Shack Star Australia - entries now open

Do you love a bit of award winning tellie? Do you love your family beach shack? Would you like to show off  your family beach shack on award winning tellie? If the answer is yes well read on…

The makers of the History Channel's series Coast (specifically Coast Australia) have discovered the world of the Australian, mid-century fibro beach shack. For their second series they would very much like to pay a visit to anyone with a classic, intergenerational, loved-to-pieces beach shack and investigate the unique relationships we share with these modest dwellings. One condition - you must be in South Coast NSW, so paging all in Bermagui, Batemans Bay, Tathra, Narooma everywhere in-between. Here it is in their words......

We would like to tell the story of the Australian beach holiday on the South Coast of NSW - piles of family members all lumped into a little fibro shack by the beach, and kept in the family for generations. I am looking for a family on the South Coast of NSW who have a little beach shack and have been holidaying there for generations.

If you didn't already know, we here at MA have a particular soft-spot for this chapter of pure, antipodean phenomena entwining modest MCM design and holiday living. If you feel the same as we do, please get in touch with your family story and shack and we'll see what we can do.

Local landmarks

Mid-Century commercial buildings are always at the sharp end of the development cycle, usually knocked down without a second thought, past their practical life and often sitting on high value land, but it's these factories, offices and clubhouses untouched by time which somehow yank on our nostalgia chains hardest and remind us of an era when these spaces and exteriors were so futuristic and fresh. Often these feelings are coupled with a certain wistfulness for the industry and workers once housed within - the idea that overcoats, soft drink or sewing machines were once manufactured by entire families and neighbourhoods of workers, living close to the city, perhaps walking or riding round the corner to the job they held for more than 30 years. It's a version of humble, communal life seemingly now relegated to a handful of far flung suburbs, the history books and China.


This place, although more clubhouse than industrial, embodies all of these feelings and faces much the same fate. Generally separating great little modern structures of a public nature from private homes, is their ability to see through decades without so much as a lick of paint to update them and here we find no exception.The main church is still a bastion of perfectly preserved wood panelling and Christian Modern (hey- did we just make up a sub-style?) stained glass windows. The furniture in keeping with the day is functional for religious contemplation, without ornate details. The carpet and the tiles out the front continue the turquoise colour scheme and the entire building is of neat rectangular forms.

Depending of who bought this, we may be lucky to see a rebirth of this building it is after all in the main drag of a gentrified suburb and without too much amendment it presents the perfect situation to keep an original modern public building still public for the decades to come. We at MA would much rather see a library/band venue/ ceremony space/restaurant/ cafe/ bar/school or perhaps all of the above over yet more ill-conceived and half baked 'warehouse conversion living'. We shall see. Locals, keep us updated

Another notable home, another secret loss.

Putting the oohs and ahhhs we emit pouring over listings, emails and the posts of others aside for a moment it is a fact that the MCM history of Australia is a small and secret record of names and buildings. And for every truly mind-blowing example we stumble across we also see the 10 photos of those which are no more, mostly demolished or ruthlessly reconfigured until any remnant of their creator's vision and built mastery is extinguished under white paint, expensive marble or cheap extensions. Most often this occurs before we really knew what we had.

The Kelly House 1, Bellevue Hill, 1956.  Photo Max Dupain.

The Kelly House 1, Bellevue Hill, 1956.  Photo Max Dupain.

Today we have a classic example of built heritage which should be preserved, nay publicly celebrated, but instead it sits on the market as a possible sub-division and renovators piece. 

Enter - The Keith Smith House, Mosman 1955-58 by premier Australian Modernist architect Douglas Snelling.

Snelling is well recognised as a classic Mid-Century Modern architect in the Sydney region, most recognised for his 'Arts and Architecture' House of the Year (Melbourne publication) from 1956 - The Kelly House 1. With the dominating style of Frank Lloyd-Wright present in his earlier work and moving to more Neutra/Scandinavian then Pacific Tiki influences at the end (he retired to Hawaii), Snelling carried out major commercial and private commissions some of which remain as classic works of the Modernist ethos and which serve as tangible monuments to the political and social shift Australia took in the mid twentieth century from Europe and Britain across to Asia and North America.

This home is a classic. Set amongst 50 year old palms and fern-filled greenery. Of a complete but modest scale (for Mosman) and set to the back of a double block, it emits vibrations of breezy sanctuary the very antithesis of the aggressive, cheek by jowl, concrete mansions which surround it.  It is centred, not unlike the Rose Seidler House, by a large sandstone fireplace and bears the hallmarks of pioneering Australian Modernism - open plan living/kitchen and easy indoor outdoor access. These principles which we, dear reader, revere unfortunately play into the ignorant prejudices of its high-flying market who only sense living spaces with their shopping-list eyes -Those bedrooms are too small! No Media room? Only 2 car spaces? 

There are faint signs that this building does have some level of protection (anyone with more info on this?). It sits on the Australian Institute of Architects Significant Buildings Register. The real estate agent's suggestion for building anew is reserved for the adjoining block only and there is a clear and unusual note at the bottom of the listing. 

** All information contained herein is gathered from sources we consider to be reliable, however we cannot guarantee or give any warranty to the information provided. Interested parties must solely rely upon their own enquiries.

Reading between the lines we'd hope this translates as;

"If you have desires to call in the bulldozer on the original home and throw up some nausea inducing, neo-spanish, 16 bedroom villa to pointscore over degustation with other paunchy captains of industry, then think again because this home is protected mate, so get onto your lawyer to check the records first or, even better, piss off"  

or something like that.

However, knowing the agent has not explicitly mentioned the architect of this building and with the outrageous loss of Snelling's far more prominent and magnificent Kelly House 1 in early 2013, in the very banal circumstances suggested above, we hold grave fears for the Smith House. 

Is nothing sacred? Are building lists collated and heritage reports commissioned just so we can pour over our great losses in years to come and burn with frustration over why nothing was done? Time will tell. We can only urge you all keep yours ears to the ground. We have a finite amount of these buildings and an unforgivable multitude have already fallen without the recognition they deserve. We all need to bring some noise and light to these examples and to make ensure they do not just silently slip away on us.