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The art of building

NOT SO SQUARE: Main Arm/Mullumbimby in the mid-1970s.PHOTO: Tim Hixson
NOT SO SQUARE: Main Arm/Mullumbimby in the mid-1970s.PHOTO: Tim Hixson

THE do-it-yourself ethos and aesthetic of homebuilders - particularly in the period following the Aquarius Festival - will be showcased in an exhibition at the Lismore Regional Gallery next year, and organisers are calling on the community to help.

Curator Kezia Geddes said she and gallery director Brett Adlington both noticed how some of their friends lived in interesting houses and thought it said something special about the people of the region.

"The owner-built culture of this region delivered a variety of dwellings - some well-realised and the product of many years of careful work, some so experimental and makeshift that they no longer stand. The exhibition will profile a small number of exemplary houses, whilst also telling the broad story and context of the owner-builder movement," Kezia said.

"The stories are so interesting, like one lady who saw the whole design

for her house one night in the dream and spent the next few years building it.

Another couple saw Gaudi's architecture in Spain and returned home to build a beautiful and unique house in which they have continued to live for the past 40 years. That house is a work of art as much as it is a place to live."

The Not Quite Square exhibition will feature old photographs, documents such as architectural plans, stories and oral histories and newly commissioned photographs of existing owner-built houses. There will also be a film by local filmmaker Sharon Shostack focussing on local pioneers of sustainable architecture, many of whom have been building and adding to their house over several decades.

"Many of those who came to this region in the early 1970s stayed to establish low-cost, sustainable lifestyles. Their creativity and practical skills have resulted in this array of unique and architecturally interesting houses built on dreams. As the exhibition will demonstrate, this owner-builder practice that flourished in the '70s has continued to the present day.

"The seeds for multiple occupancy land sharing arrangements were also sown around this time... (and) many of the challenges faced by those early owner-designers and builders, such as lowering electricity costs and minimising water consumption, are now mainstream concerns," Kezia said.

The gallery is calling on anyone who has a story about these owner-built houses; how they were conceived, designed and built, how challenges were overcome, and of course personal stories about living in them.

Kezia said Col James, a lecturer in architecture from the University of Sydney, assisted many people with design ideas after the Aquarius Festival and took an interest in the DIY architectural movement that flourished in the following years. Now senior lecturer in architecture and urban design at Sydney University, Dr Leigh Stickells, will be coming up to do some research as part of the Not Quite Square project.

If you have a story, photos or other documents to lend to the exhibition, phone Kezia on 6622 2209, or email kezia.geddes@lismore.nsw

.gov.au.

The exhibition will be displayed at the gallery from April 13 - June 2 next year.


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