With full marks for my first assignment I felt confident to tackle Module 2: The History of Style, Decoration and Architecture, and yes I was quite excited by the topic. 

I know I sound like a nerd being excited by history, but I found it fascinating to see how different design periods were reflected across history and to be able to recognise what influences and characteristics we still see in architecture and design today.

This assignment had me back to the library checking out large volume books on 19th,20th and 21st century Australian architecture and reminded me of my, oh so long ago, Uni days.  Again “Nerd Alert” but it was quite nostalgic (not that I was overly studious or anything).  There are just those things about Uni life that you have to love; minimal responsibilities, long holidays and the future full of possibilities…..

Ok I digress, so looking through these texts and searching online I came across some beautiful homes from the early Colonial period of the 19th century through to Modernism in late 20th and beyond.

I love the classic Victorian (named for this period of Queen Victoria’s Reign) Terrace House found in the inner suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne from the late 19th century  with its recognisable cast iron balconies and filigree detail.


Post the gold rush in the 1840-1890’s, as population increased and more people settled with their wealth in closer proximity to the cities, more ornate styles of architecture was sought.   The introduction of iron balustrades, brackets, fringes and friezes that could easily be added to existing colonial period verandas became popular and with the population boom in densely packed inner suburbs, the terrace house met the brief.  This terrace style was imported from Britain and built in more prominent suburbs were wealth could afford them both location and elaborate decorative style.

Features of the Victorian terrace include the intricate cast iron veranda screen, masonry form or stucco exterior, deliberately hidden roof elements with a decorative parapet or central pediment, symmetry in paired urns and the continued use of cast iron in low front fencing.  The arch windows and column roof balustrade also tie back to Victorian classical features.

One of my favourite periods and influence was that of the Federation style cc 1880-1910.  When along with the industrial revolution influencing materials and supplies, the quite diverse trends in Britain, Europe and America architecture were adapted to our needs.

Exposed to multiple influence allows a lot more imagination and freedom in the Federation period and architects were keen to create a unique Australian Style. Less formal than the Victorian and more suited to the Australian climate they designed homes with embedded symbols of flora and fauna in timber work and exterior finishes. Variations of the Federation home include Queen Anne and Art Deco or Art Nouveau styles.  I think it was as much the interior designs of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau homes as the exteriors that I was attracted to.

This style of architecture didn’t rely on symmetry; on the contrary as in this example it projected one side of the house forward to the street with the remainder front covered in veranda and set back.  Bay windows were also a feature style of this architectural design.

As we move further into the 21st century it will be interesting to watch architecture evolve to further encompass the technology age and the eco-efficiency of buildings.  The continued push to reduce waste, for re-materialisation or recycling and utilisation of renewable resources and safe materials will become determinates in design.  One such model of thought” cradle to cradle” design states its goals is “fitting humans to inhabit the landscape” with nature as its guide. (Toward a Sustaining Architecture for the 21st Century: The Promise of Cradle-to-Cradle Design; William McDonough)  I like what that promises.



May 29, 2015 by Sharee Potter

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