A new book on Australian architecture responds to Australian architect Robin Boyd’s seminal text, The Australian Ugliness, as it takes a fresh look at the nation’s ‘ugly past’ through a series of critical essays by multiple authors.
Co-published by the National Gallery of Victoria and Thames & Hudson Australia, After The Australian Ugliness features several authors including architectural historian Philip Goad, author and journalist Benjamin Law, artist Eugenia Lim, designer and founder of the National Aboriginal Design Agency Alison Page, and writer and founder of the Planthunter blog and Wonderground journal Georgina Reid.
Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness, which was published in 1960, examined Australia’s architectural landscape as well as the negative forces he saw shaping the country’s society and culture in the mid-twentieth century. While highlighting Australia’s architectural flaws, he also offered design solutions that would change the architectural trajectory of its urban and suburban spaces.
More than sixty years later, the new book explores the significance of Boyd’s influential volume with each author making Boyd’s work live in the contemporary moment as they examine how the Australian aesthetic has changed since 1960, and how other Australian ‘uglinesses’ as identified by Boyd, remain unchanged.
After The Australian Ugliness is edited by Naomi Stead, professor of architecture at Monash University; Thomas Lee, senior lecturer in design studies at the University of Technology Sydney; Megan Patty, NGV head of publications; and Ewan McEoin, NGV senior curator of contemporary design and architecture.
The new book features 18 essays by twenty authors, including architects and landscape architects, architecture and design academics, fiction authors, social commentators, curators, historians, publishers, archivists and editors.
The visually rich publication features new photography by David Wadelton that captures the rapidly changing face of Melbourne’s built environment in evocative black-and-white images, a selection of drawings from illustrator Oslo Davis, who has reimagined Boyd’s satirical drawings from the original text and placed them in contemporary settings, and never-before-published photographs taken by Boyd himself, as well as a group of photographs by Melbourne photographer Nigel Buesst that originally appeared in the 1968 and 1971 editions of The Australian Ugliness.
Tony Ellwood, director of the National Gallery of Victoria, said, “Robin Boyd was not just one of Australia’s great architects, he was also one of its most effective communicators. Boyd encouraged Australians not to look to Britain or America for inspiration in the built environment, but to the landscape around them. At a time when the influence of design was not widely understood in Australia, Boyd’s writing impacted the public consciousness in a way no architect has before or since.”
Launched recently at Boyd’s Walsh Street house as part of the NGV’s Melbourne Art Book Fair, After The Australian Ugliness will be available from the NGV Design Store and select retailers from 1 April 2021.