When Robin Boyd’s book was first published in 1960, his critique of Australia’s architectural landscape was denounced as “absolutely unpatriotic for his withering criticism of Australian aesthetics” (Phillip Adams, Late Night Live). At the time, Boyd argued for a shake up of the way in which Australians think about, teach and consume design. His book became a best seller which opened up new conversations about design.
Listen to this great Late Night Live (LNL) coverage of the 50th anniversary of Boyd’s book (from 2010). The guests reflect on the cultural impact of Boyd’s work, drilling into Boyd’s argument about Australia’s “aesthetic calamity.” Boyd was moved to write the book because, as he saw it, Australians did not realise how bad our design was at the time (its “atrocious prettiness”).
As the Australian suburban sprawl continues to expand, the podcast guests argue that Boyd’s vivacious writing still resonates. The guests on Late Night Live argue that some critics missed Boyd’s point, which was not derision of suburbia per se. Rather Boyd sought to improve the visual landscape. This includes not just artistic vision, but also making better use of space (“medium density”). Boyd focused on “anti-featurism,” a concept focusing on necessity and “lean” design, rather than excess and superfluous detail.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently reported that Australia’s population is set to double by 2050 to 46 million people. Much of this growth will occur in suburbian Melbourne and Sydney, which will each house 8.5 million people. This population expansion will require architectural ingenuity both in terms of design, maximising space, and sustainability.