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.