The 6th Australian Architectural Convention Exhibition (6AACE) was held in Botanic Park, Adelaide, in June 1956. It was a public event that marked and demonstrated a significant shift in thinking among professional architects in Adelaide following the war.
A group of young, ambitious and progressive local architects first met under the monikers of the Architectural Research Group (ARG) (est. 1952) and the Contemporary Architects’ Group (CAG). The CAG included Brian Claridge, John Morphett, Keith Neighbour, Dick Roberts, John Chappel, Laurie Brownell, Alan Godfrey and Newell Platten. The members were interested in using new materials and design innovations, and some set up interdisciplinary relationships with other fields of art, most notably visual and performing arts; and involved themselves in administration. Claridge was particularly prominent, Vice President of the Contemporary Art Society of South Australia (CASSA) in the early 1950s, but Neighbour also promoted the idea of corporate and public art, and Platten was President of CASSA in 1961.
In 1954 the CAG published Modern Houses: Adelaide and Suburbs, in which it listed and located a number of the most progressive house designs that then existed in the city and its suburbs. It was a select list, and among them were several houses attributed to Philip Claridge (Brian’s architect father) and his various partners; and one solely attributed to Brian, which was his own recently finished home in Stonyfell.
In his first major newspaper article in 1953, Brian wrote of the benefits of using the free-plan (“open plan”). His comments reveal his aversion for contrived detail and ornamentation: he enjoyed stripping back to economical solutions, and his preferred, ecological aesthetic gravitated towards what is now referred to as “Organic” architecture, a form whose modernist, Oriental-inclined origins began with Frank Lloyd Wright and was influenced by some of the early-mid 20th century Scandinavian and Californian designer-architects, like Alvar Aalto and Richard Neutra.
The CAG decided to stage an exhibition of contemporary architecture to accompany the RAIA’s Sixth Australian Architectural Convention Exhibition (6AACE). Newell Platten and Ian Campbell soon joined the Design subcommittee. Platten recalls the group discussing the plan and making a drawing in the dirt at an initial meeting, but Dickson recorded that it was Claridge who was responsible for the original drawing of the layout. Keith Neighbour, who had returned from overseas’ work experience in America in 1954 and was then ensconced as a partner in Lawson Cheesman Doley & Partners, was elected Chairman.
The project featured the design and erection of a twelve temporary buildings and related artworks, featuring modern design principles and new materials. The process was complex: it involved producing plans and working in collaboration with architectural draftsmen from a number of different firms and government departments.
There were some wonderful examples of contemporary structures, such as Claridge’s Timber Pavilion, and of interfacing of architecture and art in 6AACE. Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz and Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski, who had arrived in Adelaide in 1954, were responsible for most of the sculptures and murals, but there were also sculptures by Voitre Marek and a large mural by Francis Roy Thompson.
It has been argued by a number of people involved that the 6AACE changed architecture in Adelaide and beyond. It attracted the attention of international and national architectural journals and press. Ostoja-Kotkowski documented the 6AACE on color film. He forged ongoing creative relationships with Dickson and Neighbour, and worked as a photographer of architectural projects from time to time. He was extremely prominent in embellishing corporate offices and factories around Adelaide and beyond in the years ahead, and made a major impact on stage design in Adelaide, especially during the Adelaide Festivals.
The modernization of architecture in Adelaide was underway, stimulated by the processes initiated in producing the 6AACE and the cross-fertilizations of disciplines. It was in large part due to CAG members and their relationships with local artists associated with the CASSA.
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