Australia's Greatest Houses Are On Show At A Sydney Exhibition

Harry Seidler’s Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga Photo: Nicholas-Watt for Sydney Living Museums

Some of the greatest architecture in Australia isn’t found in grand public buildings such as the Sydney Opera House. Instead, they’re tucked away in suburban streets, where people live, as an exhibition currently on show at the Museum of Sydney reveals.

Iconic Australian Houses is a behind-the-scenes exploration of 30 of the most important Australian homes of the past six decades by the founding editor of interiors magazine Inside Out, Karen McCartney.

Interior detail from Neville Gruzman’s Hills House.

It begins in 1950 with the Wahroonga home architect Harry Seidler built for his mother, Rose, in 1950. (Fiona Lowry’s portrait of his wife, Penelope, in the gardens at Rose Seidler House won this year’s Archibald Prize). The property now sits alongside Elizabeth Bay House, Hyde Park Barracks and The Mint as a national architectural treasure.

Rose Seidler House marked the start of a watershed era for a new breed of Australian architects and McCartney’s choice of 29 homes reveals an intimate portrait of the design and building of these iconic houses as well as how it felt to live in them.

McCartney said she chose these places because of their innovation, design and response to climate and place.

“They are the best representation of the extraordinary calibre of architects and thinking that Australia has produced over the past six decades,” she said.

“The pioneering architects of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s took international design influences and reinterpreted them to suit the Australian landscape and climate. Since that time, architectural expression has really flourished in this country. It is something that we do really well.”

Homes by some of the most famous names in Australian architecture, including Robin Boyd, Neville Gruzman, Richard Leplastrier, Glenn Murcutt, Peter Stutchbury, and Ken Woolley are featured. McCartney has drawn on material from her two books on iconic Australian houses to bring them to life, including filmed interviews with the architects as well as the people who commissioned the houses and live in them.

The exhibition also has a sneak peek at one of the award-winning Australian houses featured in Karen McCartney’s forthcoming book, Superhouse: architecture & interiors beyond the everyday, which looks at stand-out contemporary architecture from across the world.

Iconic Australian Houses runs at the Museum of Sydney until August 17. Entry to the museum is $10/$5 children.

Now have a look at photos of some of the iconic houses featured.

Ian McKay’s Lobster Bay house on the NSW Central Coast
Neville Gruzman’s 1960s Hills House in Turramurra, NSW.
Buhrich House II, in Castlecrag, Sydney, by Hugh Buhrich – described by fellow architect Peter Myers as ‘the finest modern house in Australia’. Photo: Michael Wee
Mooloomba House, 1995, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, by Andresen O’Gorman Architects. Photo: Michael Wee.
Phillip Island House, which Melbourne architect Barrie Marshall designed for himself. Photo: Michael Wee.

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