Douglas Snelling's story is sparking interest from international scholars newly concerned with how California's sophisticated modern concepts spread west across the Pacific to influence contemporary urban development across Asia. They see continuing feedbacks from Chicago-based architect Frank Lloyd Wright's 1890s and 1900s interpretations of Japan's traditional architecture and culture.
Here are notes from readers of Davina Jackson's biography and PhD thesis on Snelling, as well as her (not yet published) summary of attempts by his younger rivals (and their contemporary supporters), to exclude him from key histories of mid 20th century Australian architecture.
Why don’t we know more about Snelling – his organic modernist buildings dotted all over Sydney, his furniture designs invariably with those ‘California splay’ legs (so fashionable today), and what about those infinity pools ... .how better to integrate the look of nature with design?
—Dr Prudence Black, design scholar (ARC DECRA Fellow, University of Sydney), Sydney 2012
You show a deep understanding of the foibles of human nature—what a pity people can’t be more civil and for that matter adventurous, in their thinking.
—His Excellency Michael Bryce AM AE, architect and designer, Canberra, 2012.
I am only too familiar with local rivalries and distortions. What can one say? One has to see through all this frailty of the species and concentrate on acknowledging the quality of the work and, as we know, work of quality of any kind is to be found few and far between.
—Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture, Columbia University, New York, 2012.
A rich body of original research (on Snelling). However Neutra was immersed in 19th and 20th century sciences that anchored and propelled his work on behalf of any human being, and there doesn't seem to be a natural fit in terms of history, interests, habits, ways of practising or basis of architectural convictions. Neutra was typically very generous with those he included in the Institute, which was intended to bring together scientists, medical professionals, architects and planners to refine methodologies applied to architecture. From what I read, such concerns didn't appear to be Snelling's passion.
—Barbara Mac Lamprecht, biographer of Snelling's favourite California architect Richard Neutra, Los Angeles, 2012
So much enjoyed the Snelling biography. I could not put it down. What a great story. It would make a great film.
—Sam Marshall, architect (Museum of Contemporary Art extensions), Sydney, 2012
‘From the spoon to the city’... Douglas Snelling would have been the best representation of this wholistic ethos of design and architecture in Australia. Your research and biography is a wonderful reconstruction of his life and I can see deep down your sympathy for a similar road from New Zealand to a parochial Sydney.
—Luigi Rosselli, architect, Sydney, 2012
I love love love the look for your book. Snelling was a totally dashing man.
—William Smart, architect, Sydney, 2012
Your PhD thesis is everything such a work should be: fresh, original, educative, intriguing. Failure? That denial is just pure evil, IMO.
—Elizabeth (Betsy) Walter, writer, Sydney, 2012