Paper presented at Translation: The Thirty First Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand, 2-5 July 2014
When Gropius came to Sydney (and Melbourne)
On Monday 3 May 1954, Walter and Ise Gropius alighted from a Pan American flight at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. Gropius had been invited to present at the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ (RAIA) Fourth Australian Architectural Convention and his presence in Australia created an immediate stir not only within architectural circles but also the popular media. His social and professional engagements and his sometimes controversial opinions on local issues and the future of architecture were all eagerly reported. This level of attention was welcomed and in fact anticipated by the convention organisers – the New South Wales (NSW) Chapter of the RAIA – who had sought not only to attract but to provoke broad public interest in the event.
The significance of Walter Gropius within Australian architectural discourse of the 1950s has been acknowledged. This paper looks at the way in which his momentous visit to Sydney in 1954 was interpreted broadly, across both popular and professional media. Drawing additionally on the archives of the New South Wales (NSW) Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), the paper traces the history and development of the Fourth Australian Architectural Convention, and in particular, Gropius’ role within its strategic agenda.
Photograph: Max Dupain. National Library of Australia.