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. 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.

David Young Heritage Consultant

PO Box 203

Clifton Hill VIC 3068

T 03 9482 7482

F 03 9482 7451

M 04 1777 3724

7 thoughts on “News

  1. I am thrilled to see Ross’ Pallett House featured on your website. He was particularly proud of this house and I can still remember the superb model he built for Bill Pallett prior to construction. About 5 years prior to Ross’ death in 2007 he was contacted by an architectural archivist from W.A. who was seeking copies of the working drawings of the Pallett House. After gaining permission from the current owners Ross sent them over but we didn’t hear anything further. Unfortunately, I have never seen inside the house.

    1. Thanks for your response Susan. Its such a great example of modernism – a lovely legacy of his work. It would be fabulous to obtain copies of the working drawings for inclusion in the collection of Newcastle Region Library. If you can assist once again let me know. Sarah Cameron

    2. This was my Grandparents house and It still looks the same as when I was last in there in the early Eighty’s. I still rember getting up before dawn and going to the lounge room and looking at all the lights from the city of Newcastle and the container ships. It is a very remarkabale house. The frount windows to the left are bedrooms with the Master bedroom on the corner. The Master bed room has a wir and ensuite. The main bathroom is oppisite the two other bedrooms. Down the long side of the house is the formal dining room with a bar behind it, facing the informal seccond lounge room. The Second lounge room faces both the side street and the swimming pool in the back yard. Behind the second lounge room is the gust bedroom with it’s own informal area. To the right of the staircase is the main lounge room with the kitchen behind it. The main lounge room wraps around the kitchen with both the Kitchen and the return of the lounge room facing the swiming pool. When you enter the front door, to the left is the laundry with the seccond double garage to the left with access from the side street. To the right you go down a couple of steps to the main double Garage.
      Yes, It is an increadible house.

      1. Terrific stuff Mathew. I wonder what the interior spaces are like and how its planned every day when I go by. Reckon we could post old family photos of the interiors on our wee little weblog here Mathew?

  2. Sorry, all I have left is what is in my memory. My father and grandfather currently live in the Phillipeans. I have no cotact with either of them.

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