Gold and Golden: The colour of contradiction in Australian architecture

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Abstract

In 1806 J.M.W. Turner produced a painting of the Garden of Hesperides, complete with guardian dragon, which captures the themes of paradise and prosperity, decay and discord that were prevalent in the early 19th century and
which found their way to the Australian colonies. By the late 19th century these opposing themes were embedded in Australia’s architectural narratives. Perhaps in reference to this painting, an early settler en route to Western Australia
anticipated finding “the golden garden of the Hesperides [but] without the guardian Dragon.”1 Turner’s painting offers a vehicle through which this paper will explore the complexities associated with the colour gold and notions of the
golden in Australian architecture. On the one hand gold is the colour of promise and prosperity. This was especially so in the golden age of Old Colonial architecture, representing for many historians the peak of Australian architectural achievement, only matched a century later by Modernism’s whiteness. Gold was the warmth of materials used by the early colonial architects and the glow of honesty underpinning their structural logic; it was the transient dappling of light falling on flagstones and whitewashed walls. It was the colour of a nostalgic attraction to a pre-industrial life. At the same time, gold features as the colour of discord in Australian architecture and urbanism. Ironically, it was the unearthing of gold, first in the eastern states, and later in Western Australia, that fed rapidly growing wealth and populations, generating a cultural euphoria that was nowhere more clearly reflected than in the High Victorian streetscapes of Australia’s expanding cities. For the twentieth-century historians enamoured with white, the discovery of gold had ornamented and coloured Australian architecture in ways almost intolerably overt and superficial. This paper will examine the contradictions accompanying Australian architecture’s golden moments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSAHANZ 2016
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
EditorsAnnMarie Brennan, Philip Goad
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherSociety of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
Pages270-276
Number of pages7
Volume33
ISBN (Electronic)9780734052650
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventSociety of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) 33rd Annual Conference - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 6 Jul 20169 Jul 2016

Conference

ConferenceSociety of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) 33rd Annual Conference
CountryAustralia
CityMelbourne
Period6/07/169/07/16

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Cite this

Hislop, K. (2016). Gold and Golden: The colour of contradiction in Australian architecture. In A. Brennan, & P. Goad (Eds.), SAHANZ 2016 : Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (Vol. 33, pp. 270-276). Melbourne: Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand.