Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. The Australian Ugliness by Robin Boyd. The Australian Ugliness 3. Fifty years after its first publication, Robin Boyd's bestselling The Australian Ugliness remains the definitive statement on how we live and think in the environments we create for ourselves. In it Boyd rallied against Australia's promotion of ornament, decorative approach to design and slavish imitation of all things American.
In all the arts of living, in the shaping of all her artefacts, as in politics, Australia shuffles about vigorously in the middle - as she estimates the middle - of the road, picking up disconnected ideas wherever she finds them. He understood the significance of the connection between people and their dwellings, and argued passionately for a national architecture forged from a genuine Australian identity.
His concerns are as important now, in an era of suburban sprawl and inner-city redevelopment, as they were half a century ago. Caustic and brilliant, The Australian Ugliness is a masterpiece that enables us to see our surroundings with fresh eyes. This handsome anniversary edition is complemented by Robin Boyd's original sketches for the book and a new afterword by major contemporary architects.
The Australian Ugliness is a book by Australian architect Robin Boyd. Boyd investigates the Australian aesthetic in regard to architecture and the suburbs. Fifty years after its first publication, Robin Boyd’s bestselling The Australian Ugliness remains the definitive statement on how we live and think in the environments we create for ourselves. In it Boyd railed against Australia’s promotion of ornament, decorative approach to.
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Be the first to ask a question about The Australian Ugliness. Lists with This Book. Jan 02, Mark rated it it was amazing Shelves: Sadly as relevant today as when it was first published. While the current Victorian Government undertakes public consultation for the next phase of urban planning, Melbourne councils are under the same pressures from small but articulate groups hoping to influence taste and sensibility in planning and construction matters.
Reading this book makes me despair the more. After more than three years involvement on a local restructure plan group in my suburb, the final plan adopted by council is a bland collage of images from elsewhere and a total failure to lead a collective design process. Despite the potential to actively seek visionary and inclusive designers for target sites, the councillors themselves renege on their responsibilities to show the community how it can be done.
It begins with a will to do something memorable. Unfortunately that still falls in the category Boyd dubs Featurism. One detail which is countable and photogenic for the mayor of the day, that can be completed within their term, is more important than a lastly flavour of an area for generations to come. And so generation will continue to be from impoverished and hybrid seeds. Part of the problem is that we still do not have cooperative efforts in education or conferences for architects, town planners, engineers, and ordinary citizens to come together in an artistic chaos of relationships.
Until we learn how to talk to each other, envision effectively together, and have those who are planning to live in a particular development embedded in the process of creating the lifestyle they want within the structures built on their behalf, ugliness and compromise is all we will achieve. Even the Docklands development so lauded by a previous state government here in Melbourne, is receiving negative returns by the closure of shops as the initial leases fall due, as the promised customers are not continuing to come.
Restaurants have closed as well. And reports are that many of the high rise apartments are not on suitable foundations less than a decade after the grand plan was undertaken. Overseas investors and occupiers are now targeted for whole buildings, as the locals refuse to buy in to a project which has grown beyond the capacity of the community to support. The same principles of splashed on colour to make up for poor design elements from other perspectives continues to play a large part in these structures. Many look like an overturned playbox of scattered blocks.
While the book is written in a very approachable style, there are plenty of references to architects and styles which make it easy for the keen reader to undertake further research.
While none of this covers the more recent developments of green buildings, it does at least give a sense of developing an aesthetic sense from which to overcome the blind-spots of our culture. Hopefully movements such as the Kitchen Garden programs now in many primary schools will also have some influence here, but they are not enough on their own. The built space needs to become more accessible to the minds of students as an environment over which they have some say texturally as well as contexturally, for a real difference to become possible into the future.
Healthy buildings are also a more modern approach which this book does not really cover. The high reliance on air conditioning is not only harmful from the point of view of failure to maintain adequate cleaning of filters or the risks of air-borne diseases, but the electrical currents and field radiations of energy use with such structures is still going largely unrecorded and unattended to.
We assault ourselves constantly by such ignorance. In a recent conversation with an architect friend we discussed the ad hoc copyist nature of many of the buildings which gain some interest from local heritage groups.
As heritage works on many levels it makes it difficult for the marginally interested citizen to come to terms with. Mostly, his conclusion was, people are only fighting for the retention of what is familiar, not what attains to any specific merit artistically or architecturally. They are just not aware of these aspects for the most part, or many of them would be looking for more experimental and forward thinking architects for new buildings now.
Perhaps some of the stark contrasts Robin Boyd presents might still reach a few more citizens to wake them up to the possibilities and opportunities they have been letting slip by. A platform is needed on a high enough scale, but with local roots and branches, to bring enough momentum behind these issues in an effective way.
Perhaps that might become another topic within the Melbourne designation of a centre for books and ideas. Invitations to other major cities and regional centres could gain the momentum we need as a nation. Jul 05, Stephen Coates rated it really liked it. He defined Featurism as the subordination of the whole and the accentuation of selected separate features and in the most common form, these features are not required — they mean little and do nothing. In his treatise against mediocrity, he saw a scale between genuinely creative architects and machine building and argued for an elimination of the in-between styles which are neither rational nor poetic.
He described Australian ugliness as an unwillingness to be committed on the level of ideas which are the key to design. He also saw the late 19th century mechanised multiplication of ornamentation as initially spreading ugliness by making suburbs appear as if they want to be mass produced but that this industrialisation had the potential to eliminate unnecessary ornamentation.
Although written close to 60 years ago, his insight into the development of architecture in Australia still resonates with the built architecture today and the persistence of Featurism and ugliness in much of Australian architecture, especially in the housing stock would, if he were alive today, not surprise him.
Here also are vitality, energy, strength and optimism in one's own ability, yet indolence, carelessness, the "she'll do, mate" attitude to the job to be done. She is a silent, stylized figure, dressed in gold. This survey of Australian architecture largely focuses on the highly formal, the decorative and kitsch, at times leaning toward the post-modern.
Yet this film makes no such conclusions or judgments. The Fishbowl was completed in and quite literally took on the form of a fish bowl. Yet Boyd fiercely defended it. Would Boyd have shifted toward post-modernism had he continued to live? The video installation also pans through a display suite for vapid apartment tower — another encounter of the same dilemma. Lifestyle sales images are interspersed with shots of the Ambassador in the display suite, looking completely alienated by her surroundings.