The Rumpus Room

Athleisurewear as once seen in rumpus rooms, patios and bars across the nation (The Sun newspaper, Sept. 29th 1983)

Conjurer and ferryman to Australian suburbia of the 60s, 70s and 80s, Tim Ross has recently released a new book on the very subject and is now travelling the countryside with tall tales to accompany it. Although late to the party, we’d like to remind you there is one such show coming up in Melbourne this Monday night, with additional special guest star Lucy ‘Design Files’ Feagins. We suggest you get on down to Northcote town and if you cannot then at perhaps buy the book and float away on a tide of childhood ratbaggery and long gone places revisited, which in our estimation may include but not be limited to; dinged ping-pong paddles, boardgames (we’d put our money on Mastermind, Test Match and Uno), murder in the dark, backyard cricket, Malvern Star bikes, Pong, trampoline injuries, pool ponies, stripey carpet*, EON FM, scuffed lino, bbq snags with coleslaw, swap cards, Wizz Fizz, Chicko Rolls, Dunlop Romes, young parents holding banquet parties and children completely unsupervised for days on end. Oh what a time it was to be alive.

*you know the kind – the short loop pile carpet with a different stripe of colour per row – if anyone can name that for us, we be most grateful.

 

Three more triumphs!

Three seperate emails we’ve received in the last month, have filled our hearts with kind words and the good news that yet more homes, two in greater Hobart and one in the Blue Mountains, have fallen into the right hands. David and David (not related) have both swooped in as buyers, the first David snapping up a little brown bargain in Lindisfarne we listed a while back and the second David, although a Brisbane based designer, is in the middle of cleaning up and reviving one of our absolute favs of recent years in Sandy Bay, which very easily could have not made it through. He is even seeing through unrealised plans;

“Built in 1963 as you can see it features a curved wall , with nifty square Iron framed windows that also occur in other parts of the house. Retains its original bathroom and kitchen which features sold hardwood and ply with hand cut dovetail drawers. ……..Owner must have run out of funds because although it has a large sliding door to connect with a deck, the deck was never built. Its happening now. I have designed a hand rail which I am hoping will suit this well…….Plenty else to do like patios a new carport , the garden, etc. It had a crazy paving path made of sandstone as you can see but this has deteriorated and will be replaced…….”

For some wonderful postscript, work-in-progress images see below.

 

As for the Blue Mountains, Pip has written to let us know that the humble home of breathtaking alpine environs we wistfully admired round Easter, looks safe and whatsmore has created a wonderful legacy for the now departed owner;

“We’ve accepted an offer for the house – apparently the new owners just love it as it is which is terrific. The two adjacent blocks have been bought by developers I think but at least the house will stay. The sale prices were high…..but it’s a deceased estate and all proceeds are split between the NSW Art Gallery and the National Art Gallery of Bulgaria.”

Bravo and high fives all round this beautiful country, Modernist friends.

MA Holiday Rentals have arrived!

Attention – all you lovers of fine Modernist Mid-Century Australian architecture and goers on mini-breaks. Those of you who dream of sleeping under butterfly roofs, bathing in pink bathtubs, basking in the light and breathing in those timber ceilings of one-of-a-kind homes look no further. After a long, long time in the pipeline today we announce with glee that MA Holiday Rentals has arrived! From now on we shall host a very special space to find the perfect MCM place for you, your friends and family to enjoy, without the hassle of Section 32s, mortgage stress or removing asbestos. You can now have your smashed avo and eat it too, preferably in the sunroom of a delicious holiday home on a glorious weekend sojourn. Though only one listing thus far, we have a bunch coming along behind the scenes (which shall eventually be listed per state). And if you’re so lucky as to own a beautiful retro, Mid-Century or Mod flavoured abode for short-stay letting – please shoot us an email and let us know! You can attract the ‘right’ kinda people – your people – our people –  to fully appreciate your home and personal interior flourishes, and the best part; It’s all free, for spreading the love is the only game in town here at MA right now.

An quick note of yay!

A quick win and note of gratitude to the Modernist Australian (who’d like to keep it on the down low) for letting us know his good news;

“I bought 36 Martin St Brighton (Melbourne) on the weekend and will definitely not be knocking it down.”

We suspected this beauty, after such a sympathetic update, had a bright future and now we know for sure – Hooray!

Home improvement?

The time-machine quality of the internet, when perusing real estate listings, is an emotional rollercoaster. We can view changes to our environment good and bad in full colour and are then left to to digest such change. Sometimes that digestion gives us hope, sometimes heartburn, but no amount of Gaviscon will help us with this example we present today: Prunella Close, Doncaster, in Victoria.

Before

 

A magnificent, palatial proportioned residence by local architectural masters Chancellor and Patrick, this residence was always going to attract a big spender when it sold just over 2 years ago and it seems that big spender fancies themselves as an ‘interior designer’. Well, pardon our venom but what they have achieved in that time signifies a design intellect and capability informed exclusively by hubris and a bank account. Being a fan of The Block and adopting the features of insipid, high-end, chain hotels does not a true interior designer make. Because, lets face it, any aimless person can scatter some cushions round their living room, post it on Instagram and call themselves a stylist or interior designer these days. Why devote thought and quiet time to deeper considerations? Shopping for stuff is the peak of creativity, all that maters is surface and how expensive (or cheap) it was right?

We know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

What we see here is the damage done by this mindset – wonderful homes with an architect’s considered materiality and deference to the quasi-bushland environment – earthiness, texture, dark lushness and light interplay – turned into an echoey, snow-blind ‘contemporary home’ (TM) with all the apparent ambience of a Westfield food court. Add more down lights! Plaster that brick! Rip up that soft, tactile carpet and slap down those dull grey (always grey) tiles, clattery throughout! Rip out that gorgeous (and valuable) hardwood kitchen in totality and put up some veneered MDF! Don’t forget the marble because we are classy and marble is what classy people do. FFS.

After

The most disappointing thing is, when the wheel of fashion has turned once more, when white is ‘out’ and exposed brick is ‘back in’ (when mainstream tv shows announce it so), when people are finally reminded to consider warmth and sound, this home will be recognised as being altered very badly, but bringing it back to original will be close to impossible.

Before

After

 

In the excellent essay ‘How Beige Took Over American Homes’ by the much admired Kate Wagner AKA McMansion Hell (if you’ve never seen – be prepared to cry with tears of mirth and recognition) theorises about the North American cousin of such interior styling; the ‘Pre-GFC Beige Out’, a staple of the 2000s renovation craze, her succinct point (and rather ominously for us with the Australian housing market in its present state) was;

“Our houses lost their personal worth and touches; they were worth to us only as much as they were worth to others. Our houses were painted beige because beige enabled the prospective buyers we (even unintentionally) were designing for to picture their own lives in our houses. Beige is a blank slate – a canvas upon which anyone’s personality can be painted over………….. After centuries of the home being primarily a place or a space, during the 2000s it was seen as primarily an object or, more specifically, an asset. At a time where mortgage speculation made our houses disposable and impermanent, beige slipped happily onto the walls of millions of Americans, who wanted easy ways to make their house “worth more” at the behest of HGTV and other media, who treated the home as a thing to be changed, or disposed of on a whim”

Swap the word ‘beige’ for ‘white’ and this is what we see happening here right now. Give it some plaster, a TV approved luxe-over and then a flip. And though we’d gladly concede in some cases a freshen up for a mediocre or falling down residence is a chance at new life, and in many cases appreciate a contemporary rescue over the wasteful growl of a bulldozer – we do not accept such DIY forays with masterful originals. Not with Chancellor and Patricks. Not with such already beautifully appointed interiors and mature gardens. Leave them alone, they are beautiful, they are homes for living in. And if you have the itch? Go try your designer hand with something more comparable to your skill set: like a one bedroom, 1980s brick veneer flat and then see where that takes you.

Shag Exhibition in Melbourne and Sydney

Does anyone else so joyfully perpetuate the dreamscape of 1960s lounge Modern, of kitty-cats and cocktails, of pop-culture and poolside like Shag (Josh Agle)?
Many of you are well versed in the brilliant colours, celebrity cameos and MCM buildings which populate the output of this Southern Cali artist extraordinaire. But what some of  you may not have picked up is Shag’s credentials as an honorary Modernist Australian. For an American soaking in the Mid-Century superpower pop-dominance of his own nation – from music, to movies, cars, suburbia, cultural identities and architecture Shag has actually done more to feature the Australian echo of this era, than any other artist we can name.
His paintings have re-envisaged numerous local talismans – from The Skipping Girl,  Platypuses and Brack’s ‘5pm’ on Collins Street and placed the architectural output of our local guns such as Boyd, Seidler, Clerehan and McIntyre front and centre in his work.

On this, his tenth visit to Australia and on the eve of his new exhibition proudly presented as always by Outre Gallery, ‘Shag, A Seat in The Kingdom’ The artist once more delivers on the local front. We’re not telling you how, but if you cannot recognise those chairs and the Angry Penguin on the wall, then you need to go back to art school daddy-o!
This Australian element was the topic of his recent interview for Outre which you can read in full. But to quote;

“From the first time I visited Australia, I was drawn to the visuals and the way of life.  I saw the optimism and exuberance that I also found in my home state of California, but it was combined with a heavy dose of British temperance.  Years before I ever visited Australia, I had found a book about the Melbournian mid-century furniture designer Grant Featherston at a flea market. The book had his furniture set in 1950s Australian interiors.  Both the designers and architects of 1950s and ‘60s Australia were virtually unknown in the US and I felt like I had a secret source of inspiration I could refer to. When I got to actually see the furniture and buildings in person, it solidified my admiration for that era in Australia.”

Image courtesy of '60s33' Instagram

Image courtesy of ’60s33′ Instagram

The Shag exhibition opening night shenanigans are this coming Friday 17th March in Melbourne (6-8pm) if you can squeeze in that is! With the exhibition running then from 17th March – 7th April.
Sydney fun will kick off opening night on Saturday 25th March (4-6pm) and the exhibition runs March 25th – April 2nd.

Just an aside, it is wonderful to view the work of any artist online or in print form over the years, but take it from us – you haven’t seen a Shag painting in comprehensive, senses overload of colour veracity until you see an original in real life. The bigger, the better. If you can get to either Outre during this time, we insist you do it!

Featherston Book – let it happen!

Big news people: the very first book to extensively delve into the iconic Australian design team (and national treasures) Grant and Mary Featherston is finally in the works. First the bad news – no publisher wants to fully back it’s publication (can you believe that?) boo hiss! The good news is however thanks to passionate Featherston collector and writer, Geoff Isaac, we can cut out those impotent know-nothings and get it published anyway!
For the last four years Geoff has researched, collected, interviewed, slaved and now presents us the fruit of his labour – a beautifully presented and professionally produced hardcover book which now only needs a minimal pledge from your, dear reader, to get into your hot little hands. The Kickstarter project is here and well on its way to reaching its goal. We decided to chat with Geoff and get a little more info about the whole thing…………..

So Geoff, what is your background? It takes a lot of passion to take a subject and turn it into a comprehensive study and then seek to publish it –  4 years work in your case. What was your first experience with the work of Grant and Mary Featherston?

My background is not in design it is in marketing. I have written extensively for publication but this is my first book. My interest in Featherston started a long time ago. When I was 30 I separated from a partner and was left with the house, but no furniture and no money! I picked up some furniture from local second hand stores and among these (and unknown to me at the time) were a series of Scape dining chairs, designed by Grant Featherston for Aristoc in 1960. A few years later, my financial situation having improved, I moved to a warehouse apartment and set about buying some decent furniture for it. After several months I realised I could not find any dining chairs I liked more than the ones I had. I set about refurbishing the Scapes and started finding out about the designer. Over the next twenty years my interest grew and I started collecting Featherston chairs, working backwards in his career to buy examples form the Contour series (for which he is most famous). As prices of Contours began to rise I moved forward in Featherson’s career and started collecting examples of the designs he created for Aristoc (the Melbourne based manufacturer he worked with for 13 years) and the chairs he developed working with his wife Mary for other leading manufacturers right up to the mid 1970s. I was amazed by the variety of materials used and designs created over his 30 year career in design. I was even more amazed to discover that, although Grant Featherston is practically a household name very little has actually been published on his life and work. I started to dig around in the libraries and archives and slowly began to think about writing the book.

Who were some of your interview subjects, did you get to meet Mary Featherston and hear some good stories from the horses mouth (so to speak!)? Unearth any gems in your research? 

Mary Featherston gave me access to the press clippings in the Featherston archive and has read the proofs for the book and provided valuable feedback saving me from some potentially embarrassing mistakes. Mary has also been good enough to provide and an endorsement for the book. My first interview was with Terence Lane, the former Senior Curator of Decorative Arts at the National Gallery of Victoria who organised the Featherston retrospective in 1988. The catalogue from that show is the only other publication dedicated to the Featherstons’ work, copies occasionally turn up on line and can sell for $500 of more. Terence met the Featherstons in the late 1960s while they were working on the fit-out for the building designed by Roy Grounds, they designed all the fixtures and fittings, unfortunately most of it has since been ripped out. I also interviewed Babette Hayes, who wrote or edited several popular design books in the 1960s and 1070. Interestingly these books do not feature the Featherstons’ work so it was interesting to find out why! Neil Clerehan, the famous architect also granted an interview. He met Featherston after the Second World War, during which he had met Robyn Boyd. All three were part of a small group of Melbourne-based designers and architect interested in modernism and they formed a close symbiotic relationship, introducing and sharing clients. As I was leaving Neil’s office I asked if there was anyone else I should interview and he suggested Ian Howard, the former Managing Director of Aristoc. To my surprise and delight I found Ian alive and well at over ninety years old and sitting on an enormous archive of previously unpublished material, including photographs, sales brochures and company records. In short, I hit the jackpot! With such a rich archive to explore the project has taken rather longer than I hoped but the end result is much richer for it.

The book, from the sneak peek, seems like a nice combination of index for each individual design within historical/social context, was this always your intention? Did you have any other publications you specifically liked for the way they covered their subjects?

A chronological approach was really the only solution explored. Featherston designs evolve and change with the times. The work can really be divided into three groups – wooden designed and produced between 1947 and 1957, designs in steel (1957 -1966) and his work with Mary, primarily in plastics, from 1967 though to the mid 1970s. To appreciate the context a brief reminder of the historical and social pressures and events that shaped the times was needed. I have also tried to look around the world and see what was happening in the world of chair design and to try and tackle head on critics who accuse Featherston’s work of being derivative

I was inspired by Marilyn Neuhart’s excellent publication The Story of Eames, a highly detailed account of the Eames Office including verbatim interviews with many of the designers who worked to create the chairs. Neuhart’s book also includes the parallel story of the entrepreneurs who supported Eames. When I met Ian I realised that the Aristoc story is a very important piece of the Featherston story and so I have included a detailed account of the rise and fall of the manufacturer.
I was also impressed by Lesley Jackson’s book Robin & Lucienne Day, Pioneers of Contemporary Design and the way the words and images were combined to evoke the period. I do have a lot of mid-century design books and many of these have inspired me along the way.

For better or worse the Featherston armchair chair (#R160) (like the ubiquitous Eames Chair& Ottoman) has become marketing shorthand for MCM design. So now on one hand we see it reproduced (sometimes very poorly) en masse as replicas all over the place, what are your thoughts on this?

I find the copies depressing. People are paying a lot of money for a poor quality, uncomfortable product with only the semblance of the look of a real Featherston. I take that back, they don’t even have a semblance of the real thing, the curves are usually wrong, and the padding is over stuffed so they look dreadful as well. Featherston Contour chairs are made from plywood, when you sit in one it flexes to adapt to your weight and shape and provide support to your body. When you sit on a copy the rigid plastic shell remains a rigid plastic shell, ten minutes later and you will want to stand up. Charles Eames once said, “You hope that someone will come along and take the central idea and improve on it. I don’t mind that. But what I do mind is somebody who copies the most miserable aspects of an idea … A copier will emphasize the area in which the designer failed to solve the problem, rather than where he succeeded in solving the problem.” This is certainly what appears to have happened with Featherston’s Contours.
Interestingly though the reason that the copies are so bad is that Featherston’s Contours are really a cheat. Featherston developed a production techniques that allowed sparsely populated Australia to experience the Modern look. In North America, Eames was spending enormous amounts of money developing presses to curve his plywood, the local market could not sustain that investment. Featherston created a solution to manually cut and bend plywood to get a similar result. Modernism was all about embracing modern production methods and the machine age, therefore it could be said that Featherston cheated by using tradition production techniques to achieve the Modern look. Even today the cheap copies prove that you can’t produce Contour chairs using mass production techniques

It seems Gordon Mather with Grazia and co have the ‘offical’ rights to, and make a selection of Featherston chairs these days, are there any specific designs you’d like to see being manufactured again, which presently are not? Which is the most underrated Featherston furniture in your opinion?

Yes Gordon Mather and Grazia have teamed up to reissue a wide range of Featherston designs. It was interesting to see that the Obo has been included, reportedly at Mary’s request. The Obo was the Featherston’s response to the bean bag – its advantage being that it holds its spherical shape – making it visually more appealing than a traditional flaccid bean bag. The Obo was expensive when it was originally release and was not a commercial success so it will be interesting to see how it sells now.  I would like to see the Wing chair and the Curl-up chair added to the reissued Contour range as originals are very hard to find and both these designs are under appreciated by the market more generally.

We are astounded that there are no books on the work of the Featherstons and that you have had trouble getting a publisher to take on this project. Tell us about what you’d like to achieve with your Kickstarter campaign.

The search for a publisher has been even more depressing than the Featherston copies! I was repeatedly assured by experienced professionals that I would have no trouble finding a publisher for this work. However, it appears unless you are writing a recipe book or want to get snap shots from a celebrity’s  travels  published the local market is not open to you. I think only one publisher even read the manuscript and they wanted a significant upfront investment, really turning  it into a vanity publishing job. Personally I think it is a very poor show that I could not find one publisher willing to support the first work on our most famous mid-century designer and arguably our most successful industrial designer. Having put so much time and effort into the job I have decided to see it through. I have basically financed all the research and writing myself and have invested funds to get the design and layout complete. To get it printed will cost around $25,000 so allowing for the Kickstarter fees I need to raise $28,000. Ideally I would like to raise around $40,000 to get some of my money back – but that is all sunk costs now so the primary goal is to get it printed and out into the world. As I write this I am only at $10,000 so I have a long way to go, but still just over a month before the campaign ends (on April 10) so I remain hopeful of reaching the goal.

So there we have it, a project any self respecting Modernist Australian should be backing. Order today and ensure it’s publication. For not only does that reward you with a beautiful, hardbound reference tome, but it manifestly declares to the wider world that the pool of love and money for our own MCM identity grows bigger by the day. 

Before & After (trigger warning)

We are in the midst of a big ‘ol clean up here, migrating a bunch of listings from years gone by and taking in these beauties one more time (Look out for an improved site coming soon). In the process we need to check addresses and sometimes we just wish we hadn’t. For while some homes we assumed were goners at time of sale remain standing and are even being cared for (hooray!) others are dust. Irreplaceable, wonderful, architectural gems – they now only live here with us. Behold just a couple of damned examples lost to ignorance and avarice. If anyone has a loss dear to their heart (with the images to back it up) drop us a line, we’ll add it to the list to look upon what we as a community have wrought and further strengthen our resolve to stem this insanity.

19 Hillside Rd, Springfield, SA

Before

After

4 Cara Rd, Highton, VIC

Before

After

270 Balwyn Rd, Balwyn North VIC

Before

After

 

Making inroads

We have been extremely heartened by communication with several new homeowners over the past few months, letting us know that properties they saw first on the market  via MA are now in their safe hands. How great to start the year with glad tidings. It means so much to know we are all making a little difference to save and further the appreciation of some wonderful homes out there, not least this stunning home in South Australia – undoubtedly one of the best from last year and at the time a little controversial in its listing. Congratulations to Tim and Colleen who have told us “We will definitely not be demolishing the house – but aim to keep it as original as possible.” Hooray!

 

 

Compulsory viewing from Aunty

It’s finally here, after over a year of waiting and working ourselves into a pitched fever tomorrow, the 8 of November, brings to a head the culmination of so much hard work and lays bare a full dissemination of all that is good and evil in this world. We are speaking of course of comrade in arms and long-time supporter of MA, Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross and his ABC show on Modernism in Australia (election? what election?). Streets of Your Town’‘ (2-part programme starting tomorrow night, 8.30pm ABC tv) should bring nothing but sheer excitement, validation and gleeful eye-candy for all of us already Modernist Australians out there but much more importantly this program may hopefully open the eyes of the uninitiated and unaware masses pushing the ethos of Modern design for living, which soared last century and was then tragically cut down in a tide of money, commercial interests, politics and fashion. Tell your friends, enemies and otherwise. Share, like, repost, follow and get it out there. You need to watch this. We.all.need.to.watch.this.

Heritage victory # 1

Time to relay some good, nay brilliant, news stories which have been floating around the traps in the past month or so.

First up, a suburban Melbourne listing we posted early last year, with a depressing resignation that it was not long for the world. Well, it is always grand to proven wrong! The wheels of heritage justice have been slowly turning and here’s where we are (as summarised by Simon Reeves of Built Heritage, who has been a main player in its salvation.) Sincere congratulations and love your work sir!

  1. In 2013 the house was flagged to potentially appear in a “City of Whitehorse Post-War Heritage Study” though at the time is didn’t make the cut due to the mystery of its creator, later discovered to be the family home of architectural draftsman and Lithuanian émigré, Bolius Kunciunas.
  2. Threatened with demolition and replacement with townhouses after a developer purchased it last year (as per our listing) a specific assessment of the residence was commissioned by council (yay!), after much gum-shoeing by Simon Reeves in consultation with Kunciunas’s daughter Ryta, it was confirmed her father was indeed the designer, having been completed in 1962, thereafter the design was submitted into the Age Small Home Service, and became a standard plan #V374. Kunciunas himself completing his own architecture studies at RMIT after this in1964. Here is the citation from Built Heritage.
  3. As a result of all this fancy foot and paperwork this residence has now been officially protected by a heritage overlay, to be enjoyed by a new generation and not bowled over for some lacklustre new development.

Don’t we all love a Scooby-Doo ending?

 

Sirius – unleash the ratbags!

We sit here at MA headquarters, 1000 kms away from the Sirius Building, ruminating on what is to be done. We applaud the ongoing and thankless yakka the SOS team, especially Shaun Carter, are ramping up. They started this. They work the legal angle and take on the matey compromised bureaucracy at every wicked turn, which is the most important prong in the fight. We suggest all of you – people who flip through design books, who aspire to one day own a Featherston chair or Pettit & Sevitt home or who just know what is right and good in this world to immediately put your pennies where your heart is and support them via the crowd funding the legal challenge to save Sirius here.

That said we ponder what else can the rest of us do? The brazen attention seeker in us considers the audience and thinks of showmanship*. The narrative of this fight has been highjacked by adversarial government with their snivelling observation that the saving of this ‘ugly’ building is only the realm of a minuscule set of hipsters and SJWs. They like to proclaim that no-one else will miss it, telling themselves that only a precious few value it. We call bullshit (and a quick cash injection to the crowdfunding above would be the most direct way to drive that message home, just sayin’). We know there is a greater community element to be harnessed here and just as the forests of the Tarkine have national cabal of charismatic ferals shifting in its trees and the CSG plains wars attract pure salt of the earth nans and pops D-locking their necks to gasfields so must we, design/architecture/community peeps, start coming together, acting up and making some noise. Do what we do best – get creative, draw some attention nationally (globally if possible) and ping questions of this government directly into the mind of the masses.

As proud participants of the successful Melbourne SLAM rally we witnessed (in the weeks leading up) just what a witty slogan here and small action there could do, something which any number of careful radio and newspaper interviews could not; freely accuse those guilty, clarify their wrongs, gain wider attention with one fiercely unapologetic  tagline/poster/image after another. So with that in mind let us brainstorm and plant some seeds……

The basics; posters stuck all over/stickers/t-shirts. Perhaps with “Minister Speakman, The price the of everything, the value of nothing”  or “Mark Speakman, Minister of Commercial Property” or “Mark Speakman Member for Packer”  “Speakman, Minister of I just don’t like it” You get the picture………

Events in situ. This is a public building right? And we know Sydney are having a rough time with lock out laws right now so why not kill two birds? Make like 1989 and set up some thumping, underground warehouse *cough* Sirius *cough* parties (with the consultation of SOS/the residents of course). Or a perhaps a speakeasy in one of the apartments. Ain’t nothing like drone images of happy party people, drag queens and DJs getting dragged off those beautiful terraces by uniforms as the ultimate bad look for government which prides itself on its supposed celebration-centic city.

Or maybe a more sedate version, if partying ain’t your style there are plenty of spaces for some ol’ fashioned sit-ins, sleep-ins, poetry-reading ins, moth-ins, jam-ins, paint-ins, birdwatching ins, lecture-ins, dinner party-ins, slot car-ins, scrabble-ins, parkour-ins (or is that outs?)

Speaking of parkour, maybe some abseiling is in order? or rock climbing? death-defying skate tricks or some formation dancing (those terraces again!) or anything else which gets the town looking at Sirius and asking wha?!

 

Children of Sydney, MA is asking you to call in the ratbags. It is time to start rumbling.

*Disclaimer: no activities of disruption, trespassing, civil disobedience or general silliness have been discussed with nor endorsed by the Save Our Sirius group, nor anyone within.

Sirius Vs Avarice, Sydney of the damned.

The Heslop Government of NSW has spoken or maybe that pie-faced billionaire or pick another faceless consortium in yet another forgettable tax-haven, can anyone tell the difference anyway? The Rocks may have been saved once before, but today’s tradies now demolish to the blare of JJJ, ‘wealth creating’ their own investment properties brick by brick and have no inclination for green bans now. What a viciously keen culture of avarice dressed in a tattered lambskin of ‘development’  we have completely instilled in this town. And the ghost of Juanita Neilson glides over empty bars in Kings Cross and weeps at Barongaroo will soon have a new stop in her tour of loss. Sirius. I mean really? How could public housing tenants hold onto such views for so long? How could the same little people still be there after 200 years? How could anyone hope to see inner Sydney’s last strand of social history, of Beatie Bow and toil and drama remain alive? How could architecture, such aesthetic adventure, intellectually challenging and of brutal sophistication stand when the land is worth 1000 million bjillion tramillion dollars? I mean Sydney isn’t one for ‘interesting’. We are not Madrid. We are not Marseille. We are certainly not London. We are Vegas. We want shiny surfaces, endless noise, empty calories, commercial networks, prices on application, purchased and geographically entrenched social classes. And we are winning.

Hiatus over

Temporary Commonwealth Bank in Toongabbie c. 1958

Temporary Commonwealth Bank, Toongabbie c.1958

Seems we just can’t keep away. After such an outpouring of love and appreciation when we announced MA was ceasing in its present form, we were quite taken aback by the sheer number of Modernist Australians out there, honestly, we had no idea. Over the last couple of months mulling it over we’ve not only missed what we do but feel it is almost churlish to stop the site dead. So, just like John Farnham jerking you around with yet another comeback tour, we too are back. The listings will not be quite so often – one or two beauties a week, but that should be hopefully enough to keep you and us happy. Yes, we are open!

Doors closing, windows opening.

Good morning Modernist Australians, being at a crossroads in the future of MA we have done a little thinking and have decided to take a break from the whole shebang for the foreseeable future. (Don’t worry there are no lives or minds in danger, more a desire to not be attached to the internet forever and pursue other things) We’ll be holding onto the site for the time being as there are literally hundreds of listings to browse should you so desire, but we’ll stop posting listings, news and updates. Instagram and twitter will stop as a result.
We’ve been doing this on and off for 8 years and in that time have witnessed a glorious new recognition of the value of local Australian mid-century architecture, although there is of course a seemingly endless parade of older homes in danger. We feel happy that we have contributed in a small way. We’ll continue to privately keep up the pressure and appreciation in equal measure, but are comforted by all the other people and groups out there doing the same.
 
Should we not return, we’d like to thank a few fellow travellers and supporters of MA:
Martin and Outre Gallery (first and foremost)
Marcus at Modern House (Got a wonderfully pedigree MCM home to sell? He’s your man)
Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross (look out for his new show on the ABC about MCM Australia this year)
Simon Reeves at Built Heritage (The future David Stratton for a yet to be realised MCM show on tellie) also to be heartily enjoyed on his Victorian Modern FB page
Generous keepers of the flame- Steven Coverdale (join his MCM FB page today!), Secret design Studio, Alison Alexander, Annalisa Capurro and the indomitable Polly Seidler. And of course all the people who have sent us lovely emails of encouragement, thanks and houses to post up.
 
Time to click our ruby slippers and fly home.
 
Patricia Callan & Pete Bakacs
* Photo – 12A Wattle St 1963, M. Dupain

A Brutal love-in

Unfortunately using our limited time keeping regular with real estate listings, gives us no chance to revel in our other true Modernist loves, and this is a big one; big and hard – Brutalism. A love that, until recently, dare not speak its name is slowly stepping out of the shadows and being welcomed – be it in one of our all time favourite feeds, ‘Socialist Modernism’ or in the current Brutalism love-in currently playing out in Melbourne. “What’s the beef with Brutalism?”, a succession of talks, doco screenings, tours and concrete ping pong (yeah!) from our good buddies at Open House explores the love and hate of this most polarising of architecture and asks us all – where does its future lie? We’ll be calling in all favours and frocking up for one movie date in particular – “Bunkers, Brutalism & Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry” including a pre-show special guest star Graeme Gunn (squeal!):

“……a BBC FOUR two-part documentary in which Jonathan Meades makes the case for 20th-century concrete Brutalist architecture in homage to a style that he sees as brave, bold and bloody-minded. Tracing its precursors to the once-hated Victorian edifices described as Modern Gothic and before that to the unapologetic baroque visions created by John Vanbrugh, as well as the martial architecture of World War II, Meades celebrates the emergence of the Brutalist spirit in his usual provocative and incisive style. Never pulling his punches, Meades praises a moment in architecture he considers sublime and decries its detractors.”

We suggest all of you who love a bit of concrete to get amongst it this coming month and let your grey flag fly.

 

Neil Clerehan, superstar.

Earlier this month the Heritage Victorian saw fit to (finally) add a notable work from a living legend to their heritage list (‘Concrete brick ’60s townhouse wins heritage protection’). Neil Clerehan‘s 1967 South Yarra townhouse in Domain Rd, already an award winner at the time of its build, is recognised for its magical Modernist intent and success of blocking out the rumbling inner city and creating an open plan, light filled oasis within. We Modernist Australians who have wandered past this residence before would have guessed at its hidden interior and spaces, for in terms of ‘giving to the street’ as the great man says: “If you want windows and a nice high roof, it gives f*** all I think would be the term. But it fits in well with the street.” It is this uncompromising facade which is all part of the genius, a mindset which suggests tranquility in a bustling metropolis is a higher objective, than producing a facade obsessed flashpad. It is sensational news to see a succession of these post-1940s dwellings and public buildings getting the recognition and protection they deserve in Victoria. Hit us up with more we say!

Monocle on Seidler

Those eternal coolsies over at Monocle have latched onto one of the jewels of domestic Mid Century Modernism in Australia, the Seidler family home (1966) in Killara. Who can ever get enough of this place? If you, like us, cannot then sit back for a dreamy 6 minutes more.