The making of Australia as we know it

But Australia has a shameful past in its treatment of its First Nations people, and here our difficult architectural history of Aboriginal reservations, missions and assimilationist housing designs goes unrecognized. Other settler-indigenous contact points are also overlooked, such as the transfer of technology of various building techniques, including tree bark cladding.

Many interpretations of our architectural history are disputed: Jackson criticizes some aspects (as he should), but not others. Differences of opinion most obviously occur in the assignment of stylistic descriptions to buildings in Australia. But Jackson defines the styles precisely, including extensively citing international precedents, without providing an explanation as to the various style names commonly used by scholars and in real estate parlance.

For example, an early 20th century house might be described as a Federation, Edwardian, Arts and Crafts or Queen Anne revival, or aligned with the English domestic revival, style American shingles or the Shavian. Jackson uses Queen Anne to encompass this period (however, the style which appears in Australia in the late 19th century is a partial revival of the early 18th century style of Queen Anne, mixed with many other influences) but does not does not dive into this range of style names which could be applied, sometimes interchangeably. Those confused by this mix, and others, will be none the wiser here.

This Queen Anne style house is one of the first built in the northern suburb of Killara. But its architectural style could be described in many different ways.Credit:Fairfax Media

Some aspects perhaps deserved a more in-depth or nuanced examination. Jackson describes the last two decades of Queen Victoria’s reign as an architectural pause, but the 1880s saw an extraordinary building boom across much of the east coast. She makes minimal references to Australia’s Greatest Economic Recession of 1892 and the Great Depression, drawing no conclusions as to the effects the two events had on architectural culture.

In my own areas of expertise I was puzzled by Florence Alsop working as an architect (no), the mention of Joseph Reed as a partner in Wright, Reed & Beaver (no) and the Australian work of John Smedley and William Salway as showing Asian influences (not that I could identify), suggestions perhaps more presumed than verified.


Crediting the design, commissioning and conservation of the MPavilion to the University of Melbourne is simply wrong: it is an initiative of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation which, together with key city partners of Melbourne and Creative Victoria, oversee the design of the pavilion and program each year at a unique site in Queen Victoria Gardens.

Freeland has firmly targeted its story to a broad audience, encapsulating eras with broad brushstrokes taking into account Australian architecture, from modest dwellings to grand style confections. Jackson, perhaps burdened with greater expectations, valiantly seeks to speak to both expert and lay audiences, as well as from her individual areas of interest and expertise.

There are gaps in the project – it is not exhaustive – but overall, and particularly in its dissection of architecture over the past 50 years, it is a major and welcome contribution. to the history of Australian architecture.

About Dora Kohler

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