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The Sydney regional style "nuts and berries"

  11 Wentworth Memorial Church 27 Evelyn Williams Building
43 Arena Sports Building
  nor-woolley2.jpg (52672 bytes)  
  72 Merewether Building 10 Woolley house, Mosman  

Image of a split-level Pettit & Sevitt project home.

Pettit & Sevitt Split-level MkII. Painted brick walls, clerestory windows and split level planning, often in a native landscape setting.
Project home designed by Ken Woolley and Michael Dysart, 1960s.

As noted elsewhere in this book, after World War Two the International style started to make a worldwide impact, and buildings everywhere began to look more and more similar. In spite of this bowerful move towards uniformity, some recognisably regional versions of modern architecture evolved in various parts of Australia. These regional styles were most often found in houses and other buildings of domestic scale, and they were the creations of architects practising in the capital cities. Melbourne Regional and Brisbane Regional developed in the Post-War period; Sydney Regional, Perth Regional, Adelaide Regional and Tropical in the Late Twentieth-Century period.
Just as the International style was gaining widespread acceptance in many parts of the world during the 195os, reactions against its sleek impersonality became evident. Le Corbusier, the darling of the modern movement, shocked his disciples with ‘brutally’ hefty buildings which exploited the qualities of raw, rough concrete. The tough- minded Brutalist style became the new avant- garde movement.
In this general climate, some of the post-war generation of Sydney architects (the Sydney School, as they came to be collectively known) developed a style of domestic architecture attuned to the lifestyle to which their upper-middle-class or artistically nonconformist clients aspired. While they avoided the overt aggressiveness associated with Brutalism, architects of the Sydney School were greatly influenced by the qualities of the sites on which their houses were often built: sloping, rocky, well-treed and with views of quiet reaches of the harbour. Typically, a house would descend its hillside site in a series of split levels covered by roof planes approximately parallel to the slope of the land. This configuration helped to produce interior spaces of greater richness and complexity than were found in the box-like rooms of more conventional houses.
Perhaps influenced by varying combinations of Brutalism, Arts and Crafts, traditional Japanese architecture and the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Sydney School architects injected a feeling of warmth into their houses by exploiting the textural and tactile qualities of traditional, so-called natural materials: painted common bricks or gnarled clinkers, tiled roofs, and unpainted timber which was sometimes left in its sawn state. Ideally, the building site was left untouched; any introduced landscaping made use of informal arrangements of Australian flora, the exclusive use of which was mandatory.
During the 1960s, houses in the Late Twentieth- Century Sydney Regional style proliferated when the idiom was adopted by up-market project house builders. Companies such as Pettit & Sevitt commissioned leading exponents of the style to design ‘demonstration houses’ which could be replicated on their clients’ own sites.

Lyons House
Schuchard House
Project house, Program Building Industries, Aminyah Place, Riverview, NSW. Michael
Disart, architect, 1967. This house won a Project House Design Award for its builder.
The Woolley house, Bullecourt Avenue, Mosman, NSW. Ken Woolley, architect , 1960. A split-level house which won the Wilkinson Award.

Quoted from:
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.


As the international style was making its impact in the CBDs of Australian capital cities, a new type of architecture began to appear in the Sydney region. The style, referred to as the Sydney School or ‘Sydney nuts and berries’, developed partly as a reaction to outside influences such as the international style and was influenced by organic architecture, brutalism and arts and crafts. It was also concerned with improving the quality of housing for average Australians.

Sydney School houses were often built on sloping bushland sites around Sydney Harbour’s sheltered upper reaches. The sites had a great influence on the architects, with the native landscape being fundamental. The houses typically followed the slope of the site through split level planning with roofs parallel to the slope, creating complex and interesting interior spaces. Natural materials were exploited, with dark tiles, clinker or painted bricks and stained timbers creating a feeling of warmth in the houses.

In the late 1960s the popularity of the Sydney style increased markedly, as project home companies like Pettit and Sevitt commissioned leading practitioners of the style such as Ken Woolley and Michael Dysart to design demonstration houses, which could be built on sites for clients. A number of examples were built in the developing Canberra bushland suburbs of the late 1960s and early 1970s such as Aranda, Cook, Hawker, Garran, Curtin, Lyons, Chapman and parts of Kambah. There are good examples of the style in Canberra by Allen, Jack and Cottier, Ian McKay and Michael Dysart. Another good Canberra example of the style is the RAIA Headquarters at 2a Mugga Way, Red Hill, designed by the firm Ancher, Mortlock, Murray and Woolley in 1967.

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