Centre for Architecture Theory Criticism History
School of Architecture

Home: A Suburban Obsession

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Research from the University of Queensland’s Architecture Theory Criticism and History Research Centre (ATCH) has featured in a major exhibition entitled Home: A Suburban Obsession, which opened at the State Library of Queensland earlier this month. Dr Deborah van der Plaat, Dr Nicole Sully and Dr Andrew Wilson worked on 'Act III' of the exhibition entitled 'Recollecting Home.' Consisting of 10 curated sets of photographic images and cabinets of supporting material drawn from the State Library of Queensland, a number of themes are explored. These include: ‘Artists in the Suburbs,’ parallel explorations of man-made environments by artists from across the globe including the German photographers Bernd and Hilda Becher, the American artists Ed Ruscha and Todd Hido, and Australian photographer John Gollings; attributes associated with the 'Queensland House', including 'Screening,' 'Under the house,' 'Open windows,' and 'Gardens,' elements that also speak of specific Queensland lifestyles and modes of living; 'Timber and Tin: Brick and Fibro' and 'Not the Queensland House,' which highlight the diversity of forms and materials that contribute to the complexity of the Queensland suburb; and 'Suburbs in Transition,' a series of sets which capture moments of change in the suburbs of the 60s and 70s with new photography by Paul Dielemans extending these observations into the present day. Digital stories and supporting displays that tell the real-life stories of occupants of homes found in the Corley collection complete the sequence.

The Frank and Eunice Corley collection consists of approximately 61,000 photographs of houses taken in Queensland suburbs in the 1960s and 70s and sold to households as calendars and Christmas cards. Consisting of images that didn't sell, and which were retained by Frank Corley for taxation purposes, it is estimated that the complete collection approached 300,000 images. Frank, in a pink Cadillac, drove the suburban streets of Brisbane (and a number of Queensland towns) documenting every house that could be seen from the street. Eunice, based in a mobile dark room parked strategically in each suburb, developed the film, and a team of salespeople worked the suburbs selling the images. While Frank and Eunice’s project was primarily an entrepreneurial one, the collection is valued for the stories it tells of Queensland’s suburbs, its heterogenous and complex nature, and the lifestyles it fostered.

Home: A Suburban Obsession explores the collection and how it is used and interpreted by various agents including researchers, artists, designers, educators and community groups. The exhibition also includes work by Dr Frederico Teixeira (UQ School of Architecture) working with Muge Belek, The Annerley Stephens History Group, Jennifer Marchant and Ian Strange.

The exhibition runs to July 14 2019.