A VISUAL LIFE | Creative Direction + Design

Category: Design

TYPE-RIGHTER // state library

Visiting the State Library of New South Wales is always an enjoyable experience and the Mitchell Vestibule quote engraved in the sandstone foyer is a perfect example of classic type that resonates. It hints at the treasures nestled inside the oldest library in Australia that was established in 1826. There is an extensive range of heritage-listed special collections and references, plus my love for reading makes the library a nostalgic haven. Beautiful vintage books are on display with stunning cover designs and elaborate illustrations, providing much inspiration for artists, designers and typographers.

There are multiple exhibitions at any given time on interesting subjects and they are open to the public for free. Sydney Elders by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones, tells the stories of four Aboriginal elders (Uncle Chicka, Aunty Esme, Aunty Sandra, Uncle Dennis) with personal accounts of growing up in Sydney, their ancestors, as well as their contribution and legacy in our city. Another exhibit that was impressive and well curated was Dead Central. Taking you back to 19th century Sydney when there was a vast cemetery that opened in 1820, exactly where Central Station now stands. I never knew that a major burial ground with over 30,000 bodies was cleared in 1901 to make way for the station, and I don’t think many other Sydneysiders know this about the historic site. To begin with there is the clever use of type printed on black tape in two lines like a train track running along the hallway leading to the entrance. All the signage, backdrops, photography and displays are beautifully designed and complement the audio recordings and video reels perfectly.

HOUSE CALL // harry seidler, vaucluse waters

Soaring above the rugged coastline on the Diamond Bay cliff walk and balancing on the edge, is the 1960’s apartment block Vaucluse Waters. True to the modernist era, it is constructed predominantly of concrete and glass. It stands out in the area due to its vast height compared to the surrounding buildings as well as the prime position on the coast. Designed by renowned architect Harry Seidler, it is possibly one of his less famous projects in comparison to many other landmarks around Sydney.

In typical Seidler fashion, the style is very linear and angular with windows taking advantage of the vista. In old photos it seems there may have been balconies when it was first built, which have been closed in at some stage. The sweeping ocean views are breathtaking but have also subjected the apartments to the harsh weather elements. Unfortunately it is damaged and in need of major repairs, but hopefully the upgrades will be undertaken with respect to the original design. Many of these gems are constantly at risk, either lost completely in demolition or being redeveloped so much that the true architectural character disappears.

TYPE-RIGHTER // vintage branding

Discovering and documenting historic signage has become a hobby of mine. I’m always on the lookout for faded signwriting, vintage advertising and retro posters. With so much redevelopment in Sydney I am finding that many of these treasures from our past are being lost. Even looking back at my Instagram, it’s shocking to see how many of the images I’ve posted don’t exist anymore. These signs were taken on Devonshire Street which is being overhauled thanks to the new light rail route, so I’m just hoping they won’t disappear too. In particular, my love for classic Australian brands with a long heritage are my favourite finds. Even though Tooth’s brewery no longer goes by that name, some old signs are still on display which I’ve discussed before in a previous post about pub art. Bushells is instantly recognisable as it’s a national icon that has been around since 1883. Working in design, I enjoy seeing how these brands have evolved and how these examples remind us of our childhood and the culture of our country.

STREETSCAPES // work inc

Coworking spaces are rapidly growing in popularity and it’s no surprise since the way we work has changed so much. The rise of contractors, freelancers and startup businesses has proven that there’s a need for more flexible options. Individuals and small companies have embraced this office revolution because of the versatility of coworking sites. Many premises have 24/7 access which makes it convenient for people to choose their own hours and work during their most productive times. Working on your own can feel isolating, so having the chance to meet and socialise with others is an advantage. Not only can you get the interaction and support you normally wouldn’t have by being solo, it’s also a great way to network and collaborate.

Work inc is a truly unique space in Lavender Bay, at the base of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. The heritage site was designed by BJB Architects and Brenchley Architects who have preserved the 100 year old raw, industrial look of the historic warehouses. There are 4 sections from Bay 6 to Bay 10 with designated zones in each bay to cater for every need. Providing private offices, permanent desks, meeting rooms, boardrooms, break-out areas, event zones and even a podcast studio. There’s also the award winning Bay Ten Espresso which serves great food and coffee. Having a café on-site is convenient and is also perfect as an informal spot to meet.

The interiors are cool with the prominent re-purposed shipping container elevator dominating the space. The heritage-listed arches, exposed concrete walls and stunning windows showcase the original architecture of the building. These rustic elements are contrasted with modern steel structures and glass pods. Artistic touches abound with murals and quirky decorating details which are creative and inspiring. This is truly an example of how an imaginative vision can create a fun working environment while forming a community of it’s own.

HOUSE CALL // the ideal home

Douglas Snelling chair and foot stool, 1957 (timber and synthetic webbing); Douglas Snelling cabinet, 1949 (timber); George Nelson ‘Bubble’ lamp, 1947-70s (plastic and metal)

Robin Boyd ‘House of Tomorrow’, designed 1949 (model made 1992)

Wolfgang Sievers ‘House of Tomorrow’ photographs, 1949 (printed 1990)

Grant and Mary Featherston ‘Numero IV’ lounge suite, 1973-74 (polyurethane foam, ABS plastic and wool); Grant and Mary Featherston dining setting, 1969 (stem, plastic, timber, metal, rubber and fabric); Korban/Flaubert ‘Swaylamp’ floor lamp, 2002 (background); Marc Newson ‘Helice’ floor lamp, 1993 (foreground)

Catherine O’Donnell ‘Sirius Topography (series)’, 2018 (3M vinyl tape 471)

Mid century modern style made a comeback years ago and it’s not going away any time soon and for good reason – great design. I recently saw The Ideal Home exhibition and although it’s very small, it’s worth it if you’re in the area (there’s a larger second site at MAAS Powerhouse in Ultimo). The exhibit shows a slice of history with examples of what a 20th century Australian home looked like with furnishings and household items from the MAAS Collection.

In this era Australia had one of the highest rates of home ownership in the world and suburbs grew quickly. Modern technology and mass manufacturing made goods readily available to consumers and time saving products allowed more leisure. While modernist designers created trends in architecture, interiors and design internationally, Australian pioneers made their own mark. Architect Robin Boyd’s creations are featured as well as iconic furniture designers Grant and Mary Featherston.

Another interesting and unexpected element was the installation of drawings of the Sirius brutalist apartment block. I’ve written before about the threat of redevelopment that the iconic building is facing in my Save Our Sirius post. Catherine O’Donnell has covered the walls with tape outlines of the Sirius footprint, floor plans and elevations to showcase this treasure in a fresh way.

Australians embraced mid century modern as it represented comfort, style and function. 100 years later it is a lifestyle that we still aspire to today.

STREETSCAPES // give me a sign

It’s obvious from my posts that I love architecture, typography and anything vintage so these old finds are right up my alley. This bar in Rozelle is new but the clever retro design of the sign in a weathered style gives it an old world look. The empty shopfront in Bondi features original signwriting in the window with a pretty pink and white tile facade probably dating back to the 1950’s. The Royal in Bondi has just been revamped and I’m glad to see that the character of the pub has been retained. Sadly the tile words outside have been removed so I’m glad I captured it before they disappeared. I’ve shown examples of tiled signage in a previous post and it would be great to salvage them but I know tiles are difficult to remove successfully. These letters would have been so cool reinstalled by a swimming pool – fancy a dip?

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