The Architect’s Vision: Repairing a way for post-war Australia
In 1944, the University of Tasmania commissioned the famed Australian architect, Leslie Wilkinson, to design a new university site. Such a bold move was a consequence of the newly appointed Commonwealth government’s desire to begin planning for Australia’s post-war ‘reconstruction’ by ensuring proper investment in higher education. Universities, in particular, were envisaged to be a key part of the Labor government’s reconstruction program to support and develop expertise for Australia’s economic recovery and prepare the way for a social-democratic future.
The HRC’s 2023 theme of ‘repair’ provides a way to understand mid-twentieth century post-war reconstruction. While most studies of postwar reconstruction focus on government policy, Wilkinson’s proposal reveals another side of reconstruction, the artistic and practical thinking behind such projects and how physical fabric and design of the new university site might help reshape and rethink the future to repair the past. I also hope the paper will open up ways to understand ‘repair’ not so much as fixing something broken, but as a means of transformation.
Presenter Julia Horne is professor of History and University Historian in the School of Humanities at the University of Sydney, and researches and writes on the history and politics of higher education. Her recent publications include Australian Universities—a conversation about public good (SUP), co-edited with Matthew Thomas. Her HRC project examines education and postwar reconstruction as a form of repair.