Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More disappointment, but plenty of dolls houses

In among the dolls house plans for sale, and dolls houses donated to fetes or kindergartens, which I've found written about in old newspapers, I discovered this little paragraph:

Myer is one of the major department stores in Australia, and in November 1982, their Sydney City store had a display of dolls houses designed by students at the Institute of Technology for a major international competition.

I was intrigued - what was the competition? and who were the students? More importantly, what did the dolls houses look like, and where are they now? Selling for $500 in 1982, you would hope they had been treasured.

Well, I was able to find the answer to the first question fairly easily, helped by Architoys blog entry in March on the Architectural Design Profile from 1983 entitled Dolls' Houses. Architoys described the stages of the contest, which was announced in 1981 and judged in Spring 1982. There were 260 entries from 27 countries, including 11 from Australia.

So this was most likely the international competition for which the dolls houses on display at Myer were designed. Copies of Architectural Design: Dolls' Houses are still around, and I bought one on ebay and waited eagerly for it to arrive.

Here's where the disappointment comes: from the 260 Stage 1 entries, 50 designs were chosen to go on to Stage 2. For Stage 2, 20 internationally renowned architects were also invited to design a dolls house. The book names only the 50 architects who progressed from Stage 1 to Stage 2, as well as the invited ones, of course.

And, I discovered, none of the 11 designs from Australia progressed to Stage 2. So none of the Australian architects are named, and none of the designs are shown. I haven't yet been able to find any photos of the 1982 Myer display, either.

But, as I said in the title of this post, there are certainly plenty of dolls houses in the book. Or at least play houses, or model houses, or model cities. (The winner was a 7 foot high tower, which children could get inside.) Here are some that I like.

Some constructional dolls houses:

On the left above, by Hans van Well of the Netherlands, a suitcase which contains the elements of the house (columns and wall-blocks), and which forms the base of the constructed house. (In the middle is an elevator; not sure how it works.)

On the right above, by Armand Heuse and Yves Mounier of France: "the observation of children's drawings did show the importance of the roof and chimney, the staircase and the contour of the facade." The wall panels, decorated with different shapes and colours, are interchangeable.

More constructional houses:

On the left above, a design from Great Britain by Brown, Greenwood and Taylor, "in the style in which Frank Lloyd Wright would design a dolls' house." This model had been played with at the Young Family Centre in Islington (London), at the time it was submitted.

On the right above, a design from West Germany by the aptly named Sieber, Timmermann and Baumgarten, in which one side is a greenhouse with plants which grow and die.

Some houses made from blocks, by Akroyd & Whatley of Great Britain (left) and Takefumi Aida of Japan (right):

Aida's house has a Japanese style-room, a dining room and a drawing room, with a fireplace in the middle of the house.

There are also more traditional dolls houses, in the sense that the structure of the house is fixed, though some parts move.

The one on the left above is by M.J. Long and Colin St John Wilson of Great Britain, and it came 3rd in the competition. On each side, drawers open out, forming rooms, gardens, terraces and so on. I think that some of the rooms/drawers can be left furnished when they're closed, but obviously terrace furnishings would need to be put away.

On the right above is a house by Roy Kingston of Great Britain. Inside the house, the two floors of rooms revolve independently, like stage sets.

These next two houses are very different in style, though both open out from a cube:

Left: Peter Farrall of GB; right: Charles Moore of the USA.

There is one designer whose dolls houses I've come across before, Jane Blyth of GB. "The house is AD 1982 and the incumbants ADman, ADwoman, ADbaby and ADdog." She adds, "I acknowledge that many children are incurable realists and for them a dolls house with Brobdingnagian cracks in the floor will be a most unsatisfactory toy"!

Faith Eaton had the Weavers' House by Jane Blyth in her collection; it's pictured in The Ultimate Dolls' House Book. There's also one in the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green, the Happy Birthday dolls house (sadly no image on the website).

And finally, a dolls house by someone I would like to see more dolls houses by, Charlotte Baden-Powell of GB.

This is a house by the sea, to provide additional scope for playing.

Inside, "there are curtains to be pulled, lights and fires to turn on, cars and a boat to manoeuvre, and a bell to ring at the front door."

This house won the children's vote.

There are some nice houses here, as well as some weird ones, and lots of inspiration for making dolls houses - most also show the architectural drawings (and a few didn't get past the drawing stage). The models which reached this stage and were constructed were auctioned by Sotheby's for the Save the Children Fund. So, like the Australian dolls houses which didn't reach Stage 2 of the competition, all were sold. I'm still curious about what the Australian houses looked like!


Where has the last month gone? Partly work has been challenging, partly I've been busy with the Dolls Houses Past and Present magazine, partly it's the start of the wet season here, so it's hot and steamy ...
But, before November expires, here is a post or two.

I recently bought this copy of the Australian Home Journal, dated October 1967, as I've started looking for doll's house references in magazines as well as in newspapers.

Here's what the ebay listing said:

Hmm, conversion of a dolls house? I'm not one for doing major renovations on old dolls houses, but still ...

Here's what the contents list showed:

Conversion of a "Doll's House".

As in,

So, no need to worry about old dolls houses being vandalised! Though why anyone would want to remove that lovely iron lace and a shady verandah (unless they couldn't afford to have the rust treated), I can't understand ...

It was not by any means a complete waste, though.

"Does a dull dining area destroy your appetite? Bring in the color:"

Also available in a vast range of vivid colors is Il Cubile, by Mim, "selling like hot pizzas all over Italy," and as "at home" in your bathroom, bedroom and living-room as it is around the swimming-pool:

Personally, I'd rather sit here, in the "H-shape for Harmony" house:

More comfortable, and less colourful!