After recently looking upon the collective beauty of Tom Blachford’s Midnight Modern series, I was inspired to find some examples of their equivalent within our local environment. Luckily, much of my architectural appreciation stems from the International and Bauhaus style, both of which are recognised as the sire of the mid-century modern experience.
The best examples of the style are hidden amongst our regions less developed suburbias. The Keiraville, Mt Pleasant, Mangerton and Mt Ousley environs provide a clepe and set the tone for the type of area one might stumble upon a relic of the mid-century school.
The Illawarra mid-century options are ubiquitous, they huddle in the hilly confines of Wollongong’s outer suburbs and can be quite easily missed if you’re not looking for them. Many disappear overnight and in their place the same dreams of home ownership; family life, suburbia and the accompanying ambitions flourish.
Many of the Australian examples in this article are small, modest depictions of the architectural style, their designs focused on a new age of functionality, affordability and technology. Dominic Bradbury in Mid Century Modern explains the adoption of mid-century modernism as “not only embracing the future but also – to varying degrees – rebelling against the past.”
The advent of the mid-century home within Australian suburbia is not only made visible in Wollongong and it’s surrounding suburbs but the country over.
The recurring design motifs are the sum of their parts, with many having been built with infamous asbestos based materials by companies such as Wunderlich and usual suspect James Hardie. The affordability of asbestos made building your own home a very achievable reality in post-War Australia and following Robin Boyd’s House Of Tomorrow in 1949, the marketability of a modernist design approach took flight. Wunderlich and Hardie both seized the opportunity of domestic modernism by commissioning prominent architects to show how fibro materials could combine beauty and comfort within financial reason.
The brittle and unforgiving natures of the compressed board were a glove-fit for the linear and functional design ethos – one that was easily achieved via a wooden frame.
Whilst the legacy of asbestos is still a common feature, it was not the only material used in Australian renditions of the mid-century modern architectural style. Whilst brick was a more time consuming and expensive option, it has definitely proved better. Many of the examples in and around the 2500 postcode that still exist have the fired-clay blocks to thank. In particular, a mention must go out to the large, earth referring sandstone blocks that create a feature on the outer façade of mid-century modern homes.
Such traits are often integrated into the property’s garden, a reiteration of ‘bringing the outside in and inside out’ mantra that Frank Lloyd Wright perpetuated in his Internationalist designs. Whilst many of the images in this article are not as awe-inspiring as Wright’s Fallingwater, they still carry with them the essence of it – they are “of the hill” rather than on it.
This is perhaps the most charming facet of a mid-century modern Australian home, the finer details that allude to something much greater and more grandeur. On this very thread of thought is the trigger for the famous quote “every man’s house is his castle”. If the home owner is King or Queen of the castle, then the open plan design and multi-functioning rooms are their servants. I don’t think there is a better marriage of form and function in a domestic setting than the mid-century modern home.
If you know something I don’t, want to share your home with us or just want to say hello – shoot an email to email@example.com