How Boyd and Saunders promoted Snelling

In 1952, Douglas Snelling passed his final exams at Sydney University and was registered to practice as an architect—while Melbourne University appointed a younger, also-precocious, architect-critic, Robin Boyd, to begin editing a national modern building newsletter named Cross-Section.

They collaborated.

Boyd promoted Cross-Section as 'a private communication to architects and master builders'. Every month, he produced two to three pages of extremely economical typewriting with 10-15 mono thumbnail photos and drawings of new buildings and sketch concepts that he thought were best advancing post-depression modernism around the nation. His pithy and internationally researched opinions were supported by questing architects alerting him to notable local project in all States.

Clearly Boyd saw Snelling as one of Australia's most talented and progressive modernists of the early 1950s—or he would not have asked him to contribute images and information to his first edition of Cross-Section. Here is a summary of the items he wrote to highlight Snelling's key projects during his editing of Cross-Section from 1952 to 1955.

November 1952 (Issue 1), an illustrated item on Snelling's Point Piper Flat.

Remodelling an unprepossessing semi-basement garage at Pt Piper (Syd) as a flat for an absentee client (a student in USA), Mr Douglas Snelling (arch) darkened the old r-c ceiling above a cage of maple joists, used an open shelf unit to divide living, dining.

Point Piper Flat picture in Cross-Section, November 1952.

March 1953 (Issue 5), an item on Snelling's Hartford Fire Insurance building, illustrated with an unusually generous three photographs.

This old building in Margaret-st has become one of Sydney's smartest offices, housing the Hartford Insurance Co and U S Information Centre, after a thorough, thoughtful & urbane rebuilding job by Mr Douglas Snelling arch't. Work started Sept. '51, was restricted by controls which have since been lifted. It has a washable face, brilliant interior colouring, profuse footpath planting. Cost: about £150,000. (MacDonald Const'ns). Everywhere costs are forcing more people to remodel rather than build, but few are as successful as Hartford.

Hartford Fire Insurance in Cross-Section, February 1953.

February 1954 (Issue 16), an illustrated item on a house concept for a site in Bellevue Hill. The published image was wrongly flipped, but (when correctly viewed) matched his scheme for the Kelly House 1.

A NSW house of no less than 80 squares beginning at Bellevue Hill, with internal court, staff quarters, entrance under a hanging master bedr'm. (Douglas B. Snelling, arch't).

Kelly House 1 sketch in Cross-Section, February 1954.

January 1955 (Issue 27, multilingual edition for international distribution), illustration of Snelling's Hay House with Seidler's house for his brother Marcus; showing two Sydney exemplars of the aesthetics battle between organic modernism and the international style.

Snelling's Hay house and Harry Seidler's house for his brother Marcus, Cross-Section, January 1955.

Robin Boyd finished editing Cross-Section in the first half of 1955, and was replaced by David Saunders, who served until the early 1960s. Saunders also highlighted several projects by Snelling during 1955 and 1956.

Armco Steel factory in Cross-Section, August 1955.
Liddle and Epstein office sketch in Cross-Section, August 1955.
Keith Smith House drawings in Cross-Section, March 1956.

Why clarify this journalism on Snelling's early architecture by Robin Boyd and David Saunders?

Because these Cross-Section clips provide indisputable evidence that most current and recent Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane architectural history academics—leaders of the Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) who admire Boyd and Saunders—did not properly assess their heroes' journalism on 1940s and 1950s Australian architecture before they dismissed Snelling, during the 2000s, as being 'unworthy' of doctoral research.

Today's stalwarts of SAHANZ still rely on scantily researched perceptions of 1940s and 1950s architecture, as published by Milo Dunphy (1960s), Jennifer Taylor (1970s, 1980s), and Desley Luscombe and Stanislaus Fung (1990s). Continuing admiration for Taylor's writings—which she acknowledged were not based on researching original reports in libraries—is especially evident from the new book Sydney School: Formative Moments in Architecture, Design and Planning at Sydney University, an anthology of essays edited by Lee Stickells and Andrew Leach.