The Australian Colonies
The Australian Colonies
Abstract and Keywords
Australian architecture began with the traditional structures built by its indigenous inhabitants, from permanent stone structures to lightweight impermanent shelters. The arrival of colonists in 1788 introduced British architectural sensibilities to the continent. Architectural influence from the British Isles dominated the next century, periodically refreshed by new architect arrivals. Stylistically, architectural fashions moved from plain-faced Georgian and reductive Greek to Roman, Renaissance, and Gothic revivals, before mineral-driven wealth encouraged exuberant fusions of Gothic and classical modes. The 1892 crash brought a seismic shift in architectural taste towards the Arts and Crafts movement, and burgeoning interest in an ‘Australian’ architecture as the new nation formed in 1901. British influence waned along with the decline of the British empire, with diverse local and international sources informing Australian architecture into the twentieth century.
The history of the landmass known as Australia, and therefore that of its built environment, is far older than its colonization by British settlers from 1788. Once part of the ancient continent of Gondwanaland—reaching back some 500 million years, and stretching roughly from 10°S through 45°S of latitude, including the Tropic of Capricorn—Australia is vast in scale with considerable variations in climate. It was originally settled from the north some 40,000 years ago, via a long-vanished land bridge connecting through what is now New Guinea into South East Asia.
Indigenous Australians, also known as Australian Aborigines, have some of the oldest continuous cultures on earth. Aboriginal Australia was, and continues to be, made up of multiple nations and clan groups, each with their own distinct language.1 There was not a single culture and therefore no single approach to art, decoration, or built form. The vagaries of the Australian climate, prone as it is to extremes, meant that many Indigenous clans were at least partially nomadic, moving across different parts of their territory as food sources waxed and waned with the seasons. Aboriginal architecture was thus often impermanent, concerned with mitigating the worst of the weather, and included rain, wind, and shade structures. Depending on their region, some groups built large woven huts of elaborate design; some constructed low-walled permanent structures that were re-roofed each season; others built bough platforms; and some used natural formations, such as caves. Many groups developed specialist techniques and knowledge to utilize materials for construction, most notably the harvesting of large sheets of bark that were then cured to become flat and supple. These materials and techniques were later co-opted, sometimes by force, by the settlers to become a uniquely Australian vernacular building tradition.2 Traditional structures are still in use, particularly for daytime shelters, by Aboriginal clan groups, especially those living ‘on country’ (homelands) in the north of Australia, and have remained a continuous building tradition.3
(p.319) Australia, although far from the centres of Western culture, was not entirely isolated. Clan groups had connections across the Torres Strait to New Guinea, and interactions and trade much further afield with Polynesia and Indonesia. The first documented sighting of the Australian coast by European eyes was in 1606, when a Dutch East India Company ship, under the command of Willem Jansz, landed on Cape York Peninsula. Later, in 1616, a ship captained by the Dutchman Dirk Hartog landed on the west Australian coast. But it was not until 1642 that Abel Janszoon Tasman (?1603–59), another Dutchman, documented parts of the current island state of Tasmania. By 1650, some two-thirds of the Australian coast had been described by Dutch cartographers. Various significant voyages of exploration thus ensued, including that of the English vessel, the Endeavour, under the command of Captain James Cook (1728–79) in 1770, which explored and charted the east coast of Australia in some detail. The earliest contacts were seeking bounties that could be traded into Europe, such as spices; later, scientific voyages sought to document and determine what other resources could be exploited in the name of their sponsors.
With the east coast of Australia claimed by Cook in 1770, British expansion across the continent was comparatively rapid and all but complete by 1829. So had begun the colonial history of Australia. Thirty years later, in 1859, this expansion and settlement resulted in the final formation of six independent crown colonies, each of which developed its own distinct identity. ‘Australia’, as a conceptual whole, was forged over the course of the nineteenth century, particularly as the proportion of the Australian-born settler population grew. Promoted by a growing sense of ‘nationalism’ that reached its apotheosis in the 1880s and 1890s, the emergent sense of Australianness was vital in laying the groundwork for the Federation of the six colonies into the single nation of Australia in 1901. These colonies, until Federation, were governed with direct oversight from London, and were effectively in competition with one another. Each had a slightly different sense of affiliation or affinity with other British colonies, with a tendency to look outwards from continental Australia, rather than inwards. Queensland, to the north, saw itself in a similar situation to Singapore and Malaya; Western Australia to that of Cape Town; and the significant amount of trans-Tasman movement bound New South Wales and Victoria closely with New Zealand. The origins of each colony also imparted distinct social structures and political character, of which echoes remain today. Moreover, the physical distances between the major cities of each colony meant that each place—climatically, materially, topographically, socially—was different. This in turn encouraged identifiable differences in their architecture. Yet, various aspects of settlement, particularly the aspirations of individual colonies, and their individual relationship to empire, helped foster similarities in architectural approach, inspiration, and precedence.
Sydney: The Early Period
The establishment of permanent white settlement in Australia, considered since 1779, and driven in no small part by the loss of the American colonies,4 came with the decision by the British government in 1787 to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay, so named by Joseph Banks on Cook’s voyage of 1770. In the early days of 1788, a fleet of eleven ships, carrying a military contingent of 252, including their wives and children, and some 751 convicts, approximately a third of whom were women, arrived at Botany Bay.
It is a measure of the challenges that faced Captain Arthur Phillip and the other leaders of the First Fleet that the flotilla was relocated north to Port Jackson (Sydney Cove) within a week of its arrival—Botany Bay being unable to provide sufficient dry ground or fresh water to sustain a permanent settlement. The Fleet had brought as much as it could carry for the long journey from Portsmouth in England, and had replenished supplies at each of the ports it called into on the long journey, including Tenerife, Rio de Janiero, and Cape Town. On their departure from the latter, where some 500 animals were procured, they were described as resembling a Noah’s Ark.5
On 26 January 1788, the entire fleet exited Botany Bay and made the short journey around to Sydney Cove. On the same day, the colours were raised, marking the beginning of European settlement in Australia. The immediate task was considerable: 1,000 people to disembark, to feed and to shelter, in a place that had no pre-existing conventional infrastructure or cultivation on which to draw. The difficulties of this were only heightened by the challenges of marshalling the convict population to assist in this endeavour.
The exigencies of the early Australian settlements, particularly those with large convict populations, dictated the ways in which the nascent built environment was shaped. The priorities of the Sydney settlement, as compared to later settlements such as Melbourne and Adelaide, reflected urgent needs in the face of dire consequences. Almost always—where there was a sanctioned, rather than illegal, major settlement—the first building erected was a house for the settlement’s governor (or equivalent). Prefabricated and carried as part of the ship’s cargo, as it was for Sydney, the erection of the governor’s house—no matter how modest—was an important symbolic gesture that proclaimed authority. In contrast, the rest of the contingent, military and convict alike, were accommodated in tents.
More durable buildings soon followed, and the pattern was repeated with the immediate construction of a permanent Government House (1788–9) in Sydney—a double-storey brick dwelling, only one room deep but embellished with a breakfront and central gable. Elsewhere, basic needs prevailed and the early structures that followed were typically constructed using timber—wattle and daub, (p.321) slab or log construction sealed with clay—with hipped and thatched roofs.6 Poor tools and hard local timbers made it difficult for these structures to be anything other than crude and basic. As the Sydney settlement struggled to discover sufficient deposits of limestone nearby, lime for mortar was in short supply, with the only source coming from burning huge middens of oyster shells amassed by the local Indigenous peoples. As a result of the shortage of lime, bricks were mortared with clay or mud, thus the early attempts at more permanent building using fired-clay bricks in Sydney were of poor quality and at constant threat of collapsing in the rain.7
A priority among the first permanent buildings of each of the Australian penal settlements was the commissariat store constructed in brick or stone for the safe-keeping and supply of food and goods to the military and convict population.8 A hospital for the sick was another priority. Only after the security of the governor, the settlement’s food, and the sick were satisfied did attention turn to more permanent structures for the military and convict populations. Spiritual welfare and religious ministrations did not take priority, for it was not until 1793 that the first church was built—a wattle-and-daub building funded by its priest, with little support from the governor.9
The earliest permanent accommodation for the convicts and the military were simple, one-storey structures, with thatched or shingled roofs.10 Early sketches of the Wynyard barracks show plain single-storey ranges of around 80–100 ft fronting the parade ground. Exigency, rather than embellishment, ruled the day. It was not until 1810, with the arrival of new Governor Lachlan Macquarie (1762–1824) did the standard and aspiration of architecture in Sydney significantly improve (see Plate 17).
These early official structures were typically designed on an ad hoc basis by military personnel and built using convict labour. Designers drew upon prior experiences in Britain and other British colonies. For example, John Cliffe Watts (1786–1873), an Irishman trained in architecture in Dublin prior to enlisting in the British Army, served in the West Indies and Channel Islands before arriving in Sydney in 1814. Watts served as Governor Macquarie’s aide-de-camp, while his architectural skills were deployed in the transformation of the colony through an ambitious public works programme. Designs such as the Military Hospital, Sydney (c.1815), were based on his experience with colonial building in the West Indies, and his additions to Government House, Parramatta (1815), are thought to have drawn upon a personal collection of architectural books, including works by Andrea Palladio and Colen Campbell.11
Settling Terra Australis
The pattern of development that occurred in Sydney, New South Wales, was specific to its early establishment as a penal colony. The creation of new, far-flung colonies extending into the mid-nineteenth century—including Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania, 1803), Western Australia (1829), South Australia (1836), Port Philip (Victoria, 1835), and Queensland (1859)—saw a more diverse picture of colonial architecture in Australia emerge. The extended period of initial settlement; the origins of settlement (directly from Britain or from other colonies); differing political, economic, and social priorities (penal versus free settlement; official versus unofficial settlement); differing patterns of settlement; and a diverse range of environmental conditions, all meant a wide range of contingencies and priorities in early building activity around the continent of Australia and its neighbouring islands. Nevertheless, similar needs and requirements determined their first buildings, revealing a common set of priorities in public infrastructure.
Almost every colony experienced a slow development of architecture and architectural expertise. The earliest structures were constructed under the auspices of the most competent personnel available, whether they be military officers with a modicum of building or architectural experience, or builders, architects, and engineers sourced from the convict and settler populations. Architectural competence was thus a relative term: in the face of little competition, barely competent men like the free settler Daniel Dering Mathew, who arrived in Sydney in 1812, could gain commissions, but were swiftly replaced when a more skilled proponent arrived—often bearing a pattern book or two.12 This cycle was repeated in the rapid succession of officially appointed superintendents/colonial architects in Van Diemen’s Land around the time of the colony’s separation from New South Wales (1825)—William Wilson, David Lambe, and John Lee Archer—as each man was displaced when a more professional architect was recruited.
The first European settlement in Van Diemen’s Land (renamed Tasmania in 1856) was a camp and explorers’ supply garden established at Recherche Bay, south-eastern Tasmania, by the French d’Entrecasteaux expedition of 1792–3. The subsequent British settlement of Van Diemen’s Land—in part, to deter possible competing European interests—did not occur until 1803–4, firstly at Risdon Cove and then Sullivan’s Cove, Hobart, followed by a separate settlement in the northern part of the island in 1804. Van Diemen’s Land was settled from Sydney and the priorities of building followed the establishment of New South Wales. Marquees, tents, and ‘tent huts’ accommodated officials and convicts, while a pre-cut framed structure is believed to have been transported for the colony’s first Lieutenant Governor.13 A modest, single storey timber cottage, constructed c.1805, became the government house, while the largest permanent structure for the fledgling settlement was a (p.323) two-storey brick and stone commissariat store built c.1808–10.14 The military was accommodated in tents and makeshift timber barracks until the construction of permanent barracks, officers’ quarters, and military hospital followed in c.1814–18, to designs supplied from Sydney, under the direction of Governor Macquarie.
Initial urban and architectural developments were largely concentrated in the early settled districts of New South Wales, extending up the Parramatta River from Port Jackson, and Van Diemen’s Land. In addition, there were also ‘secondary punishment’ penal settlements established from within the existing colonies that provided a catalyst for the expansion of settlement and industry, such as that at Moreton Bay (1824) in what is now Queensland. In Van Diemen’s Land, penal settlements were established at the remote Macquarie Harbour (1822–33), where convicts were tasked with timber-cutting and ship building, and at Maria Island (1825–32), where, in addition to timber-cutting, tanning, shoe-making, and cloth production occurred in a mechanized textile factory. Port Arthur (1830–77), the largest and longest running penal settlement in Australia, was a complete prison ‘town’, with barracks, workshops, and a church (1836), containing within it a prison (1849–50) based on the separate system established at Pentonville ‘model prison’ in England (1840–2) (Figure 9.1).15
(p.324) Further afield there were three short-lived attempts to establish military and trading ports along Australia’s northern coast at in what is now the Northern Territory: Fort Dundas, Melville Island (1824–7), Fort Wellington, Raffles Bay (1827), and, ten years later, Port Essington (1838).16 These remote military settlements comprised log fortifications with timber and thatch accommodation and stores, built by convicts who accepted the remote assignment in exchange for the chance of tickets of leave. The settlements served a dual strategic purpose in relation to an international context of colonialism. Firstly, they were to secure British occupation of the vast Australian continent; and secondly, they were to operate as potential trading ports, connecting with regional trade networks into South East Asia and beyond.
In contrast, Port Phillip (colony of Victoria from 1851) was an entrepreneurial venture, settled by Van Diemonian pastoralists in 1835 seeking a new frontier for development across the waters of Bass Strait. Initially declared an illegal settlement by the Sydney authorities, sanctioned settlement of Port Phillip (Melbourne) began in 1836 with the arrival of Captain William Lonsdale and a small contingent of military, convict, and civil personnel. The sequence of building that followed was an established pattern: the commandant’s house, a small commissariat, a temporary hospital, military and convict barracks, mostly prefabricated and quickly built in a fenced cantonment, later known as the Government block in Melbourne.17 Buildings of greater physical substance and sophistication soon appeared. Melbourne and its surrounds were to be exploited for government profit, with the land surveyed and divided using the principles of the Darling regulations, and sold, freehold, through a series of auctions held on site, and thence in Sydney between 1837 and 1839.18 Within the town reserve of Melbourne, owners of blocks were required to erect buildings of a value of not less than £50 within two years of purchase, which led to rapid development.19 The public buildings erected echoed this more commercial approach to settlement, where trade, law and order, and communication control were the order of the day. Where once a commissariat would have dominated the docks, an elegant Georgian stone custom house rose (1838–41). Law and order took the form of a police station and ‘lockup’ (1839), followed by a picturesque Gothick court house (1842–3). A Georgian post office (1841) was established, as well as a government office (1843–5).20
In contrast to the colonies of the east coast, Western Australia (Swan River Colony, established 1829) and South Australia (1836) were founded as experiments in free settlement, directly from London, and independent of the earlier east (p.325) coast colonies.21 Indeed, Western Australia was supplied from the Cape of Good Hope and was part of an Indian Ocean trading network.22
The Swan River Colony was founded as an idealistic free settlement based on agriculture, largely on the glowing accounts of its future governor’s voyage there in 1827. Managed by the Colonial Office in London, the conditions of land provision were carefully considered, but no Act or proper governance was instituted, nor were any preparations made for the arrival of the first settlers and their families.23 The Colony’s first civil engineer was Henry Reveley, who joined the colony’s founding Lieutenant Governor, James Stirling, in Cape Town en route from London. In contrast to the east coast settlements, the colony’s first buildings were generally huts and houses for the free settlers, rather than public buildings, following the immediate needs of the colony. Indeed, a church (1829) of timber with rush walls and thatch preceded almost every other public structure.24 Reveley designed a small number of buildings in the ensuing years, including a small gaol at Fremantle, known as the Round House (1831), a commissariat store (1834), a governor’s house (1835), and court house, replete with a Greek Revival porch (1837) in Perth, followed by a public office and Legislative Council chambers (1839).25 The slow pace of building colonial infrastructure was the result of the ‘penny-pinching attitude of the British Government towards the Swan River Settlement’.26
The founding of the Colony of South Australia was also an idealistic exercise in systematic, self-supporting colonization. In contrast to Western Australia, it was more closely regulated by the South Australia Act of August 1834. Land sales were to fund loans for ongoing development and to assist migration of free labourers to the colony. Importantly, the South Australian settlement was to be free of convicts and based on principles of religious freedom.
The realities of settlement were, however, far from ideal. The first settlers began arriving in July 1836, ahead of the completion of surveying work, and initial accommodation was in tents, prefabricated timber houses, or wattle-and-daub structures. It was not until the appointment of Governor George Gawler in 1838 that a major public works programme in Adelaide was commenced. Gawler’s initiative to replace temporary structures with permanent was designed in part to support local investment and absorb migrant labour.27 Gawler’s architect was the Irish-born George Strickland Kingston (1807–80), who held official positions as the South Australian Deputy Surveyor General (1836–8) and, subsequent to a (p.326) brief period in private practice, Inspector of Public Works & Building (1839–40). First among the new works was an extension to the existing Government House (a pisé structure) comprising a Regency-style east wing constructed in brick (1838), followed by police barracks (1838), public offices (1839), custom house (1840), gaol (1840), hospital (1841), post office (c.1841), and asylum (1841), as well as houses for public officials.28 Markets, warehouses, and churches also sprang up in the colony. Law, order, administration, and revenue dominated the public infrastructure agenda, dressed in Kingston’s simple Georgian or picturesque Gothick style.
The colony of Queensland, the last of the independent Australian colonies to be founded, was separated from New South Wales in 1859. Queensland was constituted with an immediate provision for responsible government and economic self-sufficiency within a competitive regional and international economic environment heightened by the discovery of gold in New South Wales and Victoria from 1851. The colony was vast, stretching well into the tropics, settlement was free and highly decentralized, and architecture was subject to competing demands, including the need to present an economic identity for the new colony. Within four years of separation, the new Colonial Government in Queensland embarked upon an ambitious proposal of urban embellishment in Brisbane, the former penal settlement of Moreton Bay, and now capital city in the colony’s south-eastern corner. In parallel, Somerset was settled at the tip of Cape York Peninsula, ambitiously conceived as the ‘Singapore of Australia’—an entrepôt to colonial trade networks in Asia—reprising earlier attempts at northern settlement. At this time, settlement was connected to a strategic manoeuvring within a greater regional and imperial context underscoring the competitive nature of Australia’s separate, self-governing colonies of the nineteenth century.29
Penal and Pastoral: Idealism and Idyll
The early development of architecture in the Australian colonies was allied to social reform and the idea of ‘improvement’, most notably under the governorship of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land from 1811 to 1824, with the aid of his influential wife Elisabeth.30 (p.327) Among the first notable, permanent structures to be erected during this period was the Parramatta Female Orphan School (1813–18), a large-scale Palladian composition detailed in a restrained Georgian manner, and based upon the design of Aird House, near Appin, Argyllshire, in Scotland, the former home shire of the Macquaries.
Whilst the memories and pattern books of patrons and builders are known to have provided early sources for architectural expression in the colonies, in 1816 Macquarie employed the ex-convict architect Francis Greenway (1777–1837) as the colony’s first Civil Architect and Assistant Engineer. Greenway had been trained in London, articled to John Nash, and subsequently practised in partnership in Bristol. However, the practice failed and Greenway was convicted for forgery and sentenced to death, which was commuted to transportation to New South Wales for fourteen years. Almost immediately on arrival he was granted a ticket of leave and allowed to practise architecture, for Macquarie recognized the value of having a higher level of architectural competence and expertise in the fledgling colony.31
Greenway was fundamental to the early architectural development of colonial Australia. He brought with him a copy of William Chambers’ important and influential Treatise on Civil Architecture (1759).32 Drawing on the influence of Nash and his British contemporaries, he designed in the fashionable if conservative Georgian mode, underpinned by refined use of proportion within a strict regime of ornamental decorum. This is best captured in his designs for such buildings as the Hyde Park Convict Barracks (1817)33 (Figure 9.2) and St James’s church (1820–4, on axis opposite the barracks) in Sydney Town; St Matthew’s church, Windsor (1817–20), in the manner of Sir John Soane; St Luke’s church, Liverpool (1818–19); and the Liverpool Convict Hospital (designed in 1818, built 1824–30)—all constructed in face brick using convict labour.
In Van Diemen’s Land, a refinement of penal architecture occurred under Lieutenant Governor George Arthur (1784–1854), aided by his appointment of John Lee Archer (1791–1852) as Colonial Architect and Engineer from 1826 to 1836,34 and the convict James Blackburn (1803–54), employed in the Colonial Architect’s Office from 1833 through to the mid-1840s. The use of scale and proportion, alongside a restrained application of classical detail (including porticoes, loggias, articulated wall surfaces and rustication, cornices, architraves, and quoining), combined to codify institutional hierarchies pertaining to civic, military, and convict architecture within the towns and penal settlements of the colony. Gothick or Romanesque detailing was applied to early ecclesiastical buildings, such as Blackburn’s St Mark’s (Anglican) Church, Pontville (1839–41; Figure 9.3), the Scots (p.328) Church, Sorell (1839–41), and St Matthew’s Presbyterian Church, Glenorchy (1842), which were all Romanesque in style.
Early colonial governors, particularly Macquarie, appeared to recognize an important role for architecture in the Australian settlements. However, as had been the case in many other parts of the British world, the imperial authorities resisted expenditure on public works beyond essential infrastructure. These tensions were brought to the fore by John Thomas Bigge in his Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry into the State of the Colony of New South Wales (1822), which criticized Macquarie’s expenditure on buildings ‘finished in a style of ornament and decoration little suited to the limited means of so young a colony as New South Wales’.35 Macquarie’s investment in a substantial public works programme was not necessarily an act of colonial aggrandisement but, rather, a means of utilizing a surplus of convict labour generated by increased transportation at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.36 This dilemma was compounded by disastrous climatic conditions in New South Wales during much of the second decade of the nineteenth century, subduing settlers’ need for convict labour (and their ability to feed them) in agricultural enterprises. It was not until the constitution of responsible government in the (p.329) Australian colonies from the 1850s onwards that individual colonial governments were able to pursue and implement ambitious, indeed aspirational, public works programmes.
Pastoral expansion was not solely the result of increasing convict transportation and bigger penal colonies. It was principally driven by the settlement of swathes of arable land by free settlers, whether pardoned convicts, retired military personnel, or new immigrants. The primary housing type to emerge with agricultural and pastoral expansion during the 1820s and 1830s was the homestead: understood since early European settlement to be a building, or collection of buildings, associated with a large land holding. Formally, this characteristic building type comprised one or two storeys under a broad, hipped roof, often with verandahs to the front, in some cases encircling the building entirely.37 Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta, New South Wales (1793, with later additions) and the original timber section of the homestead at Woolmers, Longford, in Tasmania (1818–19), are early examples of the type, still extant. Later homesteads showing the development of the type include Throsby Park, Moss Vale (1834), and The Homestead, Georges Hall (1837), both in New South Wales, and Somercotes in Tasmania (c.1842; Figure 9.4).
(p.330) Many of these homesteads approximated the form of a bungalow—a type associated with British colonial occupation in India and other British colonies in the tropics. In the case of Horsley, Horsley Park, New South Wales (1832), Captain George Weston, a former merchant with experience in India, directly interpreted an Anglo-Indian bungalow, complete with a punkah in the dining room.38 However, more general transmission of the bungalow to the Australian colonies appears to have been diffuse, rather than direct. Individuals—officials, military personnel, and settlers—brought experiences from other British colonies with them that were reinterpreted by builders and architects at distance. Indeed, the architectural historian James Broadbent has argued that verandahs first appeared in official and military buildings before being more widely adopted in houses-cum-bungalows.39 Nevertheless, the climatic imperative ensured the popularity of the verandah. A more specific development in response to climate may be seen in the distinctive tropical bungalow that emerged in Queensland from the 1860s. It comprised a bungalow form constructed using an efficient, expressed (p.331) timber frame with a single-skin lining, roof ventilators, screens, and sunhoods, with the whole raised high on timber stumps.40
As would become observable later in New Zealand, vernacular building details also reveal the impact of particular migrant groups from within the British Isles and Europe.41 For instance, in Tasmania, Scottish settlers built houses with Scots gable skews and open verges at Pitcuncarty (1825), Craigie Knowe (c.1821), Glendassary (1838), and Cranbrook House (pre-1840), among other examples.42 In South Australia, German settlers in the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills, South Australia, likewise brought specific vernacular building traditions, such as fachwerk and lehmwickel, in the late 1830s and 1840s.43
The development of more architecturally pretentious houses, informed by stylistic currents in Britain, occurred on the back of economic expansion in the 1830s. Between 1830 and 1835 wool prices in Britain doubled, leading to rapid expansion and returns on wool production, as well as local meat prices. New markets for livestock and goods for settlement also emerged with the establishment of the new colonies of Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria, supporting the development of the earlier settled colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.44
In Sydney, this period of economic prosperity corresponded with the short but prolific architectural career (c.1830–7) of John Verge (1782–1861), who became builder-architect to New South Wales’s most prominent pastoralists and entrepreneurs. Not formally trained as an architect, Verge began his career as a merchant builder in London. Nevertheless, on arrival in New South Wales in 1828, he brought with him a proficient if somewhat idiosyncratic knowledge of Regency design and neoclassical Greek detailing then fashionable in the metropolis. Key among his oeuvre of more than one hundred commissions are Camden Park, Camden, New South Wales—a neo-Palladian composition designed for the prominent pastoralist John Macarthur in 1831–2—and Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney (1833), for the then Colonial Secretary, Alexander Macleay.45
In Van Diemen’s Land during the same period, individuals and farming cartels reflected their wealth in the construction of grand Regency houses such as Lake House, Cressy (1831–5), a refined Palladian composition with pilastered façades; Panshanger, Longford (c.1835), a single-storey sandstone building with Grecian detailing, attributed to Archer; and the monumental Clarendon, Nile (1831–8), (p.332) designed by Blackburn. In 1843, the Woolmers Homestead was updated with new formal reception rooms and an Italianate frontage.46
The sheltering homesteads and bungalows suggest responsiveness to the Australian climate—its bright light, hot summers and periods of intense rainfall. However, such a consideration of climate is difficult to quantify in architecturally self-conscious buildings of the early to mid-nineteenth century. Architects including Verge (New South Wales) and Ayers House (South Australia; Figure 9.5) exploited the possibilities of Regency colonnades, loggias, and verandahs familiar in the cooler climes of Britain. However, their deployment, with attendant climatic benefits, was typically governed by established formal and stylistic conventions, rarely challenging British architectural orthodoxies. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, this tension with the Australian environment was central to debates over and the search for an ‘Australian style’ of architecture in the late 1880s and early 1890s.
The discovery of gold in Australia in 1851 wrought dramatic change. The first significant discoveries were at Bathurst in New South Wales, followed by major strikes in the colony of Victoria. After several years of agitation, Victoria was formally separated from New South Wales as an independent colony on 1 July 1851—on that very day a significant amount of gold was discovered at Clunes, and some three weeks later at Mount Alexander, near Castlemaine. Further finds were then made at Ballarat, Bendigo, Beechworth, and elsewhere in the colony.
The impact on Victoria was twofold: firstly, the colony saw a huge influx of immigrants, many seeking their fortunes on the goldfields; and, second, the colony enjoyed rapidly increasing wealth. The early years of the gold rush had brought building to a virtual standstill as workers downed tools to prospect for gold. But the need to establish the trappings of colonial government and infrastructure soon rehabilitated the construction industry in the towns of Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo. The possibilities of all this encouraged young but established British architects to migrate, bringing with them new levels of experience, sophistication, and professionalism to the Australian scene. Confidence in the burgeoning wealth of Victoria saw large and complex designs proposed for new key buildings, such as the Treasury Building (1857–62) by the brilliant young Liverpudlian J. J. Clark (1838–1915), working for the Victorian PWD, and Parliament House (1856–) by Peter Kerr (of Knight & Kerr; Figure 9.6), both in Melbourne. Municipal corporations built grand town halls. Hotels, retail premises, offices, churches, a university, and banks all rapidly followed.
Other examples include the monumental Renaissance Revival classicism of the Public Library (now State Library), Melbourne (1854–1913), and the town halls in Geelong (1855, almost identical to David Rhind’s Commercial Bank of Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh (1843–7)) and Melbourne (1867–87), all by the Cornish-born architect Joseph Reed (1822–90). Town halls in the major inland gold-mining settlements of Bendigo (W. C. Vahland, 1859–86) and Ballarat (J. T. Lorenz, Henry Caselli & Percy Oakden, 1870–2) were both in a French Second Empire style. In New South Wales, the Colonial Architect, James Barnet, designed an impressive suite of Renaissance Revival public buildings for Sydney, including the Sydney General Post Office (1866–91) and the Lands Department (1876–91), as well as notable court houses and post and telegraph offices for the inland towns Bathurst (c.1878–80; Figure 9.7) and Goulburn (1880–7).47
With the establishment of responsible government for each of the Australian colonies over the course of the late 1850s (the exception was Western Australia, not granted responsible government until 1890) came greater autonomy over public works programmes, generating a period of significant civic expansion. Responsible government also encouraged both imagination and aspiration. Visions of future (p.334) (p.335) success stimulated ostentatious designs for local parliament buildings, all intended to accommodate the bicameral Westminster system of government, and usually in a confident form of Renaissance Revivalism. Impressive treasuries, supreme courts, and general post office buildings, as well as various mints and printing offices, were built in all of Australia’s colonial capitals during the second half of the nineteenth century. In country towns court houses and post offices were typically built in classical and Italianate styles. Porticoes and giant orders abounded; tiered arcades and Italianate towers rose. Styles proliferated and ornament was enriched.
In Adelaide, just prior to the granting of responsible government to the colony of South Australia, a rather modest Jacobethan-style parliamentary chamber was erected in 1855 to the designs of the then Colonial Architect, W. Bennett Hays (1814–c.1887), only to be replaced with a much grander neoclassical edifice with a giant order in 1883 (Edmund Wright and Lloyd Tayler). For the new Parliament House (1865–81) in Brisbane, the style (French Renaissance) was influenced by Louis Visconti and Hector-Martin Lefuel’s extension to the Louvre (Tuileries Palace) in Paris between 1852 and 1857—a style that had been popularized in Britain following the published competitive designs for the Foreign Office in London (1856–7). Indeed, this influence can be traced specifically to the central block of Robert Kerr’s unbuilt design for a ‘National Museum’ at South Kensington, published in The Builder just prior to the finalization of the design in Brisbane.48 In Melbourne, Knight & Kerr’s 1856 design for Parliament House was a grand Renaissance pile that took inspiration from Cuthbert Broderick’s design for Leeds Town Hall (1853–8).
This surge in building activity in the Australian colonies during the mid- to late nineteenth century highlights uses of architectural style with specific, rather than generic, intellectual pedigrees, thus shining a light on the diversity within ‘British’ architecture abroad. In Victoria, the London-born William Wardell (1823–99), Inspector General of Public Works between 1859 and 1878, oversaw a conservative classical design tradition underpinned by a strict regime of decorum that served to articulate institutional hierarchies, all traceable to his training in England. Moreover, as was the case in New Zealand, expertise and influence were as likely to come specifically from Ireland or Scotland as from England. In contrast to Wardell, the Colonial Government architect in Queensland from 1871 to 1881 was the Edinburgh-trained, Scottish émigré Francis Drummond Greville Stanley (1839–97), who designed a large contingent of major public, ecclesiastical, and commercial buildings in an eclectic Scots mode. Stanley expressed institutional identities and hierarchies through a range of styles, including neoclassical, Renaissance Revival, neo-Romanesque, Italianate, and Gothic Revival—all learnt and practised in Scotland, effectively linking the development of Brisbane in many ways to Edinburgh.49
(p.336) Architectural personnel and expertise also flowed between colonies of Australia and New Zealand as building opportunities waxed and waned in different places. William Clayton, the first Tasmanian-born and professionally trained architect (in England), established a prolific practice in Launceston and was responsible for notable civic and ecclesiastical buildings, including the refined Italian Renaissance Revival public office, Launceston (1858–61), and the complex Gothick Chalmers’ Free Presbyterian Church (1859–60). As discussed by Ian Lochhead and Paul Walker (Chapter 10, pp. 371–2), Clayton immigrated to Dunedin, New Zealand, possibly attracted by the Otago gold-rush, at a time when the Tasmanian economy was declining. In Dunedin, he entered private practice and was subsequently appointed the first, and only, New Zealand Colonial Architect from 1869. Another highly mobile architect practising across Australasia was J. J. Clark. After a twenty-five-year career with the Victorian PWD, he was appointed as Queensland Colonial Architect for a short and prolific, if contentious, two-year period during which he realized the highly ambitious Queensland Treasury Building, Brisbane (1883–1928; Figure 9.8). The building itself illustrates the global, regional, and local connections in Australia’s colonial architecture. Clark adapted a conservative Renaissance Revival vocabulary characterized by Sansovinoesque devices echoing G. G. Scott’s and Matthew Digby Wyatt’s designs for the new Government Offices in Whitehall, London (1862–75). At the same time the design advanced a decorous Renaissance (p.337) Revival urbanism characteristic of design culture in the Victorian PWD, while confidently responding to Queensland’s subtropical climate, with façades of tiered arcaded loggias. In 1896, Clark followed the gold-rush to Western Australia and was appointed to that colony’s PWD (1896–9), with a parallel right to private practice, establishing a partnership with his son E. J. Clark. Among his Western Australian projects was the Perth Children’s Hospital (1898). He returned to Brisbane in 1899, and then Melbourne in 1902, securing major commissions in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, and New Zealand, among them the City Baths in Melbourne (1901–4), Melbourne (Queen Victoria) Hospital (1909–15), and the Town Hall in Auckland, New Zealand (1907–11).50
The architectural possibilities in Asia also encouraged Australian architects: William Salway (1844–1902), who had migrated to Australia as a ten year old and completed his articles with the Melbourne-based firm Reed & Barnes, travelled extensively in Asia in 1867, before settling in Hong Kong, where he practised from 1868 to 1876.51 There he founded the firm which was to become Palmer & Turner, before returning to Australia. Sydney-born John Smedley (1841–1903), who had been articled to George Allan Mansfield (1834–1908), also left Australia for Hong Kong, where he joined Storey & Son as a junior partner in 1866. After visiting Japan in 1868, he set up an office in Yokohama in 1872. In 1880 he returned to Sydney, where he practised until 1891. He later returned to practice in Yokohama, then Hankow in China (1894–6), and finally in Shanghai.52
These architects followed opportunity wherever it took them. Their mobility brought and transmitted architectural knowledge as a two-way exchange and strongly indicates that architecture in Australia was not just an end-point of architectural understanding and taste, but instead a nodal point of multiple and complex transmissions across the British empire and beyond.
The ambitions of colonial societies in Australia is also manifest in ecclesiastical architecture of the period. There was idealism and aspiration bound into the procurement of these designs from high profile English ecclesiastical architects, ranging from scholarly renditions of the Gothic Revival to progressive High Victorian experimentation. As discussed further by G. A. Bremner and Louis Nelson (Chapter 5, pp. 175–6), the Roman Catholic bishops of Sydney and Hobart—Archbishop John Bebe Polding, and Bishop Robert Willson—commissioned no less a figure than A. W. N Pugin to provide plans and models for idealized Gothic Revival churches for their new dioceses (see Figure 5.7). Indeed, Pugin’s influence extended to Melbourne, where his friend and faithful follower, Wardell, designed the magnificent St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral (1858–1939) in a solid and accurate English Decorated Gothic idiom (although the apsidal east end is of French inspiration; see Figure 5.8). Wardell would later go on to design the equally impressive St Mary’s Roman Catholic cathedral in Sydney (1868–). The designs (p.338) commissioned from the 1850s for Anglican churches and cathedrals saw the engagement of prominent English ecclesiastical architects such as G. G. Scott, G. E. Street, William Butterfield, G. F. Bodley, and J. L. Pearson, reflecting the status of the church within an increasingly competitive social and fiscal environment.
Important ecclesiastical commissions by English architects in the Australian colonies demonstrate architectural contiguities within the British empire despite geographic discontinuities and distance, thus challenging traditional historiographic distinctions between ‘colonial’ and ‘metropolitan’ architectures. For instance, George Frederick Bodley (1827–1907), one of England’s most distinguished Gothic Revival architects, was commissioned to design St David’s Anglican Cathedral in Hobart (designed 1865, modified 1891, and completed 1936), resulting in his only completed cathedral design. Likewise, William Butterfield (1814–1900), perhaps the greatest of Victorian Britain’s ecclesiastical architects, designed two Anglican cathedrals in Australia: St Peter’s, North Adelaide (1868–1904), and St Paul’s, Melbourne (1880–91). Both of these buildings were intended for strong visual effect, employing polychrome and polytexture stone work respectively.53
Tensions soon emerged as these architects attempted to respond to colonial contingencies with respect to ecclesiological discourse. William Burges’s ecclesiologically correct and climatically responsive design for an Anglican cathedral in Brisbane (1859, unbuilt), characterized by a massiveness based on early French and Italian precedent, was rejected in the local press largely on account of primitivist associations. Butterfield’s design for St Peter’s, too, was modified by local architect E. J. Woods, especially the nave and west front, losing its polychromatic exterior in the process. Indeed, one of the frustrations for English architects designing by remote control in colonial contexts was the sometimes unsympathetic and dismissive attitude of locally appointed superintending architects, as was initially the case with Leonard Terry and the construction of St Paul’s, Melbourne, until the job was handed to Joseph Reed.
In time church designs imported from England were matched by those from émigré architects in the colonies, chief among them being Edmund Blacket (1817–83), Henry Hunter (1832–92), William Wardell, John Horbury Hunt (1838–1904), and Joseph Reed, all of whom produced accomplished and sophisticated Gothic Revival church designs, with Blacket also designing the first buildings at the University of Sydney (1855–62; see Figure 5.12).54 In Queensland, R. G. Suter (1827–94) drew upon ecclesiological discourses of ‘development’ to produce a raft of single-skin timber Gothic parish churches, schools, and teachers’ residences that were to be advocated as the possible basis for a locally invented vernacular, as seen in the emergence of the tropical Queensland bungalow.55
(p.339) The aspiration apparent in public and ecclesiastical buildings was also apparent in the emergence of the grand house mansion for the ‘squattocracy’, as the newly wealthy pastoralists became known. Examples include the grand Italianate Werribee Park Mansion by J. H. Fox in Werribee, Victoria (1872–4; Figure 9.9), for the wealthy pastoralist Chirnside family; Rippon Lea in Elsternwick, Victoria (1868–76), by Reed & Barnes, with its wonderful High Victorian polychrome exterior in a distinct Ruskinian-style Lombardo-Romanesque; and the Italianate-style Mona Vale, Ross, in Tasmania (1867) by William Archer. These buildings ushered in new standards of scale, aspiration, and sophistication, with elegant loggias, tessellated tiling, delicate stencilling, ‘correct’ detailing, careful proportioning, and conspicuous towers.
Boomtime: The 1880s
The height of architectural confidence in nineteenth-century Australia was evident in the 1880s. Its colonial cities were wealthy, supported by mining and pastoral success, and were adorned with extraordinary buildings. As property prices rose and land became more valuable, these cities were rebuilt and reformed in the height of Victorian-era splendour. The region’s wealth and prosperity was showcased at (p.340) successive international expositions not only in Sydney (1879) and Melbourne (1880, 1888), but also London (1886). The Sydney and Melbourne events were held in grand, purpose-built exhibition halls, with the Melbourne building remaining today as a rare survivor of this typology. This new-found affluence was also indicated through the increasing frequency of high-rise buildings that began to dominate urban centres, surpassing the traditional high points of steeple and tower.
The rise of commercial buildings in the 1880s was a key determinant in the transformation of late nineteenth-century Australian urbanism. New construction techniques, in conjunction with passenger lift technology, allowed for ever taller structures, as each new project sought to outdo the last. The upwards pressure presented an architectural challenge, for mid-nineteenth-century civic buildings had hitherto relied on precedent for their inspiration. But even the grandest European palace did not come near the proposed heights of these new ‘skyscrapers’. Architects took up the challenge with gusto, creating myriad responses.
The Australian colonies had mature social structures by the 1880s. The days of creating the instruments of civil society were largely past, with key public amenities, such as government, the police and judiciary, custom and postal services, benevolent institutions, hospitals, and schools, having all been largely established in urban areas. Moreover, new infrastructure, such as railways, created architectural opportunities as well as facilitating travel, in turn encouraging urban sprawl and the rise of the suburban villa. A rapidly emerging middle class also helped fuel a boom in buildings associated with leisure and entertainment: theatres, shopping arcades, and coffee palaces, all of which adopted the latest in architectural taste to attract and enthral their clientele.
Classicism had long dominated architecture on the Australian continent. Whether Renaissance Revival, neo-Roman, Palladian, or the simpler Italianate, these styles became the preferred palette for most civic buildings. The Gothic and Tudor revivals were mostly reserved for churches and educational buildings (see Chapter 5, pp. 187–9). There were, however, notable exceptions. For example, the English, Scottish & Australian Bank preferred Gothic as a deliberate branding choice, leading them to engage William Wardell to produce designs for its headquarters in Melbourne (1883–7). Among the more accomplished of civic Gothic revivalists during this period was Melbourne-based architect William Pitt (1855–1918), who produced such noted exemplars as the (Old) Stock Exchange (1888; Figure 9.10), the (Old) Rialto Building (1889), and the riotous Olderfleet Building on Collins Street (1889–90; Figure 9.11).
The 1880s was also a time of significant architectural experimentation. Wealth brought confidence among Australian architects, who felt less beholden to British tastes. As time went on, more and more architects were locally trained, encouraging distance from the immediate architectural concerns of Britain. In both domestic and civic architecture there was a fusing of Gothic sensibilities with classical elements. In housing this became manifest in picturesque morphology and polygonal bay windows with label moulds, dressed in balustraded parapets, and bracketed eaves. The Tudor met the Italianate, decorated with intricate cast iron lace that (p.341) (p.342) (p.343) frilled eaves, fringed balustrades, and crested ridgelines. In civic buildings, compositional techniques of the Gothic were melded with those of classicism, which tended towards Mannerist manifestations, with implied structure and details layered into an exuberant architectural montage. In the most notable examples, all plain surfaces were eschewed in favour of a profusion of structural elements. Combinations of elements were used to create excitement and dynamism across façades, as well as considerable richness of effect.56 This design approach has been described as ‘Boom Style’, despite its free use of either Gothic or classical details to create its dizzying effects, and was often disparaged as ill-educated eclecticism, or frippery, by early generations of Australian architectural historians (who were mostly Modernist architects).57 Yet, the discipline shown in these works indicated deep interest in experimentation and great skill in the handling of façade design to produce extraordinarily confident and balanced compositions. Notable examples include the classical Block Arcade (1891), designed by Twentyman & Askew, and the former Mercantile Bank (1888), designed by Salway, Wright & Lucas (Figure 9.12), both in Melbourne. In Sydney, there was Sulman & Power’s Mutual Life Assurance building (1891), and in Brisbane, Her Majesty’s Opera House (1888), as well as a selection of flamboyant commercial buildings, by the Italian-born architect Andrea Stombucco (1820–1907).
Confidence in being Australian—for the concept of an ‘Australia’ gained significant momentum at this time, laying the groundwork for eventual Federation of the colonies into a single nation state—encouraged consideration of what was an appropriate style of architecture for Australia. If the debates about Gothic versus classic being played out in England fostered a sense that style was a conscious choice, then Australian architects envisioned a wide range of possibilities in selecting a style suitable to express this nascent identity.
Two distinguishing factors underscored the difference between Australia and the ‘Old Country’: the heat and intense sunlight. As early as 1860 architects were calling for appropriate design responses to Australia’s particular climatic conditions. Alongside the exigencies of climate, architects also sought a suitable foundation from which a truly ‘Australian’ style could grow. In a series of articles in the local architectural press between 1887 and 1892, suggestions ranged from the Norman and Romanesque (as foundational styles), through Italianate (for its climatic appropriateness), to the Swiss Chalet (for its spreading roof).58 Whatever direction might be taken, all agreed that the current fashions in Australian architecture were inadequate to the task, and many despaired at the lack of insight and understanding of Australia as both a place and an emergent identity. (p.344)
Bust: The 1890s
All booms eventually fade. The heightened confidence that had gripped many of the Australian colonies during the 1880s, and which led to an extraordinary renewal of its cities into bustling metropolises rivalling the wealthiest cities in the empire, came to an abrupt end with the deep recession that followed the 1891 Argentinian crisis. British investors, burned by the collapse of Argentinian speculative investments, withdrew capital and finance from the Australian markets, weakening confidence and derailing colonial economies. The effect on architecture in Australia was profound, with a near halt in commercial and institutional works along the east coast, including a parallel contraction of the market for grand houses. By 1893 building was at a virtual standstill and architects began leaving the major cities of Melbourne and Sydney looking for opportunities elsewhere.
The bust of the early 1890s proved a boon for those areas less affected by the economic downturn. Much of the success of the colonies in the southern hemisphere had been fuelled by mining booms that led to subsequent building booms. Those places seemingly immune to the financial problems of the period, including western Australia and northern Tasmania, were underpinned by ore discoveries that ensured continued success. While the rest of Australia dwindled to a halt, Perth, Kalgoorlie, and Queenstown roared into life, with architects at the ready to build the dreams of these newly flush cities.
The boom period had been characterized, stylistically, by significant interest in the revivalist styles of classicism and, to a lesser extent, the Gothic. Multiple implied structural layers, richly carved or cast decoration, and montage effects had dominated the architectural sensibilities of that time. The 1892 depression, however, brought a new-found restraint which quickly revealed itself in architecture, with simpler, bolder forms accompanied by less intricate detail and plainer finishes. Where Mannerist tendencies once prevailed, the so-called Edwardian Baroque came in their place. In domestic architecture the Italianate gave way to elements of the Arts and Crafts, the Queen Anne Revival, the English Domestic Revival, and American Shingle Style. The English ‘Free Style’, the Scottish Baronial, and the work of noted English designers such as R. N. Shaw and C. F. A. Voysey, also exerted their influence.
For the cities of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Brisbane, and surrounding towns, the 1892 depression therefore resulted in civic buildings that were restrained and comparatively sombre. However, those colonies that became wealthy continued to flaunt their new-found status architecturally, only in different ways. In Perth, for instance, which reaped the financial benefits of gold discoveries at Kalgoorlie (1892), this was seen in examples such as the Titles Office (1896) by G. T. Poole (Figure 9.13), the Surrey Chambers (1903) by E. H. Dean Smith, and His Majesty’s Theatre and Hotel (1904) by William Wolf.59
(p.346) The biggest change came in the approach to form and materials. Not for the first time in Australia did the availability of imported building materials have a significant effect. Terracotta roofing tiles from Marseilles and large profile softwoods from the American west coast, lathed as bulbous supports for verandahs and porches, became popular, especially in domestic building and the ‘Federation’ villa. Interest and variety was achieved through picturesque effects, including the use of varied roofscapes, balconies, turrets, and arches. Improved industrial brick production also enabled new colours and the increased quality of face brickwork. In civic buildings, simpler and bolder forms prevailed, along with expanses of plain wall surface, including strong colour contrasts: orange, red, liver-brown, white, cream, and black. The results were graphic. They include Alexander North’s Launceston General Post Office in Tasmania (1885–9), George Temple Poole’s Albany Post Office in Western Australia (1896), and John Smith Murdoch’s striped Ipswich Post Office in Queensland (c.1900; Figure 9.14), as well as the masterful contortions of Robert Haddon’s design for Eastbourne House, East Melbourne, in Victoria (Sydney Smith & Ogg, 1906). More restrained were Walter Liberty Vernon’s Engineering School and Workshop at the University of Sydney in New South Wales (1906–8), and the unadorned volumes of G. D. Payne’s ‘modern’ Romanesque Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, in Queensland (1905).
At this moment the nascent nationalism that had been on the rise in Australia since the 1880s culminated on 1 January 1901 in the federation of the six (p.347) independent colonies (the five on the Australian mainland and Tasmania) into the new Commonwealth of Australia. Federation itself may have been a catalyst for the formation of a new, culturally unified identity in Australia, but the idea of nationalism as expressed by architecture had already gained ground in numerous places by the later part of the nineteenth century, including the United Kingdom, Europe, and the USA. Thus, the idea of a ‘native’ architecture (to borrow the parlance of the time) was not exclusive to Australia. More importantly, the means by which (p.348) ‘Australian’ nationalism was expressed borrowed heavily from the conceptions of British and British imperial architecture of the period. For example, Arts and Crafts-style decoration in Australian architecture was just as likely to depict a waratah flower or eucalyptus leaf as it was a rose or ficus pumila leaf. Fine examples may be seen in the spandrels of A. J. Macdonald’s South Yarra Post Office in Melbourne (1892), or in the column capitals at Alexander North’s neo-Byzantine Anglican church of St John’s in Launceston (1901–38), both of which incorporated Australian flora and fauna.60 The architectural styles touted as appropriate for a ‘new’ country, with its harsh climate, nevertheless continued to be conceived in extant Western revivalist terms. As in New Zealand, larger civic and state buildings intended to inscribe a sense of new-found nationhood were rendered in that most imperial of styles, the Edwardian Baroque.61 The Queensland state government’s Executive Building (1898–1905), designed by Thomas Pye, along with the Queensland PWD, are among the most impressive examples.
The architecture that celebrated or defined the new nation in 1901 was a reflection of the positioning of that nation in its international context. New nations do not necessarily come with their social, cultural, and governmental institutions ready-made: Australian nationhood was formed out of six separate colonial governments, each with their own parliamentary and public infrastructures, as well as competing interests as to the location of the nation’s new capital. It would take another seven years before the site of Canberra was chosen for the capital (1908), and twenty-six years before the federal parliament was located there. The structures that then represented the new Commonwealth were not those of a dedicated new capital city but, rather, a combination of buildings used to house the idea temporarily, with Melbourne becoming the itinerate capital from 1901 to 1926. The proclamation of Federation itself was signed in a purpose-built, Edwardian Baroque-style pavilion erected in Sydney’s Centennial Park. The event was marked by the festooning of buildings, along with a series of temporary commemorative arches that spanned the major streets of Australian cities, which likewise drew inspiration from the Edwardian Baroque style. The arch under which most members of the new Australian parliament passed—the new Flinders Street Station, Melbourne (Fawcett & Ashworth, 1901–10; Figure 9.15)—was a loosely Edwardian Baroque-style red and buff brick pile. The same style was also used for Central Station in Sydney. Architect to the new Commonwealth of Australia, the Scottish-born and trained John Smith Murdoch (1862–1945), again drew on this style for the Commonwealth Offices in Treasury Place, Melbourne (1912–14), built to house the new federal civil service. The style also found favour in lesser public buildings and commercial projects, including many suburban and country post and telegraph offices (under the jurisdiction of the new federal government) that connected the sparsely populated continent. The consistent employment of (p.349) this style across Australia and much of the wider British world at the time, including Britain, suggested that, although now effectively independent, Australia still felt allegiance to the ‘mother country’, as the catastrophic events of World War I would soon demonstrate.
Yet, all the while, a distinctive domestic architecture was emerging. There is some irony in the naming of it as ‘Federation’ style, especially given the grandiose classical forms employed in much of the architecture erected to celebrate the act of Federation. But this moniker was designed to reflect the timing and local character of the style more than anything else.62 In reality, Federation architecture was a hybrid style that developed distinct variations in each of the Australian states owing to differences in climate, materials, and local building traditions.63 The Federation villa became the house of the emergent middle classes, built in rapidly expanding (p.350) suburban estates opened up by the building of fixed rail transport lines. Drawing on ideas ranging from the bungalow, the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as suburban imaginings from Britain and the USA, these houses have variously been described as ‘Queen Anne’, ‘Edwardian’, and ‘Arts and Crafts’—terms which are both inadequate and rather misleading.
Indeed, the term ‘Federation’ suggests a far more intense and localized response than were many of the houses built in this apparent style at the time. While some did incorporate Australian flora and fauna into their decoration (kangaroo finials and the like), the predominant features were mostly drawn from English precedent: hung tiles, shingles, roughcast and half-timbering, and leadlight windows. Exposed brick and terracotta were the preferred materials. Among the most complex and picturesque renditions of the Federation villa include the Cupples House, Riversdale Road, Camberwell, in Victoria (Ussher & Kemp, 1900), and Thomas Searell’s eclectic Lemana, Elphin Road in Launceston (1906; see Plate 18). In places like Queensland, the forms were replicated entirely in timber, which was both more climatically responsive and reflective of local building traditions, from the picturesque (Eaton & Bates’s Cremorne, 1905) to the restrained (Robin Dods’s Rangemoor, 1907).64 Much of this architecture, whether in tropical or more temperate climates, incorporated spreading eaves, verandahs, and enclosed porches that provided shading and external living spaces appropriate for Australian conditions.
The architects of these houses were often young men who had emigrated from England and other places at the height of the 1880s boom, bringing with them knowledge and love of the vernacular architecture of their homeland. The likes of Alfred Dunn, Walter Butler, and Henry Kemp all brought their sketchbooks, revealing how their sensibilities had been forged in the romantic milieu of the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as through the influence of noted English architects such as R. N. Shaw, J. D. Sedding, William Eden Nesfield, William Burges, and R. W. Edis.65 But there were also a growing number of architects who were trained in Australia and whose consumption of international architectural trends was primarily via publication rather than first-hand knowledge. This shift in the profession to significant numbers of Australian-trained architects from the 1890s helped foster greater divergence from architectural fashions in Britain. Through a growing and increasingly accessible international architectural press, hungrily consumed by the local profession, a wider sphere of inspiration and influence opened up, including from the USA. Thus, rather than changing architecture entirely in Australia overnight, Federation instead laid the groundwork for a progressively local interpretation of international trends going into the first decades of the twentieth century. Drawing on multiple sources, it resulted in a recognizable, if not entirely original, form of ‘Australian’ architecture.
The declaration of the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra and its surrounds) on 1 January 1911 represented a significant architectural opportunity for Australia. The location was essentially a greenfield site 100 miles south-west of Sydney—open grazing land, nestled between a number of major hills. The opportunity was not lost on government, with an international competition for Canberra’s design declared on 30 January 1911.
The competition caused consternation in some quarters. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), for example, furious that the competition was not being judged by ‘qualified’ architects and planners, advised its members against entering. At the time there was no single, Australia-wide institute of architects, but even the state-based institutes (all affiliated with the RIBA) discouraged their members from submitting proposals.66
On 23 May 1912 the Canberra competition winners were announced. In first place was the entry by American architect Walter Burley Griffin (1876–1937), whose extraordinary competition drawings were by the hand of his partner, Marion Mahony Griffin (1871–1961) (for a plan of Canberra, see Figure 2.12).67 In second place was the entry by Finnish architect and perennial bridesmaid, Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950). Picking up third prize was Alfred Agache (1875–1959) of Paris. If Australia had sought a new beginning through a new capital city, then the conditions that surrounded the competition for Canberra certainly led to a bold imagining of what might be achieved. The reality, however, was something different.
It had been long standing practice in Australia to hold architectural competitions for major public buildings, but not to build the winning design verbatim. Throughout the nineteenth century the practice was for the relevant government architecture agency to take the ‘best’ elements from the premiated designs—without reference to the competition winners—and create a new amalgam, which was then built. The intention for the Canberra competition was no different in this regard, and the Commonwealth Department of Works (CDW) soon produced the now infamous ‘Departmental Plan’ for Canberra, which retained only fragments of the Griffins’ vision.68 Griffin, unfamiliar with Australian procedures, was naturally aghast that his design was to be bastardized in this way. In 1913, at the invitation of the then acting Minister of Home Affairs, William Kelly, he set sail for Australia to defend his right to see the winning design implemented. Thus began a long-running battle between Griffin and the CDW, played out over some ten (p.352) years,69 and leading to the slow development of Canberra for a government deeply distracted by the demands of World War I and its immediate aftermath.
The Great War severely tested, if strengthened, Australia’s imperial ties with Britain. A moment of significant political upheaval and loss of life, it was a deeply sobering time. The hiatus of war further encouraged restraint in architectural form: the red bricks and cement banding remained, joined by the glazed terracotta of faience. But the joy and whimsy of Edwardian Baroque overtones were replaced by a staid and stolid classicism, including neo-Greek and Egyptian elements.
Wartime had coincided with the rise of formal architectural education in Australia. While institutional instruction in architecture-related subjects (some leading to diploma-level qualification) had been available through various technical colleges and schools of mines from the late nineteenth century, it was intended as complementary to articles and not as its replacement. Universities, too, offered various types of study in architecture, but this was more as an extension to existing engineering degrees rather than stand-alone instruction.70 The appearance of full-time courses—diplomas, followed quickly by degrees—in architecture in Victoria and New South Wales, then South Australia and Queensland, occurred between 1914 and 1918. The success of these courses, coupled with the passing of architectural registration acts in several states in the early 1920s, saw a rapid regularization of professional architectural qualifications that permanently changed the nature of the profession, including facilitating (possibly by default) the passage of women into the profession.71
Young architects had joined the war effort in droves, seeing service across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Despite the carnage and horrors of war, many architects used leave as an opportunity to see well-known monuments and architectural icons across Europe. The end of the war also brought opportunity. Through the auspices of the Australian government, demobilized architects were offered the prospect of studying at the AA Schools in London as a means of re-engaging them with their profession and the civilian realm. Some fifty-five Australian architects attended the AA between 1918 and 1919, which brought connections and engagement that would have a profound effect on their careers. Many of these Australians also sat for the RIBA examinations while in London, further strengthening their ties with England.
It was these young architects that would foster the introduction of Modernism to Australia, supported by return trips to England and continental Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.72 The modern—or more properly, the Moderne—at this time again saw the dual influence of England and the USA. Progressive ideas from (p.353) America, in the forms of cinema, skyscrapers, and Hollywood-style flats, made their mark, as did those of the Dutch architect Willem Dudok (1884–1974) and his refined brick Modernism, also echoed by a number of English firms. The ‘Mediterranean’—a reductive architecture of white rendered walls and terracotta Córdoba-style tiles—was inspired by travelling Australians who admired the simple forms and climatic appropriateness of buildings in Spain, southern France, and Italy, which shared similar climates to temperate southern Australia. In parallel, there was also a serious consideration of simple and relatively unadorned forms of the Georgian and Australian Colonial.73
Antipodean expatriates in England, responsible for some of the most forward-looking buildings there in the interwar period, such as Australian architect Raymond McGrath (1903–77), also provided inspiration (see also Chapter 10, p. 387). Australian interest in Dutch Modernism was fostered in no small part by Francis Yerbury (1885–1970), secretary of the AA, and his colleagues, who personally escorted a number of Australian architects on separate occasions to tour the Netherlands. Travel for Australian architects was no longer the once-in-a-lifetime ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, but instead an essential means by which they could glean inspiration, create networks, and acquire knowledge that they could then invest into their practices.
Arthur Stephenson (1890–1967) was emblematic of this new emerging professional. One of the demobilized servicemen who attended the AA in 1919, he establish his practice in Melbourne in the early 1920s. He understood the value of exposure to the latest architectural thinking, and travelled extensively in 1927 through the USA, and again, primarily through Europe, in 1932–3, studying hospital and Modern architecture. On this second trip he visited the nearly complete Paimio Sanatorium (1932) by Alvar Aalto, and the Weissenhofsiedlung housing estate in Stuttgart, Germany (1927), among other sites, thereby gaining first-hand knowledge of some of the early icons of Modernist architecture. This knowledge was then immediately translated into his firm’s next project, the Mercy Hospital, East Melbourne (1933–4), one of Australia’s first properly Modern buildings (Figure 9.16). It also heralded new, more direct lines of architectural influence into Australia, in which Europe and the USA featured ever-more prominently.
As with the other settler dominions of the British empire, architecture in Australia throughout the nineteenth century was a product of influence from England and the broader United Kingdom, following the lines of its settlement, patterns of immigration, and transmission of architectural knowledge. But that influence was not always direct and not always unilinear: movement of personnel between British colonies brought knowledge and connection, as did exploration further afield by Australian architects. As avid consumers of architectural literature, Australian architects utilized printed resources to inspire their work, from pattern books to the latest journals. Architectural sophistication grew slowly over (p.354) time, greatly bolstered by newer immigrants bringing ever-more professional approaches to architecture. Wealth, from both pastoral and mining sources, brought architects and architectural confidence in the second half of the nineteenth century, founding distinctly Australian interpretations of stylistic trends emergent across the English-speaking world.
Just as the rhetorical peak of empire was celebrated through the Edwardian Baroque—the style that circumscribed the celebration of Australia’s Federation into a single nation, as well as the aspirations of many other British colonies—the draw of new ideas from beyond the British world began to exert their presence, leading to the rise of American and European influences in Australian architecture. The shock of the Great War, then the hiatus of the Great Depression, recast the old allegiances to Britain, with evermore interest in the New World. Australia, having overrun and segregated Aboriginal cultures relatively quickly on settlement, was unusual in that it did not have a strong local built history on which to reflect, nor a competing culture with which to contend. Of all the British possessions, it was perhaps the ‘blankest slate’ in architectural terms. Its development, from basic needs and exigencies, through to wealth and urbanity, illustrates the birth, growth, and then slow atrophying of the reach of the British empire.
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(p.320) (1) David R. Horton’s representation of the key regional areas of Aboriginal Australia and the various language groups within each is reproduced in P. Goad and J. Willis (eds), The Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture (Melbourne, 2012), p. xxv. The component parts of the map were first published in D. R. Horton (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia (Canberra, 1994).
(2) C. Keys, ‘Preliminary Historical Notes on the Transfer of Aboriginal Architectural Expertise on Australia’s Frontier’, Fabrications, vol. 25:1 (2015), pp 49–62.
(3) This is in spite of the containment of many Aboriginal people to missions, which occurred from the mid-nineteenth century well into the twentieth, governed by policies of assimilation and the discouragement of traditional practices. It is worth noting that indigenous groups co-opted, in return, material introduced by the settlers into their architecture, including metal sheeting in the forms of corrugated iron. Traditional forms of Aboriginal architecture (bough structures, humpies, shade and wind shelters) are an important part in maintaining a clan’s social structure. For further information, see P. Memmott, Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia (Brisbane, 2007).
(p.322) (4) S. MacIntyre, ‘Settlement’, in G. Davidson, J. Hirst, and S. MacIntyre (eds), The Oxford Companion to Australian History (Melbourne, 2001), p. 585.
(5) J. J. Auchmuty (ed.), Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay (Sydney, 1970 ), p. 20.
(6) J. M. Freeland, Architecture in Australia (Richmond, 1972), pp. 12–13.
(8) J. S. Kerr, Design for Convicts: An Account of Design for Convict Establishments in the Australian Colonies During the Transportation Era (Sydney, 1984), p. 4.
(9) Freeland, Architecture in Australia, p. 18.
(11) N. Boyd, ‘John Watts’, in Goad and Willis, Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture, p. 755.
(13) E. Ratcliff, A Far Microcosm: Building and Architecture in Van Diemen’s Land and Tasmania 1803–1914, 4 vols (Hobart, 2015), I, pp. 40–1.
(15) P. Goad, ‘Prison Architecture’, in Goad and Willis, Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture, p. 563. For additional reading, see Kerr, Design for Convicts.
(16) For detail on the Fort Dundas settlement, see C. F. K. Fredericksen, ‘Confinement by Isolation: Convict Mechanics and Labour at Fort Dundas, Melville Island’, Australasian Historical Archaeology, vol. 19 (2001), pp. 48–59.
(17) G. Tibbits and A. Roennfeldt, Port Phillip Colonial 1801–1851 (Clifton Hill, 1989), p. 13.
(18) M. Lewis, Melbourne: The City’s History and Development (Melbourne, 1995), pp 26–9.
(20) Tibbits and Roennfeldt, Port Phillip Colonial, pp. 28–42.
(21) Development in Western Australia was subsequently aided by convict transportation and labour from 1850 to 1868, after the cessation of transportation to the New South Wales and Tasmanian colonies.
(22) A. Atkinson, The Europeans in Australia: A History, vol. 2 (Oxford, 2004), p. 96.
(23) M. Pitt Morison, ‘Settlement and Development: The Historical Context’, in M. Pitt Morison and J. White (eds), Western Towns and Buildings (Perth, 1979), pp. 2–3.
(24) J. Oldham and R. Oldham, Western Heritage (Perth, 1962), p. 7.
(25) J. White, ‘Building in Western Australia 1829–1850’, in Pitt Morison and White, Western Towns, pp. 80–5.
(27) R. Hetherington, ‘Gawler, George (1795–1869)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography (National Centre of Biography, Australian National University), http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gawler-george-2085/text2615, accessed 12 May 2015.
(28) On the establishment and early building of South Australia, see E. Jensen and R. Jensen, Colonial Architecture in South Australia: A Definitive Chronicle of Development 1836–1890 and the Social History of the Times (Adelaide, 1980), pp. 1–45.
(29) Somerset was settled with a suite of timber structures designed and prefabricated in Brisbane and shipped the length of the Queensland coast (more than 2,000 kilometres), with crews to assemble them on site. At the same time, a feasibility study for steamship communication and trade with the British and Dutch colonies of South East Asia onto India and China, via the Torres Strait, was examined. The port and trade routes were intended to provide a stimulus for colonial development whilst establishing political and economic alliances and strategically positioning the colony of Queensland within the region. See S. King, ‘Colony and Climate: Positioning Public Architecture in Queensland, 1859–1909’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Melbourne, 2010), pp. 132–6.
(30) J. Broadbent, ‘Building in the Colony’, in J. Broadbent and J. Hughes (eds), The Age of Macquarie (Parkville, 1992), pp. 159, 166–9.
(31) M. H. Ellis, Francis Greenway: His Life and Times (Sydney, 1953).
(32) C. Lucas, ‘Francis Greenway’, in Goad and Willis, Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture, pp. 295–7.
(33) For a detailed examination of the Hyde Park Barracks precinct, see S. Hill, ‘Francis Greenway and the Design of the Hyde Park Barracks: Revisiting Aspects of the Design of the Barrack and the St James Precinct’, Fabrications, vol. 20:2 (2011), pp. 6–33.
(34) R. Smith, John Lee Archer: Tasmanian Architect and Engineer (Hobart, 1962).
(35) J. T. Bigge, Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the State of Agriculture and Trade in the Colony of New South Wales (London, 1823), p. 102.
(36) T. G. Parsons, ‘Does the Bigge Report Follow From the Evidence?’, Historical Studies, vol. 15:58 (1972), pp. 268–74.
(37) P. Cox and C. Lucas, Australian Colonial Architecture (Melbourne, 1978), pp. 5–120.
(38) J. Broadbent, The Australian Colonial House: Architecture and Society in New South Wales 1788–1842 (Sydney, 1997), pp. 325–7.
(40) For further reading on this distinctive housing type, see R. Fisher and B. Crozier (eds), The Queensland House: A Roof Over Our Heads (Brisbane, 1994).
(42) Ratcliffe, A Far Microcosm, pp. 70–80. On the later contribution of Scottish settlers to the development of homesteads in western Victoria, see H. Edquist, ‘The Architectural Legacy of the Scots in the Western District of Victoria, Australia’, Architectural Heritage, vol. 24 (2013), pp. 67–85.
(43) G. Young, ‘Early German Settlements in South Australia’, Australian Historical Archeaology, vol. 3 (1985), pp. 43–55. See also Miles Lewis, ‘Australian Building: A Cultural Investigation’, http://www.mileslewis.net/australian-building/, accessed 20 June 2015.
(44) H. Reynolds, A History of Tasmania (Port Melbourne, 2012), p. 92.
(45) Broadbent, Australian Colonial House, pp. 191–205.
(46) E. G. Robertson and E. N. Craig, Early Houses of Northern Tasmania: An Historical and Architectural Survey (Melbourne, 1964).
(47) C. Johnson, P. Bingham-Hall, and P. Kohane, James Barnet: The Universal Values of Civic Existence (Sydney, 2000).
(48) The Builder (25 June 1864), p. 475. For further discussion, see King, ‘Colony and Climate’, pp. 136–45.
(49) S. King, ‘Eclecticism in the Work of Queensland Colonial Architect FDG Stanley, 1871–1881’, Fabrications, vol. 21:2 (2012), pp. 36–59.
(50) For a biographical account of Clark’s career, see: A. Dodd, J. J. Clark: Architect of the Australian Renaissance (Sydney, 2012).
(51) B. Trethowan, ‘Salway, William’, in Goad and Willis, Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture, pp. 613–14.
(53) For Anglian architecture in Australia, see G. A. Bremner, Imperial Gothic: Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire c.1840–1870 (London and New Haven, 2013).
(54) B. Andrews, Australian Gothic: The Gothic Revival in Australian Architecture from the 1840s to the 1950s (Melbourne, 2001).
(55) D. Watson, ‘Outside Studding: “Some claims to architectural taste”’, Historic Environment, vol. 2 (1988), pp. 22–31.
(p.345) (56) P. Kohane, ‘Classicism Transformed: A Study of Façade Composition in Victoria, 1885–1892’, Transition (February 1983), pp. 27–36.
(57) P. Kohane and J. Willis, ‘Boom Style’, in Goad and Willis, Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture, pp. 97–8.
(58) J. Willis and P. Goad, ‘Revisiting the Search for an Australian Style: Late Nineteenth-Century Arguments for a National Idiom’, in K. Green et al. (eds), In the Making: Architecture’s Past, Papers from the 18th Annual Conference of The Society of Architectural Historians, Australia & New Zealand (Darwin, 2001), pp. 66–73.
(p.351) (59) R. Oldham and J. Oldham, Western Heritage Part 2: George Temple Poole: Architect of the Golden Years, 1885–1897 (Nedlands, 1980); White, ‘Building in Western Australia’, pp. 109–23.
(60) For further reading on the Australian Arts and Crafts architecture, see H. Edquist, Pioneers of Modernism: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Australia (Carlton, 2008).
(61) J. Willis and P. Goad, ‘Modernism from Empire: The Charting of an Australian Government Architecture 1901–1950’, in K. Darian-Smith, P. Grimshaw, K. Lindsey, and S. Macintyre (eds), Exploring the British World (Melbourne, 2004), pp. 822–39.
(62) J. Willis and P. Goad, ‘A Myth in the Making: Federation Architecture and Australian Architectural History’, in A. Leach, A. Moulis, and N. Sully (eds), Shifting Views: Selected Essays on the Architectural History of Australia and New Zealand (St Lucia, 2008), pp. 132–42.
(63) T. Howells, ‘In Search of a Grand National Style’, in T. Howells and M. Nicholson (eds), Towards the Dawn: Federation Architecture in Australia 1890–1915 (Sydney, 1989), pp. 13–20.
(64) R. Riddel, Robin Dods: Selected Works (Brisbane, 2012).
(65) See G. Tibbits, ‘An Emanation of Lunacy’, in Howells and Nicholson, Towards the Dawn, pp. 47–86.
(p.355) (66) J. W. Reps, Canberra 1912 (Carlton, 1997), pp. 63–7, 76–84.
(67) The submission to the Canberra competition was under the name of Walter Burley Griffin. The substantial contribution to the success of the competition drawings and much of the oeuvre of the firm of Walter Burley Griffin Architect and Landscape Architect by his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, has been long acknowledged and is understood and acknowledged here.
(68) The Departmental Plan drew heavily on a minor-placed submission by the Sydney-based Griffiths, Coulter & Caswell and did not have the same axial clarity of the Griffins’ design. See Reps, Canberra, pp. 242–7.
(69) P. Reid, ‘Walter Burley Griffin’s Struggles to Implement His Canberra Plan, 1912–1921’, in J. Turnbull and P. Navaretti (eds), The Griffins in Australia and India (Carlton, 1998), pp. 18–25.
(70) For detailed information on the development of Australian architectural education, see J. Willis, ‘Architectural Education’, in Goad and Willis, Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture, pp. 32–4.
(71) See J. Willis and B. Hanna, Women Architects in Australia 1900–1950 (Canberra, 2001), pp. 17–22.
(72) D. L. Johnson, Australian Architecture 1901–51: Sources of Modernism (Sydney, 1980), pp. 85–104.
(73) C. Hamann, ‘Paths of Beauty: The Afterlife of Australian Colonial Architecture, Part 1’, Transition, vol. 26 (1988), pp. 28–44.