Designer Suburbs reprinted - huzzah!

It came in 2012 like a thief in the night - A simple, concise yet visually elegant book detailing the advent of Australian Modernism and just as quickly it sold out before many knew it's existence, but hark! Just in time for Christmas, a reprinted edition of Designer Suburbs: architects and affordable homes in Australia is available once more. If there is one book which any self-respecting Modernist Australian should have - it is this one. 

From the Powerhouse brains trust of Charles Pickett and Judith O'Callaghan and in association with the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment and NewSouth Books, this instant classic expounds the essential narrative of Mid-Century suburban expansion as influenced and created by our ground breaking Modernist architects in the propagation of a new Australian ideal. The result was the wondrous built legacy we hold dear today - the Pettit & Sevitt and Merchant Builders project home, Boyd's Small Homes Service, the rise of Lend Lease and so on.

"....architects created small, deceptively simple houses which transformed the look of suburbia. They were not designed to look impressive from the street, but to complement and enhance their setting, to reduce barriers between inside and outdoor living, to maximise the visual and social pleasures of home."

Of course the conclusion of their writing is far from Scooby-Doo, as the innovation of these trailblazers has been waylaid in the last few decades by the rise of vomitous mega-'burbs, mass-produced in a design vacuum and based on the seemingly untouchable tenet of over-consumption as virtue.

"Today, the distance between the architectural profession and suburban housing has never been greater, with Australia?s super-sized, energy-guzzling project homes the biggest in the world."

We of course dear readers know better and this book provides a certain level of comfort in the knowledge there are many people out there, just like us, who feel the same. Others who also revere this precious past and perhaps, in critical mass, can help shape homes, suburbs and living for the future. 

Anatol Kagan - new bio out now!

Just released is the long-awaited book on one of the more under-rated of Australian architects - Anatol Kagan. See more about this publication (and where to buy it) in today's listing - funnily enough a magnificent and original home designed by Kagan himself in Caulfield. 

Local concerns - Fighting to save the Ivanhoe Library

As one battle to save an historical Modernist home is won, we turn our eyes to the many other tussles continuing to play out around the country.

MA has received a heads-up about the fight by concerned locals to save the Ivanhoe Library. Designed by local Melbourne firm, Leith & Bartlett who were also the architects behind Burwood Skyline, Melbourne's first drive-in theatre (c.1954) of course now demolished (sniff), this is clearly a much loved MCM building. And although may be ending it's shelf life as a public library, we believe it's nonetheless supremely valuable as the public building and deserves not to be merely written off in some consultant's/developer's enthusiasm for forging brand new public works and buildings which, of course, will cost ratepayers a bomb.

We at MA are nothing if not pragmatic and true Modernists that we are, we do not believe in buildings for buildings sake. We understand that accessibility for all members of the community and integration of technology, especially into the bibliographical sphere, is paramount. We applaud a council which seeks to create a community focused and well utilised hub for their community. What we do not applaud however is the idea that buildings of 50 years standing, from which these services may be relocated, are automatically considered useless or possibly a hinderance for future development (see: The Ivanhoe Civic Master Plan). This a magnificent chance to maintain an iconic-to-the-area structure and turn it into another valuable asset for the council with much less financial burden to the community. Where is the thought for sustainability? The imagination for re-use and reconfiguration? There is speculation that the vacant land left in its regrettable footprint could be sold off to private interests, which would explain it. Of course the only outcome more sinister than the abject loss of a superb Modernist building is that dovetailing with a continuing cancerous trend of transforming of public land into private holdings. 

According to the Ivanhoe Library Heritage Assessment, it was suggested that this building is in the way, but in the way of what? It's difficult to ascertain, as there is limited info on what exactly is planned for this space.

"The retention of this building......will place unnecessary constraints on the future use and development of the Ivanhoe Civic Precinct"

However, there are some passionate people out there trying to change the direction of this seemingly pre-destined endgame. If you know the building and what to see it remain, if you are a rate-payer and wish to see it re-used rather than millions spent in it's place or decry it's possible loss to commercial interests or if you are just sick of seeking Modernist public buildings fall, only their loss to be lamented years later -  click over to the petition and put your thoughts into action.

‘Midnight Modern’ by Tom Blachford

Our friends over at Modern Times are holding a drinks do this Thursday evening (2nd October) to open it's evocative new exhibition Midnight Modern,  a body of work by Australian photographer Tom Blachford and you are invited!

Tom Blachford

Tom Blachford

The artworks are manifestly depictions of glorious Palm Springs tract houses, in particular the homes of the Alexander Construction Company and it's estates built circa 1955/56. The point of difference being that in place of the steadfast glare of the high desert sun to illuminate the architecture, as per typical Palm Springs photography, we find the cinematic depth of night stills with many photographs in the series captured under the glow of a super moon. The elegant but foreboding staginess of the final product is creeping and sentimental all at once and reminiscent to our mind of the work of Gregory Crewdson (sans melancholy housewives and idling cars of course.) 

"Deepened by shadows and dashed with stars, each image represents a 30-second exposure. The results appear both deserted and uneasy. These buildings might be iconic, but in Midnight Modern they seem to sit outside of time."

Tom Blachford

Tom Blachford

This visually stunning this accomplished work is been presented flawlessly by Modern Times and is sure to be gobbled up by MCM and photography fiends alike. 

"Each A0-sized print—impeccably framed by United Measures—will be exhibited with details about the home, including street address and architect. The show will launch with an accompanying limited-edition book, and a catalogue essay by Melbourne-based arts writer Gabriella Coslovitch."

Tom Blachford

Tom Blachford

To join in the fun of opening night and perhaps bail up the artist himself to bore him with tales of your moonlit teenage escapades and the dynamism of MCM suburbs, head down to 311 Smith Street,  Fitzroy from 6pm tomorrow night.

Exhibition catch up

We apologise for our lax updates of recent months and to our discredit it means so many sensational exhibitions and projects centred on all thing Australian MCM have not been championed by us as they should be. Let the rectification process begin......