Monday, 17 May 2010

Concrete modernism

Back near the beginning of the century, when I was researching for my Masters thesis, I spent many happy hours poring over issues of Home and Building, which regularly featured articles on the visual arts alongside advice on soggy lawns, home furnishings, and knitting patterns.

Peter Tomory, the subject of my thesis (and director of the Auckland Art Gallery from 1956 to 1965) wrote a number of pieces for the journal, including a brave self-assessment of the Gallery's ambitious 1961 exhibition 'Painting in the Pacific'.

While I dutifully sifted through boxes and boxes of back issues looking for relevant articles, it was the covers and the advertisements that kept me going. This was when I first noticed the strong connection between smoking and modernism - a casually held cigarette seemed essential for selling everything from linoleum to copper piping.

Home and Building resurfaced in my visual memory a wee while ago, when I spotted this post about Concrete Quarterly by Aegir Hallmundur on his blog Minstry of Type (a must for design-related goodness).

The exquisite covers immediately brought Home and Building to mind. Concrete Quarterly has been in production since 1947, and is still being published - you can download the back issues as PDFs.

Home and Building was published between 1937 and 1998. The redoubtable New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has digitised a small number of back issues in a test project in collaboration with the Architecture and Design Library at Victoria University of Wellington. The NZETC has also digitised the Architectural Centre's Design Review from 1948 to 1954. Happy scanning.

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