Australia hasn’t always shown much interest in shouting about its most cutting-edge residential architecture. But Patrick Keane – a young Australian architect himself – is putting that to rights. He’s been hunting and gathering lesser-known or entirely unfamiliar gems from the past five decades and with photographer friends Brett Boardman and Byron Keane has been capturing his findings.
Keane's hoard comprises delights from eight of Australia’s most experimental designers: Hugh Buhrich, Durbach Block Jaggers Architects in association with Peter Colquhoun, LAVA, Harry Seidler, and Associates, Stan Symonds, and Keane’s own practice Enter Architecture. The upshot is From Form to Formless, the exhibition Keane has curated at Sydney’s Customs House, which runs till 17 October.
The show spans five decades of what Keane calls the experimental undercurrent in Australian design, running from the 1960s to present day. So there’s Hugh Buhrich’s low-profile house in Lilli Pilli, south of Sydney, with its figure of eight-style circulation pattern; the mono-material Plastic House by Chris Boss’s LAVA; and the Harry Seidler-designed Farrell house, with its teardrop shape and central stairway.
But perhaps we are most taken with Stan Symonds’ 1960s slick concrete, gravity-defying offerings, dotted around Sydney. The Schuchard House Seaforth has stunning views of middle harbour, and is what Keane calls 'the most famous infamous house in Australia'. When it comes to form embracing technology, futuristic aesthetics, and the influences of the 1960’s aerospace and automotive industries, Symonds was king.
Keane says these creations are united by being ‘conceptually rigorous, pushing the envelope on every level in terms of construction, respectful of the site and to views’. Even better, they’ve had little or no press, never photographed, rarely published. It seems that Keane has so far touched just the tip of the iceberg. There are certainly plenty more iconic structures to uncover. And as for their relative neglect in recent years, Keane puts it down to Australia’s hearty appetite for high-spec, bells-and-whistles new builds. ‘I think the developer-driven marketplace - boxes full of expensive appliances and maximize site coverage - has limited exposure to many of these projects,’ he says.
And it’s not just locals who should appreciate these uniquely Australian houses, he believes, ‘they’re worthy of international recognition as well.’