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Climatic Crisis: Place, Taste and Race in Hardy Wilson’s 'Dawn of a New Civilization' (1929)

Author(s): Deborah van der Plaat

Journal: Architectural Histories
ISSN 2050-5833

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: Art. 22;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Australian architecture | climate theory | artistic agency | colonial architecture | Hardy Wilson | race | environmental determinism

In 1929, the Australian architect and author William Hardy Wilson (1881–1950) identified architectural practice within Australia as degenerate and in decline. He attributed this regression not to changing tastes or styles but to the increasing number of native-born architects and their long-term exposure to a subtropical or tropical climate. Wilson believed that Australia’s warmer climates negatively affected the nation’s future capacity for innovation and invention and the development of national style. Central to Wilson’s thesis was the proposition that climate was the primary determinant of artistic agency. The importance of this idea was twofold. First, it enabled Wilson to develop a critique of the White Australia policies which were introduced in 1901 and which grew in influence in the early decades of twentieth-century Australia. Second, it helped Wilson to locate Australian architectural practice within a global theory of civilisation. In documenting the crisis that Wilson saw within the architecture of Australia, the paper considers this aspect of his work in detail for the first time.
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