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Introduction by Christos Tsiolkas
Fifty years after its first publication, Robin Boyd’s bestselling The Australian Ugliness remains the definitive statement on how we live and think in the environments we create for ourselves. In it Boyd railed against Australia’s promotion of ornament, decorative approach to design and slavish imitation of all things American.
‘The basis of the Australian ugliness,’ he wrote, ‘is an unwillingness to be committed on the level of ideas. In all the arts of living, in the shaping of all her artefacts, as in politics, Australia shuffles about vigorously in the middle—as she estimates the middle—of the road, picking up disconnected ideas wherever she finds them.’
Boyd was a fierce critic, and an advocate of good design. He understood the significance of the connection between people and their dwellings, and argued passionately for a national architecture forged from a genuine Australian identity. His concerns are as important now, in an era of sustainability, suburban sprawl and inner-city redevelopment, as they were half a century ago.
Caustic and brilliant, The Australian Ugliness is a masterpiece that enables us to see our surroundings with fresh eyes.
‘As interesting and amusing and untechnical as a novel.’
‘Robin Boyd’s book clarified for all of us that Australian ugliness—how we would bludgeon the land into fertility, cut forests so that power lines could go through, so that cars could take precedence over everything…Conservatism reigned supreme; it had to be like that regardless of whether it was logical, whether it was appropriate, whether it responded to climatic variations…The buildings were the same from Melbourne to Darwin, and they still are the same.’
‘An argument for an environmental approach to design and a tirade against the visual pollution of the commercial strip.’
‘The link by which architects began to speak to the community and the community spoke back.’
‘An inspiring public intellectual and patriot.’