 1880s, and was ruined in the crash in 1892.

10. Sands & McDougall's Melbourne and suburban directory for 1885. (Melbourne : Sands & McDougall, 1884)

The 1885 edition of the Melbourne Directory, published during the land-boom, had bound in at the front, a Pamphlet of useful information for persons wishing either to build, borrow or invest, by the Universal Building Societies. (1884) This included a series of plans and coloured elevations by the Melbourne architects N. Billing & Son, 78 Collins St. West, of homes ranging from the “Wooden house to be built for £100”, to the “Two semi-detached brick residences to be built for £1400.”

The copy on display is open at the “Brick dwelling to be built for £850” and the “Brick dwelling to be built for £1100”.

11. “The way we build now.” Melbourne Punch, 14 Sept., 1882, p. 104.

This cartoon was part of a series satirising the wave of speculative building which was going on in Melbourne at the time.

We see a row of new houses with a sign, “These desirable properties for sale. Apply Runemup Builder.”

The caption reads,

On Sunday Runemup the “speculative builder,” accompanied by Mrs. Runemup, takes his usual Sunday stroll down to the charming little villas which Runemup is erecting at a fashionable watering place.

Runemup. – “Nice little cribs, ain’t they Maria?”

Mrs. R. – “They are so. Couldn’t we live in one ourselves during the summer? So nice and close to the sea too.”

Runemup. – “Good heavens Maria. What are you thinking of? They are built for sale. Tell you what I’ll do if you like: I’ll let your mother live in one rent free. She’s insured pretty heavy ain’t she?”

The usual criticism was that the new houses were built on poor foundations, with very little lime in the mortar.

12. Picturesque atlas of Australasia / edited by Andrew Garran ; illustrated under the supervision of Frederic B. Schell, assisted by leading colonial and American artists. (Sydney : Picturesque Atlas Publishing Co., 1886) 3 v.

This was the grand Australian publishing venture of its age. On display is volume 1 open at two views of Sydney, “From Wooloomooloo to Darlinghurst”, and “A glimpse of Sydney from Darlinghurst.”

We see rows of two and three-storey terraces lit up against the night sky.

13. Wilson, Hardy, 1881-1955.

Old colonial architecture in New South Wales and Tasmania / by Hardy Wilson. (Sydney : Published by the Author at Union House, 1924)

William Hardy Wilson was an architect and water-colourist. On an early trip to the United States he became attracted to the colonial revival style. He returned to Sydney determined to make Australians aware of their own colonial architecture.

In practice this meant a revival of a simpler, Georgian style, characteristic of many of the large houses still surviving in Tasmania. His professional designs for houses were based on such models.

The volume is open to show the collotype print of “Cottages at Albion Street, Surry Hills, New South Wales.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

14. Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959.

Buildings, plans and designs / by Frank Lloyd Wright. (New York : Horizon Press, 1963)

This work was first published in German in 1910-11, as Ausgeführte Bauten, but all copies meant for distribution in America were destroyed in a fire.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed many private homes in the “prairie style” using low, horizontal lines appropriate to the landscape of the American mid-west. The houses are recognisably “modern” and his style was influential in Australia.

Le Corbusier

15. Le Corbusier, 1887-1965.

Kommende Baukunst / Le Corbusier ; übersetzt und herausgegeben von Hans Hildebrandt : Mit 230 Abbildungen. (Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1926)

Le Corbusier was one of the most influential twentieth century architects. In his first book, Vers une architecture (1923), published in English as, Towards a New Architecture, he coined such epigrams as, “A house is a machine for living in.” This is the German translation.

His first large contract was for a workers’ city of forty houses at Pessac, near Bordeaux. His avant-garde, rather severe, architectural style was similar to the Bauhaus school of Walter Gropius and is, perhaps unfairly, now seen as an influence in the debased public housing designs of the high-rise Housing Commission flats.

Early twentieth-century American

16. Building Brick Association of America.

One hundred bungalows / Pubished for the Building Brick Association of America. (Boston : Rogers & Manson, [1912])

The bungalow appeals to the small householder. If built of brick it will have beauty, dignity and stability.

The American bungalow style became very popular in Melbourne in the 1920s. In this book we find a selection of the designs submitted for a competition to plan “a brick bungalow to be built complete – exclusive of land – for $3000.” (p. 3)

Early twentieth-century English

17. Samson, George Gordon.

Houses, villas, cottages and bungalows for Britishers and Americans abroad : a book showing how they should be built and what they ought to cost / by George Gordon Samson. (London : Crosby Lockwood, 1910)

The cover illustrations are of “A Swiss chalet” and “A Riviera house costing £320.”

The book is a valuable source of information concerning the Englishman’s attitude to foreign architecture, and to life abroad in general. There is a chapter on the “bungalow”, which was originally an Anglo-Indian design.

The true bungalow has all its rooms on one storey. although very many of those we are accustomed to see in England have attic bedrooms in the roof. This, while it may be advantageous in some ways and in certain instances, yet destroys their character as true bungalows. (p. 114)

There are several plans for bungalows, ranging in price from £240 to £1,400. Some of these plans feature the front porch and pillars characteristic of the bungalow design adopted so widely in Australia.

18 Samson, G. Gordon (George Gordon)

Every man his own builder : a book for everyone who owns a piece of land / By George Gordon Samson, Architect. (London : C. Lockwood and Son, 1913

This is a step-by-step guide to the entire process involved in building your own home. Chapter 3 is, “The building of the house - from the foundations to the roof.” Other chapters cover the tasks involved in flooring, plastering, glazing, paper-hanging, and plumbing. There are even chapters on “How to make your own bricks” and “Thatching and how to do it.”

In bold type in his “Preface”, Samson states,

There is a fact I want every reader to bear in mind always, and it is this: The man who has once built unaided only lone room – let us say one tiny outhouse only 8 or 9 feet square for example, if he has formed a fireplace in it, put a floor and a ceiling and a door in it and roofed it – that man will never afterwards feel the slightest fear that he will not be able to build a good sized house. He will know that he can do it. (p. ix)

19. Sennett, A. R. (Alfred Richard)

Garden cities in theory and practice : being an amplification of a paper on the potentialities of applied science in a garden city / by A. R. Sennett. (London : Bemore and Sons, 1905)

The “garden city” concept in town planning was promoted in the late 1890s by Ebenezer Howard in England. It involved buying a large band of agricultural land in the countryside and building a satellite town in the rural setting. A “greenbelt” between the garden city and the metropolis was integral to the plan.

In 1903 Letchworth, thirty miles north of London, was developed along these lines, and in 1920, Welwyn Garden City was established nearby.

Sennett in his book on display cites as examples to follow, Port Sunlight, a model village designed by W. H. Lever for the workers of his soap factory in Bebingtion, Cheshire, in 1888, and Bournville, in Worcestershire, set up in 1894 by George Cadbury and his architect, W. Alexander Harvey, for the employees of the Cadbury chocolate factory.

Garden City in Melbourne was built on reclaimed land at Sandridge Flat, west of Port Melbourne. The State Savings Bank started the project in 1929, and the Victorian Housing Commission took it to completion. The intention was to provide low cost, but low density housing for workers. The 184 duplex buildings were designed by G. B. Leith, modelled on those of the Welwyn estate in Britain. Each house sold for £850.

20. James, Charles Holloway, 1893-

Small houses for the community / by C.H. James and F.R. Yerbury ; with a foreword by Raymond Unwin. (London : C. Lockwood, 1924)

This is an attempt by a pair of architects to present a detailed analysis of the problems involved in providing houses for the workers, and the factors to be considered in achieving the best outcome. It covers such aspects as the choice of site, the design and materials to be used, as well as the construction, internal arrangements and finish of the houses themselves.

Welwyn Garden City is used as a case study and detailed plans and specifications for the buildings are included.

21. Great Britain. Central Housing Advisory Committee.

Houses we live in / Ministry of Health. (London : H.M.S.O., 1939)

This rather prescriptive text gives advice to people as to the best style of house in which to live. Even the design of the garage is commented upon,

The garage should be designed in keeping with the house. Decoration is inappropriate and it is out of keeping with the trim and businesslike lines of the modern car.

The tenor of the publication seems to be in the direction of the clean, uniform line equating to modernity and progress. The book is open to show two double-storey houses, one is brick, with a bay window and a porthole feature, the other is a very plain, cement-rendered building with an upper storey deck. The caption reads,

Given free choice … in which house would you prefer to live?

Looking at these houses now the answer is unclear, but one can presume the Ministry of Health meant us to unhesitatingly choose the more modern, clean-lined home.

Early twentieth-century Australia

22. The Viceroy home guide : useful everyday hints for the home. 3rd ed. (Adelaide : Wilkinson, 1914)

The cover illustration of this book shows a typical, modest but comfortable, Australian house of the period. In the section headed “Homes for the people” we find a disquisition on the advantages of home ownership compared to renting. In particular the benefits conferred by the Government in passing the 1910 Advances for Homes Act are dwelt upon.

To enable the man almost without capital to purchase his own home is to put in his hands a most satisfactory means of saving, one of the finest forms of insurance against the troubles of the future, and to add to the happiness of the whole household by the knowledge that they are acquiring their own home; there is a fascination to all the family in owning a house rather than having to pay rent to the dreaded landlord. (p. 69)

23. Domestic architecture in Australia / edited by Sydney Ure Smith and Bertram Stevens in collaboration with W. Hardy Wilson. (Sydney : Angus and Robertson, 1919)

This was a special publication of the journal Art in Australia. It features examples of both old and new houses, many of which have been photographed by Harold Cazneaux.

The book is open at a photograph of the residence of H. Robertson of New Farm, Brisbane. Queensland houses are characterised by their verandahs with blinds, a necessity in keeping cool and catching the breezes.

Hardy Wilson contributed an article on building “Puralia”, his own home, accompanied by photographs of the exterior and interior of the house. The Melbourne architect, H. Desbrowe Annear also has an article, on “The recognition of architecture”, in which he argues that people should use architects rather than having their houses designed by builders.

As an example of the benefits of living in an architect-designed house he cites,

The lack of lateral space in the rooms people use during their hours of wakeful ease, the inconvenience in the service of food, and the waste of space and want of fresh air in all sleeping apartments, can all be economically cured by the thoughtful architect acting in obedience to the dictates of his art. The dwellers in good houses well designed would then show that elastic ease of aristocratic well-being which should be the true heritage of all good Australians. (p. 22)

24. Modern homes. (Melbourne : Dunlop & Hunt Home Builders Ltd., [191-?])

Dunlop & Hunt were a firm of builders at 317 Collins Street, Melbourne. Here they presented a range of homes which they have built, designed by their architect. These designs were offered as suggestions to prospective clients. They also offered to negotiate home loans as explained in the section, “Why pay rent?”

Why pay rent? We either build for cash, or we give the easiest terms obtainable in Australia for those desiring to build on the easy payment plan.

We charge only 4/- per week for each £l00 lent, including principal and interest. (p. 31)

The book includes photographs and floor-plans of a wide variety of Melbourne homes from the turn of the century, ranging from “large and handsome residences” to “pretty compact Villas.”

25. Australian homes. Volume number 1. (Melbourne : Ramsay, 1927)

Although a substantial sized volume, this was intended as the first issue of a periodical, but no further issues appeared.

The leading article is, “A modern Toorak home.” It begins,

This charming home with its old world atmosphere was a delightful commission by a client who had just returned from a two years sojourn in the “Old Country” and whose instructions were to plan and design a typically English home reminiscent of the Southern and Eastern counties of England, but made suitable for the climatic conditions of Australia. (p. 13)

The architects were the Melbourne firm of Barlow & Hawkins. The exterior is of “specially-picked clinker-bricks selected more for colour than texture knobs and excrescences so dear to the heart of the jerry builder.” (p. 20)

The item is open at a water-colour view and garden lay-out of “Colinton” Mont Albert Road, Canterbury”. This is a fine example of the English influence on our domestic architecture.

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