Streets of your Town is a two-part ABC series, hosted by Tim Ross – successful comedian, broadcaster, social commentator and enthusiastic – lover of all things modernism. The series explores the story of our Australian suburban landscape over the last 60 years, focusing on the development of our post-war suburban architecture. It examines the success and popular culture of visionary architects from the 1950s and 60s. Architects like Robyn Boyd, Sydney Ancher, Roy Grounds and Harry Seidler who adopted the international style of modernism.
Every day Australians, like my parents Donald and Patricia Irving from Como West, Sydney, embraced this new architecture. Thus, our suburbs boasted some of the greatest designs in the history of Australian architecture. I adored the house I grew up in because of its deliberate & thoughtful design. It was humble, with big beautiful windows that allowed the gumtree views inside. Indoors featured teal green shagpile carpet with matching green, black and gold geometrical wallpaper. I remember playfully rolling around that shagpile thread like it was yesterday, its soft beautiful texture against my skin.
I adored playing in our big backyard with its bright orange-coloured swing set, with the music of ‘The Shadows’ and ‘Abba’ blasting from the record player. Can you believe that our neighbours had a radio in their loo?? Imagine the simple joy for a child living in a liberal home like this. Sadly, our home with its A-Frame Roofline now sits renovated, largely colonised and completely unrecognisable to my eyes.
As a child born into the 70s era, I’ve always been quite perplexed by architecture and design from this period. Why was it that a wide population of Australians had so much confidence, pride, design – appreciation and a certain dedication to the experimentation of living in their homes? How did this evolve and how was it part of our Australian norm? How was it that my parents, Don and Trish were involved in something so, so cool? I’m not sure if I have all the answers, however, “Streets of Your Town” has helped me articulate why I had those questions in the first place. There genuinely was an amazing design movement that was embraced by everyday Australians who took their living and design very seriously.
During the ’80s and ’90s, as Tim rightfully points out, architecture and design moved in a very different direction. As a professional stylist, it is essential for me to appreciate homes from all walks of life, different styles and eras. Without that appreciation, I would struggle to do my job well. However, I do agree with Tim, that Australian design for a bloody decent-sized decade or two became less tasteful, less forward-thinking, weirdly super-sized and less about enjoying the beautiful country around us. I like that Tim takes a brave and opinionated stance on this.
For a great design movement to occur, and for actual change to happen in this area, it’s important that people have opinions and be willing to share them as Tim openly does. I will point out, that I don’t think he’s saying Australians shouldn’t have big houses, more so, if you’re going to build a home or renovate, do it well and thoughtfully.
Without spoiling the details of tonight’s series too much, he does appropriately raise the question, of whether the urban sprawl can realistically continue along its path of rural destruction. Rather than leave that question unanswered, he simply looks to the past of yet another fabulous design example to help resolve this question for us. Tim’s passion for Modernism is infectious and it gives me hope that perhaps the future of Australian design and architecture could once again be ignited for the masses in a forward-thinking and optimistic way. I’m thinking if Don and Pat Irving can see the benefits of forward-thinking design and architecture, so too can we… let’s put Streets of Your Town DVD, available here, on our Christmas wish lists people, let’s help Tim reignite the word!! Streets of Your Town is available on DVD and Digital Download on 16 November.
Rachael Honner (aka The Suburban Stylist)
P.s Please comment below or simply share this post to go in the running to win a Streets of your Town DVD – Drawn Thursday 17th November. You can view the last episode of Streets of Your Town on the abc at 8:30pm tonight.
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