An Australian Architecture
Philip Cox (COX Architects)


Early Aboriginal Shelter

©Cox Architects

I think the popular conception of Australia is that it's the last of man, it's the oldest continent. In many ways it's wrong. It's the newest of continents although it contains some of the world's oldest populations. Australia was populated by the aboriginals 40,000 years ago. So that the heritage of Australia has been 40,000 years and that generally has been ignored in most Australian history, particularly in the architectural history today. Because they're always considered as nomads, they didn't have settlements as Europeans had settlements, and they had an architecture that is very light architecture built of bark and sticks and leaves and reeds and natural materials. And hence the idea of the whole ideology of an aboriginal architecture touching the ground lightly, resting on it very gently, because the earth to the aboriginals is extremely sacred because it was their means of support. The architecture that transplanted from Europe to Australia was essentially Neo-Classical in character. And that, mingled with the materials which the aboriginal used, became quite a phenomenon. So you find these very strange primitive Georgian houses of bark or timber or mud or whatever they are.


First Australian/European House

©Cox Architects

And I suppose that, out of that, arose what is commonly called the first Australian European architecture which was the verandahed large-hat form, although, if you analyse it, it is really a derivation of the Indian bungalow. It certainly became the prototype of an inspiration for a Whole heap of architects rather than say the late period between 1815 and say 1900; and then Victorian architecture took hold. Really it was the Georgian that had the trappings put onto it, so that the cast-iron verandahs, the way in which the verandahed model got adapted was really a superficial viewpoint rather than a radical determination. An incredible breakaway and confusion occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, I believe, in Australia When there was a reassessment and a re-evaluation of what was an Australian architecture. There was a confusion in terms of putting style rather than climate or geographical influences at that point of time. Really it took until the 1950s, the post-war reconstruction time, before the true seeking of an Australian identity took place again. And it is in flat sort of environment that I grew up as an architectural student, and the natural thing to do was to turn back to the earlier period rather than the Victorian or turn-of-the-century period where Australian identity could be very, very faintly traced.

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