Looking back to the modern movement
By Sarah Cameron
The Hunter region has its fair share of built items from the mid 20th century so we were totally delighted when we stumbled upon a blog dedicated to the Australian modernist movement. modernistaustralia.com is a fabulous smorgasboard of mid-century modern design and is totally drool worthy for those (like me) obsessed with mid century design and architecture. It proves that Australia has an impressive collection of post WW2 heritage.
And, we thought we’d share with you a few local examples that we’re rather enamoured with. Ross Deamer designed Pallet House at Merewether Heights in 1960 and we have to say it still looks stylish 50 years on. This mid century modern beach house is my personal favourite.
The War Memorial Cultural Centre in downtown Newcastle is also charming and where we get part of our logo from. Designed in 1957 by Castelden and Sara in collaboration with Pitt and Pitt, Lees and Valentine and Hoskins and Pilgram, the building is a wonderfully robust celebration of new technologies and materials. The sensuous curve of the front facade wall in architectural terracotta faiance contrasts brilliantly with the stoic grandeur of the City Hall, at the opposite side of the park.
Warning about floods and salts
This was posted on the NSW Heritage Advisor e-group by David Young
Recent work on a house in Newcastle (flooded in The Great Storm of 6 June 2007) has identified several problems with flood repairs to masonry walls. Floods add salts (particularly nitrates from overflowing sewers) to walls and mobilise those that are already there. The effect of salts on moisture meter readings is not understood by the repair industry. The Newcastle house was heated to the point of paint bubbling from architraves, using gas burners that one might heat a giant marquee for a winter solstice party, high on a New England plateau. Then along comes the man with the meter and discovers that the walls are still ‘wet’ (because of the salt) and so they bring back the flame throwers and cook it again! Back comes the man with the meter, and yes, the walls are still wet. So they chemically inject DPCs, and do them again in places, because the walls are still wet. And despite further drying, the walls above the new DPCs remain stubbornly wet. The problem is made worse for older walls with imperfect damp-proofing, because the heating turns the walls into giant wicks, sucking the salty moisture out of the wet ground and compounding the salt load in the masonry.
The key messages are:
- beware of men with moisture meters — or at least of those who don’t know how to use them;
- never use heat to dry out walls — ventilation yes — and the more valuable the work, the more slowly you should dry it (applies to timber too);
- you may need to reduce salt loads before replastering (using poultices or sacrificial plasters);
- our insurance premiums will all rise to pay for the incredible waste of effort.
I plan a Technical Note for the NSW Heritage Branch web site, meanwhile if you need information on moisture meters and salt read: Salt Attack and Rising Damp: a guide to salt damp in historic and older buildings, which is available in hard copy or as a free download from the web sites of the heritage agencies of NSW, Victoria, SA and the Adelaide City Council.