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Living Iconically: Australia’s Iconic Houses

Beatrice Smith

I have strong memories of my grandparents’ house as a child.

I remember running between levels, the cork floors and the stark white walls. I remember the somewhat ‘hidden’ entrance, its flat roof and the backyard that seemed to go on forever.

What I didn’t realise was that this house was iconic. In an official sense, that is.

It turns out the house my grandparents lived in for my earliest years was The Dingle House (pictured above), designed by renowned Italian architect Enrico Taglietti.

The Dingle House

The Dingle House

You’ll know Taglietti’s work from the Canberra Cinema Centre (now home of Academy nightclub and Shorty’s), the Dickson Health Centre and Dickson Library. His style is strong and easily recognisable. In fact, if Dickson Library was painted white, it could pass as the Dingle House from a distance.

Once you see these patterns emerge within Canberran architecture, it’s fascinating. We’re lucky that gems of Taglietti’s work are hidden all around Canberra – he even designed a fascinating “fortress house” in Aranda.

It’s these patterns that are being celebrated in the National Archives of Australia’s current exhibition; Iconic Australian Houses, where 30 houses from across Australia have been selected as examples of unique domestic architecture.

The exhibition’s thesis is that “good design can enrich lifestyle” and my grandmother couldn’t agree more.

“It was a beautiful house – we were renting between [diplomatic] postings and we actually knew the Dingles, the family for whom Taglietti originally designed the house,” she says.

The Dingle House

The Dingle House

“The deck was very unique – everything was wooden,” she remembers. “The split level was sometimes a bit ‘interesting’, but the design always fascinated me.”

Taglietti himself would no doubt have agreed with her. As he put it, “[Architecture] should achieve being a piece of art”.

The idea of houses as iconic, permanent pieces of art is at the heart of the exhibition, which includes houses from every state.

The Lobster Bay House

The Lobster Bay House

As a layman observer, it’s fascinating to see how each architect has used their unique environment to inform design choices.

Some, like The Lobster Bay House and The D House, nestle into their surrounds – effortless parts of their landscape, while others like The Collins House stands starkly against nature – a spaceship of glass and metal cocooned by native trees.

The D House

The D House

The exhibition has been expertly curated by Karen McCartney, who no doubt drew on her extensive experience observing and writing about Australian architecture when hand picking the list of properties for Sydney Living Museums.

The Collins House

The Collins House

Iconic Australian Houses is the perfect place for some quiet reflection as you pore over each house’s history and design and there’s no better time to do this than the National Archive’s late night openings, happening every Tuesday evening until 7pm.

A selection of architectural books is also available to purchase at the exhibition, including 100 Canberra Houses: A Century of Capital architecture which no doubt features many of Taglietti’s local works. 

the essentials

What: Iconic Australian Houses
When: Until 13 March 2017
Where: The National Archives of Australia, Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes
Website: naa.gov.au/visit-us/exhibitions/iconic-australian-houses

Images: Supplied. 

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies. More about the Author

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