Centre for Architecture Theory Criticism History
School of Architecture

Hardy Wilson, Georgian Revival and Race in Inter-War Australia

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

For the Research Seminar Series on Wednesday 26 April, Deborah van der Plaat will be presenting on:


Hardy Wilson, Georgian Revival and Race in Inter-War Australia



In 1924 the Australian architect Hardy Wilson published Old Colonial Architecture in New South Wales and Tasmania. The publication brought together Wilson’s drawings of Georgian buildings of the early Australian colonies, specifically the work of the English trained architect (later convict) Francis Greenway (1777-1837). Lauded as the first book to look positively at the architecture, Western or otherwise, produced in Australia, the appeal of the book is said to lay in its use of the Georgian style to evoke an Australian vernacular and a Modern aesthetic of ‘simplicity’ and ‘grace’. In 1923 the drawings were exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum (South Kensington) for three months at the invitation of the Board of Education (London). The Queen, who visited the exhibition, accepted an early copy of the book. 


The aim of this paper is to look at the value of Georgian architecture and its revival in twentieth century Australia not from the perspective of Wilson’s audience but the architect himself. It will be argued that the Georgian architecture of penal Australia represented for the locally born architect the peak of Anglo culture in colonial Australia but one, that from the point of settlement, was in dramatic decline. For architecture to develop and thrive in Australia the continent had to look to new and nearby influences, and specifically China. It will be argued that Wilson’s thesis has it origins in a theory of civilisation and its progress common to the eighteenth century that identified geographical properties (including climate) as the determinant of racial character and appropriate architectural form. It will also be argued that Wilson’s turn to the Georgian must be seen as a response to a biological theory of race and its growing influence in national policy (the White Australia policies), architecture, and the exclusion of Asia in both.