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The Australian Ugliness: Text Classics

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  159 ratings  ·  13 reviews

Brilliant, witty, scathing, The Australian Ugliness is the classic postwar account of Australian society, how we live in the environments we create, and the consequences of our failure to think about how we live.

Boyd was a fierce critic, and an advocate of good design. He understood the significance of the connection between people and their dwellings, and argued passion

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published April 26th 2012 by Text Publishing (first published March 29th 1960)
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Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An Australian classic. Sadly as relevant today as when it was first published.
Surprising or depressing, depending upon your perspective, fifty years after its first publication Robin Boyd’s Australian Ugliness still resonates strongly as the base upon which much of urban Australia is built. While the current Victorian Government undertakes public consultation for the next phase of urban planning, Melbourne councils are under the same pressures from small but articulate groups hoping to influence taste and sensibility in planning and construction matters. Personally I don’ ...more
Stephen Coates
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1961, this book recorded Boyd’s observations of the development of architecture in Australia from the perspective of an architect with considerable awareness of and insight into the evolution of built architecture and architectural theory and found the result less than satisfactory. He takes particular issue with what he terms “Featurism", veneers of pretention and ostentation which he described as giving the desired effect without anyone having to work Saturdays to get the whole th ...more
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Cruel but kind — a precise description of one element in the pervasive ambivalence of the national character. Here also are vitality, energy, strength and optimism in one's own ability, yet indolence, carelessness, the "she'll do, mate" attitude to the job to be done. Here is insistence on the freedom of the individual, yet resigned acceptance of social restrictions and censorship narrower than in almost any other democratic country in the world. Here is love of justice and devotion to law and ...more
Simon Brown
I'm glad I hung in there and finished it as it was a bit tedious compared to "Australia's Home" which was a great and rewarding read. The Australian Ugliness was a great idea as a statement on architectural history in Australia and Robin's pet hate "featurism" and eventually proved a worthwhile read. However as great a writer the tragically short lived architect became, this book of 'isms' and grindingly slow argument on his topic may well have been a better as a short thesis rather than a novel ...more
I'm sorry, Robin Boyd! I tried to get all up with your theory but I just can't agree with it. And besides that, I'm on holiday and don't got time for your poetic voice about architecture. Maybe another time I will re-address this book but just too intense! Soz buddy.
James Raynes
I only have a fairly casual interest in architecture, but what's so amazing is the the insights Boyd has into Australian identity. They still hold true half a century later, and the book's worth a read for that in itself.
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting something less technical and so was pleasantly surprised by what I learnt. A real eye-opener of a book. I cannot walk down the street of my city (Melbourne) without Boyd's perspective shaping my perception of the architecture, fashions and trends all around me.
Nick Harris
Cruel but kind, features over function and form
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The universal visual art: the art of shaping the human environment, is an intellectual, ethical,and emotional exercise as well as a mean of expression. It involves the strange sort of possessive love with which people have always regarded their shelters. The Australian ugliness begins with fear of reality, denial of the need for the everyday environment to reflect the heart of the human problem, satisfaction with veneer and cosmetic effects. It ends in betrayal of the element of love and a chil ...more
Alex Lockhart
As relevant today as it was at it's publication. Boyd has managed to verbalize with great eloquence what I'm sure many aspiring Australian architects have only sensed as an intuitive distrust of the featurist environment that surrounds us.

A great book that has introduced a new layer of inquiry in my questioning of Australian architecture
Leandro Llorente
A good reminder on what we as architects constantly keep on forgetting.
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I needed to read it, had been on my list for years, and through doing so I unpacked some of my "Australian" architectural biases. Featurism is for sure a determinant of how comfortable I can feel in a given space, and why it was so challenging for me to live in the Netherlands: no features. Boyd's prescriptive smugness at times verges on bitchy in tone and classist in substance. 3.5 stars.
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“Not prepared to recognize where, when, or what he is living, the Australian consciously and subconsciously directs his artificial environment to be uncommitted, tentative, temporary, a nondescript economic-functionalist background on which he can hang the features which for the moment appeal to his wandering, restless eye.” 0 likes
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