The Australian Ugliness at 60

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In 2020, the Robin Boyd Foundation is celebrating the 60th anniversary of Robin’s publication of The Australian Ugliness. Published in 1960, it has become canon for Australia’s built-environment and design practitioners and academics.

Following on a successful year of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robin, as one of Australia’s most influential architects, the Foundation planned to showcase his intellectual contributions with events, talks and films focused on the ideas, concerns and, ultimately, optimism presented in his most famous book.  Not only did we want to explore the book’s cultural and heritage impact, but we want to examine what has Australia embraced and improved from what was described as ugly, or what is now viewed as important and defining in comparison with 1960?

This is still the intent, when the Foundation and our iconic Walsh Street can once more open to the public after the coronovirus pandemic.

Until then, we can showcase the clever branding and design meant to be used for The Australian Ugliness@60 program using elements of the original book  cover designed by Robin.

The logo for The Australian Ugliness@60 program shines light on the book’s beauty —  the ugly truth. The logo’s design contrasts the beauty behind the ugly (greed, power, control and a lack of thought) through clarity, sophistication, timelessness and truth. The progressive use of typography and classical embrace of the statue in the new design reflects that which The Australian Ugliness intends to bring to light: whole, natural and incomparable beauty.

Robin Boyd wrote nine books and contributed to many others. In his lifetime, Boyd was often more well-known for his writings than his architecture. It was through his writings that Boyd raised Australia’s awareness of the built environment and the benefits of good design. The Foundation and its partners  work together to ensure that Robin’s written works are available and are revisited in popular and academic works.

The Australian Ugliness, particularly, is regarded as a modern Australian classic. It has been 60 years since the book was originally published, it has become an important critique and reference point for then nation’s understanding of its architectural and design.  The book was published during a time when Australia was starting to question its identity and culture, and thinking of its place and influence as its own nation-state.

Robin wrote the book as a polemic on the post-war adoption of ‘featurism’, his term for the post-war kitsch and clutter adopted in the domestic built-environment in particular.  He wanted and hoped for something better and was influenced by the new materials and thee cleaner more modern sensibility they brought to the built environment. Particularly on how they could be applied to an Australian design aesthetic.

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The Australian Ugliness, First Edition 1960.
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