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

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26. Brick veneer construction with fibrous plaster interiors / issued by Australian Gypsum Products. (South Melbourne : Australian Gypsum Products, [193-?])

It can be argued that brick veneer houses have some of the advantages of both solid-brick and timber constructions. They have the exterior beauty and insulating power of brick while having the ease of installation of central heating, electrical wiring and plumbing of a timber house. The walls and ceilings were often of fibrous plaster.

27. Centenary homes 1934-35 / The Building Industry Congress of Victoria, Board of Publicity. (Melbourne : The Board, [1935?])

The emphasis in this book, published as part of the Victorian Centenary celebrations was “modern homes for modern people.” It included detailed plans and elevations of the prize winners in the Centenary Homes competition, one category of which was for the “Perfect Home to cost £1550” won by D. C. Ward of Burwood. There were also categories for concrete homes and asbestos-cement homes.

28. State Savings Bank of Victoria.

Designs of timber-framed dwelling houses available for selection by applicants for credit foncier building loans / chief architect G. Burridge Leith. (Melbourne : The State Savings Bank of Victoria, 1938)

This includes 35 plans and elevations of weather-board houses, all with terra-cotta tile roofs. The designs are still very recognisable to anyone driving around the Melbourne suburbs.

The book comes with a leaflet giving the details of the Credit Foncier loans being offered by the Bank.

29. Clive King (Firm)

Homes / by Clive King. (Oakleigh, [Vic.] : McLean Publishing Co., [1940])

Clive King was an Oakleigh builder with his headquarters at 5-7 Atherton Street, also with a City showroom at 367 Flinders Street.

His book of 42 plans and specifications gives us a good idea of the range of homes being built in Melbourne at the beginning of the War, before the shortage of materials and manpower caused a slump in the building industry.

30. When you build. (Melbourne : Australian Plaster Industries Pty Ltd, [1940?])

The two-storey brick house on the cover was designed by the architects R. M. and M. H. King for Mrs. Davey, North Road, Brighton. It begins with a section headed, “Every family should own its own home” and has a section showing “Why it pays to employ an architect.” The different types of houses include “Brick veneer, the modern method of home construction”, and “Timber homes”. Fibrous plaster is promoted throughout, especially for the interior finishing, as the booklet was published with the compliments of the Country Fibrous Plaster Manufacturers’ Association of Ballarat.

Slum clearance

31. Barnett, F. Oswald (Frederick Oswald), 1883-1972

The unsuspected slums : an illustrated summary of a thesis submitted to the Melbourne University surveying the slum problem of Melbourne / by F. Oswald Barnett. (Melbourne : Herald Press, 1933)

32. Victoria. Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board.

First (progress) report, with appendices and supplements : slum reclamation : housing for the lower-paid worker : short term programme / Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board. (Melbourne : The Board, [1937])

33. Barnett, F. Oswald (Frederick Oswald), 1883-1972.

Housing the Australian nation / by F. Oswald Barnett & W.O. Burt. (Melbourne : Research Group of the Left Book Club of Victoria, 1942)

34. Barnett, F. Oswald (Frederick Oswald), 1883-1972.

We must go on : a study in planned reconstruction and housing / by F. Oswald Barnett, W.O. Burt, F. Heath. (Melbourne : Book Depot, 1944)

35. Communist Party of Australia.

Houses, slums, private enterprise and the future. (Sydney : Australian Communist Party, [1944])

36. Reeves, John H.

Housing the forgotten tenth : an investigation of the problem tenant / John H. Reeves. (Melbourne : Church of England Men's Society and the Brotherhood of S. Laurence, 1944)

37. Communist Party of Australia.

Wanted, a new housing policy for Victoria. [Melbourne : Communist Party of Australia, 1957?]

Since the mid-nineteenth century, the crowded inner-city housing precincts of the poor of Melbourne had been a matter of concern to governments and citizens. Although there were enquiries set up by governments on the nineteenth century the problem persisted, made worse by the 1929 depression and the economic hardships of the 1930s.

Frederick Oswald Barnett was the son of a quarryman thrown out of work in the collapse of the building boom in the early 1890s. In 1923 he visited an inner-city slum and was shocked by what he saw. He studied part-time at Melbourne University, completing a Masters thesis in 1931 based on the answers to 150 questionnaires he had circulated to the people living in the slums between Brunswick and Smith Streets in Fitzroy. A summary of his thesis was published in 1933 as The unsuspected slums. He set up a lobby group to convince the premier Albert Dunstan to inspect the slums himself. After doing this the Premier was impressed enough to set up a Housing Investigations and Slum Abolition Board.

The Board’s report included some very powerful photographs of the conditions under which people in such suburbs as Carlton were living. Country towns were also investigated and some shocking conditions found. Much was made of the fact that many of the people visited had no laundry, bath or toilet facilities and were often forced to cook in lean-to’s at the back of the house. The cover of John Reeves pamphlet shows this vividly.

In 1938 the Victorian Housing Commission was set up, but with the war intervening it was not until the 1950s that slum clearance began to take effect. Barnett protested against this as did the Communist Party, which had also been campaigning for better housing during the 1940s. However, by the 1960s people were being re-housed in low-rise and high-rise flats.

England after the War.

38. Anthony, Hugh.

Houses : permanence and prefabrication / by Hugh Anthony. (London : Pleiades Books, 1945)

This was a book written to prompt the government into taking action on the post-war housing crisis in Britain. The Blitz had destroyed entire streets of houses and servicemen were returning to civilian life who had previously lived with their parents. Now they needed homes of their own.

This country needs 4,000,000 houses immediately. Such a programme obviously calls for wider and more imaginative building methods and techniques which have been developed in recent years, but which are still unfamiliar to the public. In this book Hugh Anthony (a pseudonym which conceals the names of two well-known young architects) attempts to define more clearly such terms as “prefabrication”, “temporary housing”, “mass-production”, etc.

39. Church, Guy, 1880-

What about a house again? / By Guy Church and R. Drysdale Smith. Architectural drawings and plans by Leonard W. Last and Peggy Church. (London : Rockliff, 1947)

The intention with this book was to give designs and general information about houses which could be built within the restrictions of the immediate post-war period, (maximum cost £1200; maximum area 1000 sq.ft.) then added to as the restrictions are lifted. The example on the cover is also used for the frontispiece with the caption, “Planned for future expansion to come within post-war costs and area limits.” We see two versions of the same basic design, before and after the suggested additions.

40. Esher, Lionel Gordon Balioi Brett 1913-

Houses / by Lionel Brett. (West Drayton, Middlesex : Penguin Books, 1947)

41. Leacroft, Richard.

Building a house / by Richard Leacroft. (Harmondsworth, Middlesex : Penguin Books, 1949)

The “modern” or “contemporary” style of architecture with the clean lines of the Bauhaus, was a pre-war development but after the war it became synonymous with “architect-designed,” when people discussed new houses.

Architect Lionel Esher is not ill-disposed to this trend though he treats it with a large grain of salt. In a reference to Le Corbusier’s quote, “A house is a machine for living in,” Esher comments on the impracticalities inherent in such designs,

People began to spell machine with a capital M, and in the face of a great deal of evidence to the contrary it was solemnly believed that if a thing does its job efficiently it will be beautiful. …

It is easy to guess the effect of these ideas on the looks of buildings. Ornament was banished (the word ceased to be used unless qualified by the epithet “superfluous”), and with it went the various projections, copings, cornices, string courses, etc., which had traditionally served to throw rainwater clear of the wall face and protect it from penetration. … The modern house arrived in a blaze of glory and after a brief summer of astonishing beauty faded like a flower in the frost. (p. 36-37)

He supports his opinion with a pair of photographs showing the deterioration such designs can suffer if left to weather.

The Richard Leacock book is remarkable for the wealth of graphic detail in the illustrations. We are shown in a series of cross-section drawings the processes involved in building “the ordinary brick house of today.”

At this time Penguin was publishing several titles meant to cultivate the public interest in architecture during the post-war building revival, repairing the destruction of the Blitz.

Post-war Australia

42. Moore, John D., 1888-1958.

Home again : domestic architecture for the normal Australian / by John D. Moore. (Sydney : Ure Smith, 1944)

After setting out in detail his ideas of the particular characteristics in the Australian landscape and climate which should be taken into account by local architects, John Moore devotes a chapter to “What is wrong with our houses?”

He found that the faults were often in the aspect of the house, e.g. if a house is built on the north side of the street, it should not therefore have its kitchen facing north into the sun and the living and bed-rooms facing south where they are “cheerless”. Among faults of design he also cites the main entrance door; the fact that it is usually in the wall facing the street is mere convention,

It can quite easily be placed somewhere about the centre of either side wall – if the site warrants it. By doing this the internal passage space is reduced to a minimum, because the house is entered at the natural junction of the living and sleeping quarters; no space is taken away from one to enable you to get to the other. (p. 22)

He has many more points of criticism to make, including the opinion that “So many of our houses are depressing in colour.” (p. 24)

He then offers 14 designs for “normal homes” which he believed would be suitable for the varying situations found in Australia. Among the examples are a “Pisé house with central courtyard for hot country” and “House where outer suburbs merge into countryside.”

43. Boyd, Robin, 1919-1971.

Victorian modern : one hundred and eleven years of modern architecture in Victoria, Australia / by Robin Boyd. (Melbourne : Architectural Students' Society of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, 1947)

Robin Boyd was a member of the famous Boyd family of Melbourne; the artist Penleigh Boyd was his father. In 1946 he became Director of the Small Homes Service set up by the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in conjunction with The Age newspaper.

From the beginning of his architectural career Boyd was a convinced “Modernist” and in Victorian Modern, his first book, he places the style into his version of the local vernacular.

44. Bunning, Walter, 1912-1977

Homes in the sun : the past, present and future of Australian housing / by Walter Bunning ; foreword by Dr. H.C. Coombs. (Sydney : W.J. Nesbit, 1945)

Bunning was an architect and town planner who had worked for the Commonwealth Housing Commission during the War. His influential book, Homes in the Sun argued that Australian houses should be designed primarily to suit local conditions. Taking advantage of the sun is one of the themes being put forward but the book is more wide-ranging, having sections on the design of apartments, but most especially the need for community planning.

45. Beiers, George.

Houses of Australia : a survey of domestic architecture / by George Beiers. (Sydney : Ure Smith, 1948)

This was in some ways an up-date of the 1919 Art in Australia publication, Domestic architecture in Australia. Sydney Ure Smith was involved with both books, and George Beiers was the architectural editor of that journal in its closing years.

The cover shows “Ultimo” a house “near Sydney, New South Wales”, taken from Lycett’s Views in Australia or New South Wales & Van Diemen's Land (1824-25), and an Arthur Baldwinson designed house at Palm Beach, NSW.

There is much space given to the recent development in Australia of flats. Among those featured are “Clendon Flats” in Clendon Road, Armadale, Melbourne, designed by Roy Grounds. This was where Robin Boyd and his wife lived when they were first married.

46. Beaufort homes. [Melbourne : Beaufort Division, Dept. of Aircraft Production, 1947?]

This was a project that was intended to provide cheap pre-fabricated houses using the facilities of the Federal Aircraft factory, which had been producing the Beaufort bomber.

A model home was set up in the Treasury Gardens. The factory was re-tooled ready to begin production on the first ten thousand homes in 1947, but when the government changed the project was abandoned.

47. “The steel house: its place in the housing scheme” by Domus (C. E. Carter), Australasian handyman, v. 1, no. 3, Nov. 1946, p. 3-6, 8.

“Domus” was the name under which Mr. Carter wrote many books on home carpentry and handyman guide-books. He was the editor and publisher of Australasian Handyman. Here he gives his thoughts on the Beaufort model home on display in the Treasury gardens.

He was impressed by the steel framed construction and the ease with which additions could be made. The article discusses many of the criticisms which had been made of the home and is able to show that these are, in the main, unreasonable and the plan is a very good one for the low income earner. His summary of it is,

a home which must provide the answer to the man who asks, “How can I obtain a comfortable home, modern conveniences and minimum of upkeep at a price which I can afford?” (p. 6)

48. Home plans / edited by Eve Guy. ([Sydney] : Australian Women's Weekly, [1946?])

This was a compilation of Australian and American plans, the first of which is for a “Californian home for a family of five or six. Designed by foremost American architect in collaboration with a landscape artist.” The caption reads, “Revolutionary in its planning.”

The post-war period in Australia marked a departure from the British model. From now on Australian architects looked to the US for inspiration.

49. Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. Small Homes Service.

Small homes : how to build a home this year / Small Homes Service of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, with the Age. ([Melbourne] : Small Homes Service : The Age, [1948?])

The Small Homes Service published a series of architect-designed plans. Sets of the blue-prints were sold for £5. This copy includes tipped-in a note that,

In order to avoid excessive repetition of popular designs, sales of each plan are limited to fifty (25 metropolitan and 25 country)

50. Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. Small Homes Service.

24 plans : Small Homes Service, special modern home folder. (Melbourne : The Institute, [195-?]) 1 folded sheet

This sets out the rationale of the Small Homes Service,

Its aims are to bring architectural services within the reach of those who would not normally consult an architect, and to raise the standard of house design in Victoria by making available for a nominal charge the work of leading domestic architects in the state.

In the Guide to Victorian Architecture, published in 1956, the RVIA referred to the “Small Homes Service” (p. 44)

Many houses will be seen in the newer suburbs, some bearing the hallmarks of the architect designed and supervised home. In over 5000 cases, these new homes have never known the hand of an architect. They were built by their owners, using standard drawings (architect prepared) and specifications obtained from the Small Homes Service. Notable examples: Corner Scott and Gibbs Streets, Beaumaris; 33 Scott Street, Beaumaris; 19 Lorraine Avenue, Box Hill; Wilson Road, Glen Waverley.

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