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!


  1. My husband is an architect and we have this book too, I love to look in it now and then!

    Greetings, Karin.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Karin! Which houses do you like best?

  3. Wow what a superb post! So many inspirations. Funny how I noticed the pictures of houses my little assistant and her peers draw do not have chimneys. Maybe less important in California. Hopefully someone will know of the finalists! Very cool. My favorite is the hyper modern white house by the sea. CM

  4. I love the house with the greenhouse attached.

  5. I scanned a lot of dolls houses from this competition, too, but did not know whether I had to ask each of the architects for permission to show the photos - and never found the time for this - I liked the house at the sea best...

  6. children are so smart!! i go with their vote, the house by the sea!!! i too would have loved to have seen the australian entries..... :)

  7. Thank you for this post. I have enjoyed reading it very much and looking at all the creative houses.

  8. This post is filled with so much fun and I can't completly share your disappointment because even I would have loved to see the Australian houses, there are still so many wonderful houses left to see here!
    The post-modern inspired doll's houses brought me right back to eighties, especially the houses of Akroyd & Whatley and Takefumi Aida. Being made of blocks and the vivid colours would have made Akroyd & Whatley's house my favourite if it wasn't for the spectacular seaside house of Charlotte Baden-Powel! It's really a gem, I wonder who owns it now!

  9. Hi CM, I suspect the same would be true of pictures drawn by kids in Darwin! And perhaps, 20 years after this competition, there are fewer houses with chimneys in a lot of places? I liked that those architects thought about children's concepts, though, as some didn't at all!

  10. Hi Pan, yes, I think it's a really interesting idea, and I'd quite like to try it. Though I think the house could get a bit messy!

  11. Hmm, diepuppenstubensammlerin, you are quite right, although the actual copyright is with Architectural Design, as the publisher and initiator of the competition. But regardless, I have scanned and shown a few, and we can enjoy them and discuss them while they are here .....
    I like the house by the sea best too, I think because it really is a complete house, as well as a wonderful style. Why the judges didn't choose it, who knows - although the 3 winners were all invited participants, whereas Charlotte Baden-Powell was not ...

  12. Hi Christine, I agree :-) Especially when it comes to picking the best dolls house! How would an adult know?
    I've been thinking that the competition entries might have been mentioned in an Australian architectural journal or newsletter, or that the association of Australian architects might know, or be able to pass on a query - maybe I'll get round to asking!

  13. Hi Sans, glad you enjoyed it. If you can get a copy of the book, there are 58 other designs to inspire you too! On another day, I might choose differently, and I'm sure other people would choose a different selection ...

  14. Hi Pubdoll, yes, many wonderful houses indeed! Would I have been less disappointed if 1 of the 11 Australian designs was included? I don't know - and I certainly enjoy looking through this book still, there is so much detail in the drawings (which I haven't shown at all) - you and Bendik would probably enjoy this book very much! I'm glad you liked the two houses made of blocks. I love the colours in both, and I think they would feel very nice - smooth and solid :-)

    The House by the Sea seems to be everybody's favourite, so I do hope it's been treasured!

  15. Thank you for your comment, your blog is so interesting and informative, I love it! Best wishes, Lizzie

  16. Have you contacted The PowerHouse Museum? They may have some more information on the competition...

    And have you seen this book? http://www.amazon.com/Green-Dollhouse-Creating-Dolls-Healthier/dp/0974903337/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1291663518&sr=8-1

  17. Dollhouse by the Sea gets my vote too...although I think I would rather live in it than play with it...a long as I didn't have to wash the windows! And the German house with the greenhouse with plants which grow and die...I do that in my big house!
    I do think I would like to have a copy of this book!