Paul-Alan Johnson

This paper draws in part from interviews being conducted by the author in a project entitled the Architects of the Middle Third 1 as part of a larger study re-examining the theory and ideology of Australian architects from the 30s to the 60s. To date twenty five interviews have been completed with New South Wales architects whose education and early practice took place during the 30s and 40s. The interviews cover both ordinary and celebrated architectural production throughout the middle third of the 20th century (hence the project's title) and illuminate the ideas that were finding favour, and those that were not, among these architects. Once completed, the results of the project are likely to reorientate the professional impact of and contemporaneous attitudes towards early modernism in Australia. The middle third of the 20th century in Australia is of interest because of the significant changes to both architectural ideas and aesthetic expression that accompanied the Modem Movement emanating from Europe. It is of interest too because of the increased development and its impact on urban form that occurred once restrictions on building were lifted following World War 2. The architecture of this period, especially at the 'humdnun' end of the spectrum, has been either underrepresented or totally neglected in Australian architectural histories. Despite its comprehensiveness in many other respects, Max Freeland's Architecture in Australia devotes only one paragraph to factories, for instance, towards the end of his chapter on austerity? and does not include illustrations of industrial buildings at all (save for the ubiquitous wheat silo on p 242). The Middle Third project, by its own quite serendipitous account, is already reintegrating the 'ordinary' architect into the archi-historical record, for the interviews provide ample evidence of a rich array of architectural works, ideas and personalities existing at the everyday
FABRICATIONS 7, August 1996 Pages 113-128: PAUL-ALAN JOHNSON

Richards wrote in his populist book An Introduction to Modern Architecture that the term 'modern architecture' was being used to meansomething more particularthan contemporary architecture. it is a mistake to suppose that. they are only interestedin the practical side of architecture. because it looks clean and efficientand not too pompous and because he has heard that it is based on an ideacalledfunctionalism(or 'fitness for purpose') which at least sounds sensible if rather inhuman. the cynical and cautious 'Man in the Street': But the Man in the Street only sees in the new architectureanother bewildering addition to the variety of architectural styles he is already offered: a new style which. because modem architectsare ~ c u l a r l concerned to y relatebuildingsmore closely to the needs they have to serve. not an academic exercise in applied ornament He quames this further a paragraph later. The implication from Richards was that. an architectural epiphany of modem functionalism coming out of Victoria during the mid-1930s. but a style he also rather suspects. One possible reason for the imbalance may be that certain writers have promoted. he feels. a social art related to the life of the people it serves. who achieved some prominence in the 1930s and whose writings have been cited by at least one of those interviewed for the Middle Third project as being of consequence to young architects in Australia. I wish to begin with a few remarks made by the British writer and critic J M Richards. foreigners. most notably those buildings espousing a modern and efficient 'functionalism'. . In 1940. FABRICAnONS 114 PAULALAN JOHNSON .level than might be supposed from conventional histories exalting more elevated levels of architectural endeavour. the new kind of architecturethatis growing up this centuryas this century's own contribution to the art . irnmortalised and consolidated later in Robin Boyd's Victorian Modern of 1947. and are therefore concerned with the pursuit of beauty. This is especially the case in relation to 'ordinary' buildings that accede to the wisdom of the early modernists. . . in effect. modem architecture would serve people in a practical yet beautiful way and that this was the kind of present and future world modern architects were offering up as their art. They know that they are practising an art.3 Another reason may be in part the result of the lack of any countering by equally coherent historiographical writings coming out of NSW or the other Australian states at that time. must have something to it. Richards expressed any doubts about the 'fore runners of a new architecture' by using the notion of that universalised persona. simply because he is naturally conservative. . whatever it was. and he has an idea that the people who are responsible for the new architectureare cranks. He dislikes having something familiarreplaced by something unfamiliarwithout any evident reason.

' These were the harbingers of evil. like all good architecture. they will see quickly enough that the ungenuine . Some might say it is unnecessary to re-focus on the events of those years if it is merely to show that the polemic failed to deliver all it promised.bas no basis beyond itself. whether it is the result of the commercial exploitationof novelty or merely the wish to be in the fashion. But this is what we will now briefly do. we know now that this kind of polemic was all to do with prosecuting a certain reformist aesthetic agenda.which is oftencalled 'modemisti' . And the only way to prevent the fine ideals of the one fmm being vulgarized into insignificanceby the other is for people to discriminate betterbetween them. for it illuminates the complexities of personalities and issues that have been surreptitiously sidelined by historical over-simplification and tidy-mindedness. these. obviously does greatham to the cause of good modem architecture. Despite his protestations immediately following about 'our own good taste' being unreliable.revolutionaries or other kinds of people that he disapproves of There have been so many misunderstandings about modem architecturethat . just what modern architecture was not supposed to be about at all.' the 'makers of jazz-modern shop-fronts. It is quite simply. These miscreants were in need of correction and redirection because . sentiments that most modern British and European architects had by then been espousing vigorously for the past two decades. this bogus modemism. . Richards became more hortatory on the next page when he began decrying the imitators of modem architecture. It is not. were the ones who interfered with the evolution of the brave new world.the honest product of science and art. . . If people understand the point of genuine modem architectureand appreciatewhatit is trying to do. for one thing. certainly is an imprint of the modernist banner. The prose.' the 'purveyors of smart angular furniture. the discernment for which Richards called involved taste and style. while not exactly rallying. the 'vulgarizers who join up with the movement only in order to cash in. FABRICATIONS PAULALAN JOHNSON . based in the Australian experience of the decade from 1929 to 1939 especially. .' and the 'builders of nasty "modernistic" villas. it may be as well to mention a few things that it is not. it is not the custom of building in concrete. It aims at once more relating methods of building as closely as possible to real needs. or w ~ t h flat roofs and horizontal window is not 'functionalism'. It consists of a few flashy hicks and the use (often the wrong use) of a number of fashionable materials. and that not every architect heeded its call. Of course. and the ignorance of the populace at large who were Richards's readership. a fashionable style of jazz ornament. It brings it into disrepute.

. .The attitudes of Richards's eponymous 'Man in the Street' are just like those of a number of Australian architects of the 30s. hard and austere but extraordinarily FABRICATIONS 116 PAULALANJOHNSON . mechanical.' Nowadays you get very complicated pitched roofs but he was talking about a simple pitched roof. . I'm talhng about houses and schools and so on. and on formal tricks. . they differ markedly in being willingly and inevitably embraced by Australian architects because it was only sensible to do so. . a highly directionalarchiteclurefullof violent and positive movement. lo Freeland describes the early modern architecture of the 30s in Architecture in Australia as plainand . . assertive forms and spectaculargymnastics. One architect described the 'modem' as comprising 'curved comers' and horizontal windows and 'box type buildings with glass fronts. . We felt a sort of freedom because you wuld do almost anytlung and put a flat roof on it I remember Leighton Irwin telling us. relating to his education at the University of Melbourne in the 30s. . rather than being disdainfully set aside. [Le~ghton Irwin] would give a short talk on schools. was that flat roofs gave you a cerkun freedom I'm tallung of smaller scale buildmgs and not city office buld~ngs l c h always had w flat roofs anyway. . describing his Beaux-Arts education at the University of Sydney. not philosophical. . . picks up the instrumental aspect of modem design: I think they thought they had us as students for five years and in those five years they could only give us culture. I think he was trying to stop us from going a bit haywire. you have this freedom but the building will not be a successful design unless it could have a pitched roof put on it. 'Yes. . functional solution to a problem . precisely in stylistic terms.' and that '"Form follows Function" .' 8 that is. We wuld learn the dirty tricks afterwards and I think there would be some justification for that. A comment by yet another architect. architecture is entirely 'functional' in its basis.' that is. sets the basics for good architecture. demonstrates the ambivalence surrounding both the licence and the dangers modem design offered: MC: If we had a subject like a school. A cautionary tale by another architect. if we are to judge by those interviewed for the Middle Third. While these so-called 'dirty tricks' are from the same ethical stable as the 'flashy tricks' of Richards' 'bogus modernism'. One tlung I'll always remember and this was at the ttmeof theearly modem movement. while another said his own style was 'a three-dimensional. the functional. the Bauhaus movement. puttogether in an austerely c e ~ b r away l . . . simpleindividualelements . not ideological. the emphasis for them being precisely on the stylistic. I have a general feeling that a student going through a school of architecturecan't of course be taught all the dirty tricks hut they should at least be e x p e d to the range.

More of that shortly. put] I summed it up at that time: 'Why not try everything you can? l2 These few extracts from the Middle Third interviews merely highhght the pragmatic reality that faced many architects of the 30s and 40s generation who aspired. . with its mass of rules and regulations evolvedduring four thou- FABRICATIONS PAUL-ALAN JOHNSON . that they were not about changing the world. . among whom there were of course some willing to experiment with modem ideas when they could. the best they could hope for was to be 'radically ordinary'. Le Corbusier was critical of the capability of historical styles to manage the demands of contemporary materiality. It is to recognise. It shook the boys and they said. . . l 1 In contradistinction. we are forced to the conclusion that the old architectuml code.' More particularly.' phey] thought Fancy puttingthat in. and their clients insisted. too. dreadful. A facie architecture to be sure. A glib formula which could be applied to any situation . they are outside our ken. I would now like to review briefly the education of some of these architects. .compiled in 1923 into Vers Une Architecture l3 . were essentially conservative. dreadful stuff. . a paragraph later he was so scathing about the ethical value of historical styles that he virtually willed them away altogether: The 'styles' no longer exist. skeptical and ambivalent about the new architecture of the preceding decade and a half. .elaborated upon the novel conditions of the modem world and advocated a new architecture to match. . 'Oh . I loved the Colonial and Georgian and that type of architecture. but to providing a solid and dependable service to their clients. that ordinary architects of varying ability and talent were now legitimised by the modem design milieu and thereby gained accessto what rapidly became a culture of commodification in line with the economic transformation of the world that was soon to become the great hallmark of twentiethcentury productivity. . not to greatness. Le Corbusier's essays from just after the end of World War 1 in L'Esprit Nouveau . . Take the way R Lindsay Little describes and counters the reaction to a project he undertook during his student days: We did a p r o p a l for the enhancement of the Sydney Technical Collegeand I did a design for that in the modern style. can no longer clothe it. If we set our selves against the past. But they knew. 'Construction has undergone innovations so great that the old "styles". if they still trouble us. Some indeed were even scornful. .' But it was the beginning of the modern architecturewhich was taking place. saying. . the general run of young Australian architects.confident. which still obsess us. it is as parasites.

they read Le Corbusier and other writers. and also by Leslie Wilkinson in Sydney.' l6 Of course there were those who rarely read any philosophical or theoretical material at all and were merely carried along by the day-to-day insights their employment and education provided them. 'I really think the experience we had was very practical . But some. students during the 30s in Australia were still being inculcated in the historical styles via Banister Fletcher and their Mediterranean vernacular equivalents promoted from the twenties initially by Walter Butler in Melbourne and subsequently by Rodney Alsop at the University of Melbourne's Architectural Design Atelier (to 1932). All good architecture students. including Laurie. we FABRICATTONS 118 PAULALAN JOHNSON . precisely the same unreconciled dichotomy about which Le Corbusier was writing. Of the talks given to the Modem Architecture Research Society . on the other the structural and engineering aspects as state of the 'art'. during the early thirties. . listened to their colleagues' tales of travelling around Europe. . They didn't endeavour to teach us anything in the way of design. and reached forward a little.' says Laurie Malanot. . The Technical Colleges in particular showed a way through. construction. read differently . but very much in practical terns.sand years. 'I started to realise you had to express yourself in some way or another and the only way I knew how then was to imitate my tutors. of which he was a member . usually students from Tech who had been abroad and could guide us in design and outlook . .15 On the one hand the historical styles as the design armature. We also did perspecme drawing and some design. is no longer of any interest: it no longer wncerns us: all the values have been revised.the Sydney version of the British MARS group. sanitary science and sciagmphy . . l4 Notwithstanding Le Corbusier's stylistic admonitions and his revolutionary conception of architecture. be they in academe or in the workplace. of course. and Australian student architects were no different. professional practice. . there has been a revolution in the conception of what Architecture is. listened to their teachers. . The two worlds informed Tom O'Mahony's education at the Gordon Institute of Technology. Gothic. While the universities and institutes of technology also taught up-to-date materiality in the more practical other studies to pass the then Institute of Architects examinations. Those were the usual things. Classical. .Laurie Malanot recalled: 'We did invite people. and Renaissance were the wre of the course there . Geelong. they did not relate aesthetics and technics in the comprehensive Corbusian sense at all.

but he should not vege tate there.l8 If they languished in matters of design or style though.' remarks Allan Gamble of life as a student in Western Australia. you must remember I was seventeen or eighteen years old and certainly had no high flown aspirations or knowledge of architecture.were just aided by the more experienced people we worked with. . Q You diAn't have any lecturers who were 'stany eyed'? : JM: In those days Tech Colleges taught the real things of architectureand didn't deal with the stars and the firmament much . in the main. .' This view that architects could find sufficient fulfillment i n 'ordinary stuff'. '[MY Le Corbusier had not only written that 'the conclusion has often been drawn that architecture is construction . to the point where they saw in technics a ready substitutefor design or stylistic concerns. It is my impression it was a more hade oriented course. It is quite true that the architect should have construction at least as much at his fingers' ends as a thinker his grammar .their devotion was to classical models. mis] genre was Cubist. I enjoyed it too. I thiukit is the kind of thing that has gone wrong with architechuaI training these daYs.' One wonders whether the derogatory 'vegetate' has perhaps convinced many architectural historians and commentators that a 'construction' mentality was not a legitimate preoccupation of architec- FABRICATIONS PAUL-ALAN JOHNSON . . while Ivor Tacon ~roffered:'Mv oninion of architects. Yet this emphasis hardly features in conventional architectural histories. flat roof and purity. We had drawing and we had brickworkand we had all the business of ordering mortarand bricks and timberand how-a window fitted into a wall.' declares Stanlev Brandon. i s that they are eiiher constmcl?ion' men or desieners but rarely good at both. Gropius .'lg A recent interviewee declared partner] had a -dif?erent geme but I would sometimes escape. There wasn't any stany eyed business about it at all. Those days of atchikxtnml tminingwere mnpletelydifferentfr even the universitiesof those days. recurs in a number of the Middle Third interviews.' He had also gone on to say that 'an architect's efforts are concentrated on it for a large part of his career. but I would escape and do ordinary stuff with pitched roofs and case ment windows. . especially in the practical-minded and constructional aspects of their profession.17 And so it was elsewhere: Q: Would you also say your course was very down foearth? JM: Absolutely. I never did Philosophy or Japanese or Psychology and I distrust all that. [but] that is not a reason for mixing different things. these students and the younger architects progressed in matters of construction. . . I think. 'I was much more interested in constmction than design.

. no matter how their design skills might have been awarded or reported favourably by others. . . the brick man. . . [Although] We sort of followed Le Corbusier but we didn't really think that much of his work compared to Dudok and Frank Lloyd Wright.' 24 'There was one favourite of the young architects of our time . . among overseas architects half professed an interest in 'the Dutchman. most of those interviewed for the Middle Third admitted to not having absorbed or been influenced by Le Corbusier's writings. I just did it. not copying another. . . declares a second defiantly.' My final design thesis was a bit Dudok-ish. . Notwithstanding his prolificacy.'26 We reckoned that Dudok's Hilversum Town Hall was the greatest building we had seen in those days. of being aware of modem design ideas in only a generalised way. . Dudok of Holland who was one of our pin-up ar~hitects. . all in clean and bold massing . Maxwell Fry. .'~~ d o k was] very good in the 'm use of brickwork particularly . there was a lot of brickwork and horizontal lines with both. . . I think1 did the best I could. .turd history and whether this attitude has led to a preponderance of narrowly focussed high-style histories. .'= especially his Hilversum Town Hall. though I never followed anybody. . Dudok . I was only influencedby the problemsas I saw them. I suppose somethmg came from ra&ng about and seelng ~llustrahous work by of Gmp~us. Corbus~er. . and of Gropius when FABRICATIONS 120 PAULALAN JOHNSON . if you know what I mean . . as students.~' No. Dudok had the capabilitiesto get the proportions rigbt in the brick panels and the brick elementsof a place. . or of being seen as too easily swayed.22 Which prompts the question of just who were offered up as influences by those prepared to admit them? Of the twenty four interviewed for the Middle Third. they were my ideas.28 What impressed them about the work of Dudok. my design was in brickwork. [F R S]Yorke and other arclutects of that bme admits one architect dubiousl~. and Aalto by four. most of those interviewed have been reluctant to admit to any external architectural influences at all. .20 and. apparently for fear of denying their own design creativity. 'For me the great light was Dudok from Holland. Talk of influences raises what amounts to a defensive barrier among these practitioners of early modernism. . Le Alvar Aalto. Gropius was mentioned by a quarter. Most surprising of all. Frank Lloyd Wright came a close second. I was not influenced by any trend. . Hilversum Town Hall in Holland was one of the pieces de resistance of architectnre. whatever job I got I did to the best of my ability. .

He was a very dedicated architect. FABRICATIONS PAULALAN JOHNSON . . [but] the style was not the style I had been thinking it was .' 35 The only other Australian modernist receiving sigmficant mention was the Melbourne architect Arthur Stephenson and his f m s . a third deferring to him. while offering a straightforward regimen within which many ordinary architects could work.' 33 'I reckon Sydney Ancher was about the best but of course there were others . They were outstanding . But at these meetings. .he was mentioned.' 30 I llked pudok's] work. a few doubters.'29 There were. . It seemed to be artificially modem to me. let alone its principal advocates. we were then students talking and we might not have been quite right in our outlook. 'The simplicity and sensitivity of his work impressed me. when you would heara chap who had been abroad and had seen it. it appears these architects were not primarily against those ideas per se so much as against their side effects. . The general tenor of comments in the interviews against influences and for self-reliance suggest that the greater bulk of Australian architects of the 30s generation were not willing to unreservedly declare their hand for modem architecture and its attendant ideas. Over there they seemed to put up with things we wouldn't condone for one minute. . was 'the clean lines. very plain but neat and tidy and I was very impressed with his work. Stephenson and Meldrum and Stephenson and Turner. But mind you. . This leads me to a brief consideration of everyday practice in the 30s and 40s. it was not finished properly. it was Syd Ancher who impressed the NSW architects the most. . If you considered a building structurally with the design he got his effect by doing the wrong thing. 31 Laurie Malanot also remembers: I recall Syd Ancher who studied Dudok's buildings quite a hit saying that they looked beautiful fmm the street level but when you got on top. you couldn't argue 32 And among Australian architects. however. . the roofs were false and sloped the wrong way. .' 34 'I remember the houses he designed. for modem design. there would be leaks in the ridge and leaks around chimneys. and all so simple. 'As a young man I examined all this sort of thing but I don't remember being overly impressed. in that the exemplars that Le Corbusier and other European 'names' provided simply demanded much that budget and circumstance prevented them from delivering. also appears to have disernpowered them in equal measure. and the modem architecture was so tidy and clean and neat . It was not the lookof the thing it was the function. . he said. . with tiles. For instance. . If this is interpreted as a negative reaction.

of the generation of Australian 30s modernists. I can't remember names but there were some public buildings which impressed me and I would have loved to have built something like them in Sydney. to encourage either art or architecture to flourish as experimental and expressionistic enterprises. There fore Australian giants of architecture. Q: Did you see FrankUoyd Wright's GuggenheimMuseum? W: I saw it but I wasn't interested. The problem was that we didn't have the money in Australia. either as individuals or institutions. or were redirected via a selfimposed emphasis on individual capability that resolutely sought solutions from among the exigencies of the task. great ideas. so to speak. Mainly these concerned money. unlike North America. 36 Indeed.Overseas and Australian influences were either substantially modified or greatly diminished by circumstances. and consequently never generated the sponsors or mentors. just never evolved to the extent that they did overseas. It seems strange that the people in a country so imbued with the egalitarian ideal could not have sustained a far more socially substantiated modernism. that the philosophy of modernism in architecture. . either as names or as works. Frank Lloyd Wright's work. Only the big architectswere ever asked to build like that in Sydney. but not having travelled overseas until the late 1950s. .when asked if he saw any work overseas he thought appropriate for Australia: RLL: Yes. once removed from its Eurcpean socio-cultural roots and particularly after the 'names' emigrated from Europe before and during the Second World War. They would treat you as a burglar if you suggested something like that and think you were just taking them down. Secondly. yet people would study the magavnes wth these h n g s tn them They would come and say they wanted sometlnng llke that and when we asked about money they would only have half what they would need and they couldn't accept that. I think you get a bit choosy when you see so much. was interpreted in stylistic terms by architects everywhere. Pwple wouldn't put up the money to do that type of work. two things. In Australia this was virtually the casefrom its inception. Firstly. was settled after the money ran out. . that Australia. I now feel able to make a tentative claim for placing the practical- FABRICATIONS 122 PAUGALAN JOHNSON . for many of his contemporaries it was the same. They were beautiful houses and beautifully finished and twice the sizeof the things we used to build. . in America. well into the period of revisionist modernism . Take the response of R Lindsay Little . . For some years now I have argued. . . but no clients with money or daring enough to explore them. informally. . I would have been langhedat. Q: Do you think clients here were much more basic in what they wanted? W: Yes.

.minded architect and the myriad pragmatic and mundane buildings produced in everyday architectural practice squarely into an historical and theoretical frame. We all engage in an 'art of cooking'. This is achieved in propitious moments. of certain notions put forward by French historian and ethnologist Michel de Certeau: The practice of people taking what they want from the vanious resources and facilities around them . a way of thinking invested in a way of acting. Whatever it wins. The Neapolitans call it l'urfe di arrangimri.'making good' . according to Michel de Certeau. nor thus on a borderline distinguishing the other as a visible totality. a series of 'minuscule' tactics. especially in light of the succinct summary by TV commentator Diane Powell. the redrawing of relationships (blendingfamilies). m r d and watch videos). We adopt certain individualized practices or 'ways of doing' that reconstitute our spaces of individual production and thereby resist this systemic domination. it does not keep. A tactic insinuates itself into the other's place. The weak must continually turn to their own ends forces alien to them. in her Out West: Perceptions of Sydney's Western Suburbs. within the frame of economic production and institutionalized and socialized practices that dominate everyday life. This resistance is the means by which we seek out and maintain our creativity in the everyday world. ways of occupying urban space and shopping centres). without being able to keep it at a distance. without taking it over in its entirety. the uses to which consumer g o d s are put (how we play music. a 'tactic' being 'a calculus which cannot count on a "proper" (a spatial or institutionalized localization). indeed of a FABRICATIONS 123 PAUL-ALAN JOHNSON . a tactic depends on time . and adapting the variety of resources at hand to create new foms to suit ourse~ves?~ In The Practice of Everyday Life 38 Michel de Certeau argues that. bow rituals are adapted (the way we personalise dress codes).is.' De Certeau elaborates: The place of a tactic belongs to the other. we are not passive 'consumers' so much as active 'tacticians'. 'These practices bring into play a "popular" ratio. fragmentarily. It must constantly manipulate events in order to tum them into 'opportunities'. those everyday practices we all engage in to arrange things from within an often limited range of options at our disposal into fonns to suit ourselves: differentuses of 1anguage. Because it does not have a place. . . This adaptive 'making do' or bricolage is the core of a set of tactics. . means by which ordinary people unselfconsciously resist and manipulate the powerful mechanisms of discipline which penetrate all aspects of modem is always on the watch for opportunitiesthat must be seized 'on the wing'.the use of privateand public space (the decoration of houses. selecting. putting together.a This constant manipulation of events is as good a description as any of the creativity at work in everyday architectural practice. an art of combination which cannot be dissociated from an art of using'39.

whereby the return to fundamental principles was seen as injecting a quality of clarity and purity into their designings.' for de Certeau reading has on the contrary all the characteristics of a silent production:the drift across the page. 'metamorphosis'.'working-against' that constitutes creative opportunism within the ordinary. The following quotations touch on some aspects of these circumstances: FABWATIONS 124 PAUL-ALAN JOHNSON . pluralizes himself in it . I use 'radical' in its etymlogical sense of 'root' or 'fundamental'. or wuld only. whether in its most distracted form of 'browsing' or in its most interested form of voyeurism. the view that reading 'seems to constitute the maximal development of the passivity assumed to characterize the consumer. reinterpret this agenda into one that was 'radical' within limited means. artful fabricators. in being 'radically ordinary'. the metamorphosis of the text effected by the wandering eyes of the reader. . 41 This activity of reading. What opportunities for creativity were there. attempted also to be politically persuasive. who is conceived of as a voyeur. By arraying these particular extracts. and the idea of poaching. in which I am suggesting that these architects. in such everyday circumstances? My offering is that. 'ordinary' architects in a profession with a mere sprinkling of 'extraordinary' architects. is so much a part of design culture that de Certeau's 'silent production'. I am suggesting that architects educated during the early modem period in Australia were not in a position to replicate the ideas of their European counterparts. and the conservative demands associated with their everyday professional circumstances. insteadof proselytising an evangelical modernist agenda as the European ideologues would have it. would only. For instance. . Most of thesearchitects were just like de Certeau's 'ordinary man' or 'wmmon hero' to whom his book was dedicated. by virtue of education and circumstances. r h e reader] insinuates into anotherperson's text the ruses of pleasure and appropriation:he poaches on it. rather than in its sense of advocating 'radical reform' from some advanced or extreme political view. . is transported into it. though. to be as advanced and as demanding in their inventiveness as they wuld in the face of the customary. 'improvisation'. Even the seemingly innocuous or passive is transformed by de Certeau. who tried to make good under prevailing and sometimes extremely difficult wnditions. There is a sense. all of a sudden become viable and potent constructs as the procedures of architects and designers. . the improvisation and expectation of meanings inferred from a few words . They were capable people. and are there still. so much as in the position of bricoleurs. let alone the originators of early modernist discourse. the regular. a n 'ordinary' Australian architect.

yet it mirrors what I perceive to be the everyday life and practices by ordinary architects educated and working during the middle third of the twentieth century in Australia. . That reminds me of the senice stations. 44 The fact that Diane Powell addresses the stigma still attaching to people living in the western suburbs is pertinent here because it is in inverse proportion to the elitist preoccupations that beset those architectural histories which emphasise only the great architects and the great works. or derogated within them for attitudes that are not theirs to answer. . I was a bit conceited I guess. . 42 Q: Do you think there is an element of 'she'll be right' complacency in M a l i a n architectme? LK. . but it was work you had to do just to keep going.TO: I just felt I'd like to takea job from first principles myself and see what I cameup with. . . pragmatic due to exigencies of cost and time . 'I can solve this and I don't really need to look up magazines about it' Q: What did you consider firstprinciples in those days? TO: Probably planning and making sure the thing worked and that it was an agreeable building for the client to use and agreeable to look at in its environment I didn't have any deepseated philosophies if you'd call it that. At one stage. . if they rate at all. 43 I enjoyed bigger scale work and not humdrum factories. Adaptation to the FABRICATIONS PAULALAN JOHNSON . Ordinary architects producing 'radical' or principled works within limited means get similar treatment. But architects have to survive and in the end they must tly to satisfy the client's inclinationsand prejumces. I didn't want to be influenced.backgroundt&d to be perfectionists. the exceptional rather than the norm. The architectis reluctant to say 'that's vulgar' or 'I'm not going to have anyrhmg to do with that' and walk out. The central focus of de Certeau is on the everyday life and practices of ordinary people. What I have learnt is that the business of architmturein Sydney means the architect is in the hands of the client. I got service stations to do. Are they complacent? I think some people are perfectionlstsand some are compelled to be more. Architectswith a ~eutonic . For such architects to be omitted from conventional architectural histories. I wouldn't like to say that people in Sydney tend to be philistines but (laughs) they do like to see a lot for their money. there must have been a recession or something. but through someone I knew connectedwith Ampol. Ordinary architects producing revisionist works rate only a derogatory mention. I thought. Hany Seidler has that perfectionism in his detailing and I admire him for his enthusiasm. . They became stereotyped to just a standard design which you adapted to a site and that I didn't enjoy either. one that is not a sufficient history for Australian architects as a whole. I know that work got very scarce. is to perpetuate the idea of the autonomous individual and to limit history to one particular mode.

45 Certainly a traditional historical emphasis in education has been the case for every generation of architects. because I never produced any work like them. there was no leavening of the historical design emphasis in their education that could satisfy the contemporary demands being made of them. as the following extract shows: .resources at hand within a limited range of options is certainly one of the principal emphases beginning to emerge from the Middle Third interviews. . unfortunately. Ivor Tacon makes the point in relation to his own education: Q: On what did your kcmersplace most emphasis? IT: It was difficult for us because we were approaching the Depression and money was a very scarce commodity. was something for which their formal education gave them little or no preparation. not just for the modem. The wmmissions I got to start with were low budget and if you departed from well-known construction remember afterthe war materialswere scarce . But it was of special significance for young graduates of the 30s and 40s because not a few chose thereafter to reiterate mainly traditional themes. You asked whether I was influenced by them and I suppose really I'd have to say no. " Perhaps the sentiment of the ordinary architect in everyday practice hying to be radical as he or she dared is best summed up by the response Leonard Walker gave to the question: Having been so definite about wanting to be an architect all those years ago. My view was that if you stuck to traditional methods of wnstruction such as brick and timber floors and tile roofs you wuld at least get it built. At a later stage in life that stood us in very good stead but in the student days it was a bit of a often wuldn't even get a builder to tender. and thereby a 'making good' under restricted contemporary circumstances.46 To attain anything more than a pared-back modem stylistic idiom arising out of a 'making do'. . What the lecturers told us was that when we came to design we were to design regardless of cost. when I got back [after travelling] and into my own practice I never felt any great leaning towards Tectonand Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. especially i n domestic work. My work I suppose was more reactionary. They were thrown on to their own resourcefulness and inventiveness based in sound planning. . and the rudiments of minimalist composition. Those who were practical could not let their flights of fancy go because we were all the time thinking of what it would wst. as the most direct path to economic longevity in their practices. did you ever regret it? FABRICATIONS PAULALAN JOHNSON . But for the fact that many at 'Tech' were indentured. It would seem to me that they photographed better than they really were . was what it would cost It was embeddedin us and so design was a bit of a problem for a g o d many of us who were very practical. In the back of our minds all the time. and therefore seeing the real world on a day-to-day basis. a primary materiality. .

ibid. Felix W Tavener. Melbourne: Architectuml Students' Society of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. 1940. The University of New South Wales. Brian Mowbray. op cit. vol3. Max Collard. p 73. I think I was a sound architect . facsimile. pp 9-10. 10. Dover. AMT. Vic: Penguin Books. p 119. p 288. Ibid. vol 3. ibid. pp 273. vol2. So far 30 interviews in the series have been completed. John Merewether. 1986.vol 1. 6. . AMT. AMT. let alone the writings of other notables. 16. p 128. vol 1. Extracts here taken from the 13th edition.276. R Lindsay Little.99. M. Ibid. 4. pp 5-6. 1931.I don't know if I was a very good architect. An Introduction to Modem Architecture. itr. eds. Onlv 15% of those interviewed mentioned Le Corbusier at all. J Maxwell Freeland. G Charles Cullis-Hill. NSW: School of Architecture. . Leslie Monis. The pamgraph begins at the bottom of p 273 and continues at the top of p 275. vol 1. AMT. p 60 ~ Laurence Raper. p 10. 17. vol 2. 19. Allan Gamble. vol2. ibid. England: Penguin. pp 79-80. p 253. Harmondsworth. p 102. 11. AMT. p 32. vol 2.73. 17. 5. but I was a sound architect . AMT. 9. vol2. p 137. pp 72. f See Paul-Alan Johnson and Susan Lorne-Johnson. p 127. Architectwe in Ausi7alia:A Hsoy Ringwwd. p 93. Brian Mowbray. 14. 2 (1995) and 3 (1996. ibid. 3. 12. 18. Stanley C Brandon. 20. 1992. and is half way through a three-year cycle of funding under an ARC Small Grant. 1947. IvorTacon.'Never. Le Corbusier. 1927. 2. AMT. 7. Peter F'riestley. Max Collard. AMT. 1 (1992). M. ibid. Freeland. ibid. Lorenzo Malanot. J M Richards. 8. pp 98. The Architects of the Middle Third project was triaUed for one year in 1991 via a UNSW Faculty of Architecture (now the Faculty of The Built Environment) Research Grant. Towards a New Architecture. in MS).Architects o the Middle Third:Interviews with New South Wales architects who commenced Vols practice in the 1930s and 1940s (M). Robin Boyd. there are two illustration pages between. 15. Victorian Modern. AMT. Kensington.' 48 Notes 1. B N CLitchfield. Ibid. vol 2. Tom O'Mahony.p11. 13. pp 34-35. 1972. English trans by Frederick Etchells. FABRICATIONS PAUL-ALAN JOHNSON . MS. MS.

33. 40. 41. pp 29-30. 34. 48. AMT. of . Tom O'Mahony. Ibid. vol 1. For Brogan's life and works see Ama K Brogan. D 155. p xv. vol 1. AMT. Mchcl. Dc Certeau. 46. School of Architecture. vol2. Leonard G Walker. ibid. educated at Sydney Technical College during the twenties. 89. R Lindsay Little. vol2. unpublished BArch dissertation. Sydney H Bridekirk. p xix. Califomla. p 44. . Max Collard. ~. Ibid. His 101Australian Homes (1935) of traditional designs was immediately popular and influential yet. Ibid. AMT. ibid. September 1931. 1st ed. p 88. Lawrence A Knox. . 36. nu 88. Charles Weatherbum. D 73. AMT. p 81. Ibid. Felix W Tavener. 30. 44. St Leonards. AMT. ~~ ~~~~ ~ 2 DESIGN OF CANTILEVER VERANDAHS (CITY OF MELBOURNE) - CANTILEVER VERANDAH CONSTRUCTION Illustrationfrom Ramsay's Architectural Catalogue. 1993. ibid. Melbourne. Lorenzo Malanot. vol 1. p xxi. D 152 29.Califorma Press. NSW: Allen & Unwin. . D 75. Tom O'Mahony. vol2. Un~versin. he won the Adelaide Boys' High School competition of 1940 with a Dudokinspired modem scheme. The University of NSW. G Charles Cullis-Hill. AMT. . 1984. vol 1. 35. ibid. 42. ~ o w k i c i & e Out West: Perceptions of Sydney's Western Suburbs. 31. ibid. JohnR B ~ o g m : A Career in Practice. 1974. 47. p 44.28. 38.' 32. The I'rocrice of tvrjdayL&. Ivor Tacon.h w n architect who practiced mostly in a d i t i o n a l idiom for his domestic work yet ventured into the modem for institutional and commercial work was Sydney architect John R Brogan. Lawrence A K&. 45. 37. 1994. R Lindsay Little. p 110. 39. p115 1 1 I FABRICATIONS PAUL-ALAN JOHNSON . p 1%. trm by Steven Rendall. p 158. p 41. 43. ibid. AMT. One w e l l . p 101. ~ . p 102. with E B Filzgerald. ibid.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful