Walter R Butler: Postmodern architectural advice from 1902, from the federation to the future.
June 23, 2014
Walter Richmond Butler authour of Modern Architectural Design and the Architecture of Healthy Home, published in 1902 was one of a generation of English architects who were trained in an era when the Anglo-Catholic architectural philosophies of A. W. N. Pugin and the moral aesthetic ideals of John Ruskin were still severed and the might of the industrial age was scorned. Architecture was inspired by the theories of the Arts and Crafts and buildings were intended to be wholly suitable and respectful of their situation, yet remain idiosyncratic, inventive, adventurous and original. Properly designed, an Arts and Crafts building sat comfortably in its environment, whilst being comfortable to live in and beautiful to look at. In all ways, it was meant to touch the soul of mankind. many of the tennants of this group of Architects resonates largely with the threads of architecural practice today. In particular the ideas about Health and hosuing are particularly resonate of current trends, that would not be out of step with architects such as John Pawson or Claudio Silvestrin.
For English architects Arts and Crafts was about embracing their Englishness, but for Australian architects it was more complex. Melbourne architects, who sometimes behaved in a manner more British than those in the 'Old Country', had no (acceptable) local vernacular to avail themselves of and only a small number of architects - Rodney Alsop, Harold Desbrowe Annear, Robert Haddon, Walter R. Butler – stood out from the many who only seemed capable of designing one Melbourne ‘Queen Anne' building after another.
In short the piece on the Architecture of the Healthy Home summerizes that "Friendly intercourseassists us much in the development of anything that is worth having, as it does in the exclusion of that which is unworthy of our attention"
Other interesting reads on what formed Australian Vison in Architecture are also available here. While Domestic Architecture in Australia EDITED BY SYDNEY URE SMITH AND BERTRAM STEVENS IN COLLABORATION WITH W. HARDY WILSON PUBLISHED BY ANGUS &. ROBERTSON, LTD. SYDNEY 1919, looks at the issue from the standpoint of the local factors affecting the problem — climate, topography (especially around the great harbours), system of land tenure, materials. "Australia is a sunny land, the climate hot, encouraging out-door life by day and night; so that the house required is rather a shelter from heat, wind and dust than from cold, rain and snow.
This suggests spacious rooms, somewhat lofty with thick walls, not over windowed — the windows probably double hung sashes, ample verandahs with shelter from "Southerlies," "Westerlies," and "North Easters," and a sound system of protection from insects hungry to attack the structure and its inmates." The contrast of the building techniques today is palpable, but not that far removed in vision.