Smudged Notes: Writing from the Robin Boyd Foundation

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Among many things that Robin Boyd was noted for was his truly a distinctive voice amongst architectural critics.  As a young student at the University of Melbourne, he was the editor of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects Students’ Society journal Smudges, awarding clever ‘blots’ or ‘bouquets’ to buildings and works indicating bad or good design (see image below).

According to the journal Architecture in Australia (now ArchitecturalAU) in its seminal, post-humous retrospective on Boyd:  ‘…in 1937, a new editorial committee comprising Roy Simpson, Robin Boyd, and Peter Newell was formed [to create] …a new format derived from bold experiments in typography and a diversity of material from voluntary contributors’ (issue February – April 1973).

Boyd’s ability to be understood and appreciated by people from all walks of life was and, still is, quite unique.  In many ways, his ability as a writer has outshone his skill as an architect, as his written work is still clearly articulated today amongst Australian academics, the architecture and built environment sector, and the general, design-curious public.

Head of Architecture at Monash University, architecture critic and Places columnist Naomi Stead wrote in her introduction to the journal’s reprinting of Boyd’s classic 1968 essay Antiarchitecture, ‘It is hard to overstate Boyd’s cultural and intellectual significance in Australia, and especially in Melbourne…Architects here have never again to any significant degree been able to influence this [mass middle-class housing] market, despite many efforts and much yearning.’

In 2019, during the Robin Boyd: Centenary of Design program, the Robin Boyd Foundation is showcasing Boyd’s published works and also asking academics, architectural influencers, and others to create new writings which echo or respond to Boyd.  To that end, below is a 1939 publication of  Smudges with Boyd as editors, demonstrating his youthful precociousness with its awarded bouquet to architects Oakley & Parkes for a CBD garage and a blot for the ‘barren waste’ approach to the old National Gallery of Art.




  • Smudges reprint courtesy of the University of Melbourne Library Digitised Collections: Smudges 1939
  • Places Journal is an essential and trusted resource on the future of architecture, landscape, and urbanism. We harness the power of public scholarship to promote equitable cities and resilient landscapes. See full introduction by columnist Naomi Stead and its reprint of Robin Boyd’s 1968 Antiarchitecture essay.

Contact if you would like to contribute to the Robin Boyd Foundation Smudged Notes.




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