THE MODERNS: EUROPEAN DESIGNERS IN SYDNEY
It was while researching an apartment building project for Strata upgrades that I learned of the modernist movement in Sydney. Of course I had heard of Harry Seidler, and his journey to Australia and the impact he made on Australian design. However, it stood to reason that there would be others like him; who may not have achieved the accolades Seidler received, but had a strong influence on transforming Sydney from a colonial city to a modern one. The architect of the building I was researching, Hans Peter Oser, had emigrated to Australia from Austria before World War II. Wartime restrictions had put a halt on building practices. Post war, the traditional design from 1939 had been scrapped for a complete redesign in 1948 with a shift to modern architecture.
Oser's story is similar to the stories of so many who fled a war torn Europe for a better, peaceful life in Australia. Sydney Living Museum is currently hosting "The Modernist Season" at some of its venues. On now at the Sydney Museum, is an exhibit entitled "The Moderns". It details how these immigrant creatives fled countries affected by war such as Hungary, Austria, Poland, Czcheoslovakia, France, Germany. They arrived to begin a new life in Australia, only to find out that life in a new country was not without its struggles. One such struggle was that the NSW Board of Architecture did not recognise overseas education and experience. In the exhibit, there are letters of correspondence to the board, explaining their individual situation, credentials, and asking how they could go about practicing architecture in Australia. Some persevered, and went on to be registered architects while others made slight changes in their design vocation.
This group of architects, furniture designers, photographers, landscape designers, journalists changed the landscape of Sydney. They brought their European modernist training to Australia and adapted it to the southern climate. Immigrant George Korody worked as a partner with Elsie Segaert at Artes Studios (later rebranded as Space Furniture), and they began to import furniture from B&B Italia and Herman Miller. Susan Kozma-Orlay worked as a textile designer, before working on graphic design for David Jones before entering into furniture and interior design. There was the husband and wife team of Hugh and Eva Burich; his Burich House II was nominated the best example of modern architecture in Australia, while she went on to be an interiors journalist for various publications.
Hans Peter Oser mentioned at the beginning of this post; went on to partner with a French architect, Jean Fombertaux. to create the firm Oser & Fombertaux. Together, they designed such buildings as the William Bland Centre, Macquarie Street, and BOAC Travel Centre, Castlereagh Street. And the Oser building introduced at the beginning of this post? Well I know first hand what it's like to live in a modernist building, because as well as being a design project, it is also where I live!
The exhibit is full of stories, photos, plans, materials and furniture from this modernist era. I haven't even begun to detail it... you must check it out for yourself!
The Modernists in on now until 26 November 2017. For more information on the exhibit, click here. Museum of Sydney is located on the corner of Phillip and Bridge Street, Sydney.
All photography © Donna Vercoe. (Shot on a combination of Nikon SLR and iPhone.)