policy & design

Falling in love with the jazz age

Frank Tate Building at Melbourne University is making me fall in love with the first moderne all over again, despite the occasionally kitschy all-angles-at-once featurism of the renovation.

I often wonder if modernist architecture would be more popular internationally if only it had high ceilings (I genuinely do: when people sing praises to 19th-century buildings, you might notice that about 80-90% of the content of their appreciation centres on ceiling height. Conversely, people who hate 1950s architecture almost always hate the boxiness). Frank Tate doesn’t quite answer my question because the dwelling rooms’ ceilings are very high. But the staircases, while low, are so perfectly proportioned, one feels so very happy ascending them (indeed, hanging out in the staircase area gives me pangs of memory of happy small spaces: kindergarten, primary school, my childhood clinic), that it is almost confirming something.


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