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Design Review: Volume 2, Issue 1 (June-July, 1949)

Houses of Australia — Book Review

page 13

Houses of Australia
Book Review

Houses of Australia (A Survey of Domestic Architecture by George Beiers, A.R.A.I.A.) Published by Ure Smith. Price 30/-. Agents: Technical Books, Ltd., Wellington.

“This book gives a pictorial survey of domestic architecture during the whole period of Australian history, illustrating the best examples of houses from all over Australia.” This quotation from the dust jacket sums up the contents adequately and the book can be accepted as such a survey with the usual allowances made for works on architecture that are, perhaps, over-selective. Within its limits the book is good, both as an object to handle, read, and place on the book-shelf, and also as a survey of domestic architecture. It has clear type, easy lay-out and informative captions. The drawings used in conjunction with the photographs, and plans used, are excellent, in the way that all such drawings should be—they record simply and efficiently and are for the most part lively. I shall mention the photography particularly because it is of a very high standard. Australia does not seem to be suffering from the dearth of architectural photographers that we know in New Zealand. There is in some examples an annoying lack of plans. In books illustrating architecture, I think this is unforgivable.

The houses illustrated are in many cases surprising. Where I could see a similarity in form and idea with our own early architectural picture, appreciation came easily, but there are many things here that are not usual. Many of the early Australian settlers must have been wealthy people, and they managed to carry from an England fast becoming industrialized, a technique of building which is fine in mood and execution and usually exciting. What little we have seen of good traditional eclecticism in New Zealand pales besides the glory of some of those old Australian houses. These were men of discrimination. Take a look at the illustration of the Treasury building in Long Street, Sydney, at Greystanes, Prospect, N.S.W., and Mac-Arthur's house, Camden Park, N.S.W. But the tradition of good building, as is obvious from this book, weakened as it did here in New Zealand. But never does it become bad, and always it is interesting.

Two people who seem to have done good modern work are Hardy Wilson and Arthur Baldwinson. The former works in a traditional form of a high standard of detail design, and the latter works in a more contemporary idiom which is occasionally bogged down by a disappointing lack of discrimination.

But by far the most interesting section in the book is that devoted to the Sir John Sulman Medal awards of 1934, 1940, 1945. Of these the 1940 medal winner by Gerard H. B. McDonell is in my opinion most worthy of notice. The 1945 winner Sidney Archer has designed another house, making a pair that architects in this country might well discuss.

To conclude. The book should be read by every man and woman in New Zealand who is interested in architecture.


Sixty Home Interiors, by Dorothy Senior, A.S.T.C.

Sixty Home Plans. Published by Associated General Publications. Agents: Technical Books, Ltd., Wellington.

Here are two fully illustrated books, for people who want ready-made solutions to their architectural and interior design problems.

One of the finest examples of early Colonial architecture in Australia.

One of the finest examples of early Colonial architecture in Australia.

The Sir John Salman medal award, 1945.

The Sir John Salman medal award, 1945.