Conferences, 2007

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FROM ART TO THE EVERYDAY: ROBIN BOYD AND THE 'WINDOWALL'
Philip James Goad

Last modified: 2007-09-14

Abstract


Throughout his career, Australian architect and critic Robin Boyd (1919-1971) explored alternatives for the orthodox elements of architecture. Using the laboratory-scale of the detached house, Boyd would rethink wall, roof, floor and window. He was interested in making such elements serve more than one function. He wanted to rationalise the architectural palette with the hope that his invented elements might develop new formal meaning, and hence potential acceptance at a broader professional and popular level. An early target of Boyd's design research was the combination of window and wall, culminating in 1952-53 with the patented Stegbar 'Windowall', a modular structural window framing system that was to have national application across the full breadth of Australian domestic architecture from the 1950s to the 1970s. Neil Clerehan has observed that, "It was with the Windowall that Boyd, more than any other single architect, gave our suburbs a distinctive look. Even Palladio couldn't do that. The Stegbar victory was his greatest triumph. His Windowalls were an intrinsic look of the fifties" (60).

This paper follows the development of Boyd's window-wall, from his earliest known projects in the late 1930s to unique custom-designed solutions, and in parallel the industrial application of his ideas that would give direction to his own project house designs, and subsequently influence the appearance of the typical suburban home. It will be shown that this process was one of transformation: in a characteristically modernist displacement, Boyd transformed the window of the artist's studio to become a structural glazed frame for the everyday Australian living room (Colquhoun 51).

Keywords


Australian architecture; modernism; Robin Boyd; windows

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