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The Thirties - Art Deco and Streamline Style


Federation, the European influence

Contemporary - the Australian way of life

Federation Style in Australia

Australia became a Federation in 1901. As one of the few nations to have ever gained it's (semi) independance through peaceful means, our Federation celebrations were a pretty happy affair all round. Well, unless you were indigenous, a Republican, unemployed, etc. nla.gov.au/pub/nlanews/2002/feb02/article1.html

In all areas of applied arts of the time, symbols of our Australian-ness abounded. Native flowers were used as decorations in handcarved furniture, ormolou silverware and graphic design, such as the Invitation shown to the right.

In the decade or two that followed, this jingoistic nationalism continued. In particular, during the 'Great War' (WWI) patriotic fervour influenced both Fine and the Applied Arts, as can be seen by this recruitment campaign poster where a kangaroo urges young men to fight for Britain.

WWI, and in particular the disatrous Gallipoli campaign is often called Australia's "baptism by fire", and is seen as crucial in our development of our national identity. It was then that we really broke away from the apron-strings of the 'Mother Country'.

"Federation Style" is often used today in the context of domestic architecture.

As the name suggests, the Federation style house was built in the Federation era from the end of the 19th Century to the 1920’s. It was the first distinctive Australian house type, designed to embrace the outdoor lifestyles of the Australian people..... typical Federation homes have front verandas with decorative timber handrails, with tiling on the patio floor and on entry into the house.....the houses are usually made of a deep red or dark brown brick, often with a mix of the two. archicentre.com.au/FederationHouse.pdf

The design of Canberra was also a significant event of this era. The design of our national capital was the result of an international competition won by a relatively unknown US architect couple. I've added below more information about the couple from another module, the topic being Art Nouveau in the US. You can see that in addition to the nationalistic flavour of Australian Federation style, international influences such as Art Nouveau were still also very strong at that time.

source: nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an8334419

detail showing Australian native flora & fauna

Walter Burley Griffin (1876 -1937)

American architect dismissed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a mere 'draftsman', but who is also credited with developing the Prarie Style. He achieved more than mere houses, though. Along with his wife Marion, he won a competition to design Australia's capital city, Canberra, in 1912. pbs.org/wbgriffin/griffins.htm

When Australia became a Federation in 1901, a capital city had to be designated between rivals Sydney and Melbourne. How to choose? Aha! How about neither? Make a brand new city from scratch, half way between the two? And so, a competition was begun to find the plan for the ideal city to be the centre of government for our new country.

The surprise winner of that competition was the virtually unknown American architect, Walter Burley Griffin. The Griffins believed that architecture was more than mere buildings. Their spiritual beliefs, including Theosophy, are now thought to have influenced their design for the city to a large extent, although they kept very quiet about such influences at the time. Provincial, practical Australia was hardly likely to accept such ideas, especially in regards to the development of their capital city.

Marion Mahony Griffin (1871-1962)

Worked for Frank Lloyd Wright for 14 years, taking over the completion of a number of important commissions FLW left behind when he abandoned his wife and children and ran off to Europe with a mistress. Mahoney then went to work for Walter Burley Griffin. At first they were just colleagues, but then it became more and they were married in 1911. They worked together on the submission of the winning competition entry for Canberra, and it's acknowledged that her beautiful drawings and impressive draftsmanship played an important role in the win. They collaborated for the remainder of their professional life together, and after Walter's death in 1937 she went on to concentrate on work as a town planner.

Photo: Tim Loftus at Prarie Styles

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