CLASSICAL OZ – MAY 2017

 

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The architecture of the earliest buildings in Australia is late-Georgian Classicism, it was the natural way to build at that time. The early designers and builders didn’t put a foot wrong. Guided by the canon of Classical architecture and with the pressing need to meet the demands of the climate, they produced simple, efficient and often elegant, buildings.

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Typically the first houses are surrounded by wide houses to shade and cool the interior with slender, widely spaced columns to support the roof. French windows open onto the veranda, which are themselves further shaded by louvred shutters.

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Australian cedar is used for the joinery, where in England mahogany would have been used, but with a plentiful supply it could be used lavishly.

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Later, the successful early 19th century formula was overlaid with Victorian coarseness and eccentricity. Inevitably some buildings are more accomplished than others but many have great charm.

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After Federation the new slate built confidently with Edwardian buildings that match their contemporaries in Britain.

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However, between the World Wars a more distinctive approach developed that owed much to the Beaux Arts. One of the finest is the Commonwealth Savings Bank (1928 by H. Ross and H.Rowe) a building of breath-taking quality set between gigantic Ionic columns made – astonishingly – of faience.

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with cast iron bronze windows

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The banking hall remains almost perfectly intact, complete with scagliola Bassae Ionic columns. Even such details as the bronze pen-holders and calendar blocks are proudly preserved. The care with which this bank is maintained shames British banks.

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Classicism was the predominant style for public and commercial buildings

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but there was also Art Deco

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a sort of Californian Hispanic.

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and in the case of the State Theatre (1929) – actually a cinema: fantasy Gothic.

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