Landscape has played a major role in the design and the promotion of the post-World War 2 Australian house. In many ways, dialogue with the land can be, and has been regarded as, the leitmotif, the defining element of Australian architecture. But the complexity of response to that idea has been little investigated and inappropriately differentiated. It is also, of course, only one way of looking at Australian architecture. This paper places the houses of Italian-born émigré architect Enrico Taglietti (1926–2019), for the first time, within the rich tapestry of responses to the ongoing experiment that is the post-war Australian house, where connections to a landscape — be it urban, suburban, or rural — prompted inventive and original results. What becomes clear is the unique and distinctive place that Taglietti’s architecture occupies, where geometry, mass and engineering combine with the fundamentals of dwelling, and signal not just creative originality but also links back to Taglietti’s Italian heritage and the founding principles of an architecture for Australia’s capital and its territory.
Fig 1: McKeown House, Watson, ACT (1964). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photographer unknown. With permission of Cross-Section Archive, Architecture Library, University of Melbourne.
The paper also sits within the context of An Unfinished Experiment in Living: Australian Houses 1950–1965, the book co-written by Geoffrey London, Conrad Hamann and this author, and published in 2017. Taglietti’s McKeown House in Watson, ACT (1964) was no.138 in a selection of 150 houses chosen over a fifteen-year period. Even in that selection, the monumental bearing of this one work by Taglietti signals the rarity and distinctiveness of his architecture in the Australian setting. This paper also acknowledges the poetic power of the intriguing and now rare monograph, Enrico Taglietti: Architect in Australia, edited by his brother-in-law Dr Ettore Tadi and published in Milan in 1979 with its array of dramatic grey-tone photographs, and the deep scholarship contained within the 2007 monograph on Taglietti by Ken Charlton, Bronwen Jones and especially, Dr Paola Favaro, whose ongoing research papers on various aspects of Enrico Taglietti’s career continue to impress upon readers the important place of Taglietti in Australian architecture. This paper builds upon and expands that scholarship, placing it within the broader context of Australian architecture outside Canberra. What is new here is the focus on architecture and landscape, especially Taglietti’s deployment of the house as a stereotomic mass, and its relationship to the Australian landscape.
Across the world after the cessation of hostilities of World War 2, the direction of the conceptual framing of modern domestic architecture by architects, especially the single-family detached house, took — as Ignasi Solà-Morales (1997) and others (see Goldhagen & Legault 2000) have noted — a dramatic, and largely existential turn. It was as if the cataclysmic events of war had released a new-found appreciation of humankind’s interaction with and relationship to landscape and the place of a house and its inhabitants within it, an idea later enshrined in Martin Heidegger’s seminal essay, ‘Building, Dwelling, Thinking’ (1971). Viennese émigré, Bernard Rudofsky, working in New York during the 1940s, began to promote the idea of the outdoor room as a reclaiming of an archetypal external dwelling space that crossed cultures and centuries (Rudofsky 1943; 1952). This was an idea that would gain increasing acceptance during the 1950s with the popularity of the courtyard house, and its citation as an alternative to the typical suburban home (see McHarg 1957). But there was also, arguably, a more powerful existential alternative. Instead of Le Corbusier’s machine a habiter — the machine for living in — one ideal that became dominant, especially in the United States, Canada and Australia, was that of the machine in the garden. As Esther McCoy suggested, the idealist vision for the post-war house was ‘a marriage between Walden Pond and Douglas Aircraft’ (McCoy 1965: 22; see also Hutt 2013: 149), and it was a vision epitomised by the Californian houses of émigré Viennese architect Richard Neutra, where house and garden were intertwined as one. Further, this embrace of a total living environment was complicit with the promotion by popular home journals, local and international, of what Mark Jarzombek (1990) has described as ‘Good Life Modernism’: a conjoining of post-war Modernist architectural aesthetics that prized indoor/outdoor spatial interconnections with a new consumerist lifestyle of open plans, outdoor living and the swimming pool terrace, and the smart new kitchen matched outside by the built-in barbeque.
The other potent force in driving this reappreciation of landscape was American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959). With the completion of the single-storey Hanna House in Palo Alto, California in 1937 and the seminal Kaufmann House, ‘Fallingwater’, at Bear Run in Pennsylvania in 1939 on the eve of World War 2, Wright’s global status during the 1940s and early 1950s was undeniable. The two houses were compelling examples of how to design an organic architecture that came into an equitable dialogue with nature: one particulate, modular (based on the hexagon) and free, the other monumental, laminar and also free as if indoor and outdoor space were a series of sheets of landscape removed from the cliff face and inhabited like caves. From Wright, the post-war house gained a new relationship to its site, an organic relationship to landscape, a return to the space-enclosing centredness of the hearth, and a retrieval of the warmth and tactility of natural materials and textures.
Fig 2: McKeown House, Watson, ACT (1964). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photographer unknown. With permission of Cross-Section Archive, Architecture Library, University of Melbourne.
So as an architect, immediately post-war, if one was interested in this notion of an organic architecture, what did one read? How did one move beyond the plethora of books and journals, both popular and professional, that featured beautiful photographs of houses set in beautiful gardens and natural landscapes? For those interested in Neutra, it was his 1954 book, Survival Through Design, a personal treatise on planning and building on a more biological basis. For those interested in Wright, it was his book, The Natural House, also published in 1954, and where he set out his principles for an organic architecture and with multiple plans of his so-called Usonian houses. And if one was Italian and wanted to know more about organic architecture, supported by an historical pedigree that moved beyond the standard texts of Siegfried Giedion (1941) or JM Richards (1940), one read Bruno Zevi’s Verso Un’Architettura Organica, originally published in 1945 in Italian or the English version, Towards an Organic Architecture, which appeared five years later. It is known that Enrico Taglietti owned and read this book, the English version of which was also widely available in Australia in the early 1950s but has been, as noted by Paola Favaro (2018), almost completely overlooked by historians as a sourcebook for Australian architects.
In Australia, as elsewhere around the world, architects took up the cause of ‘organic’ architecture, interpreting the word ‘organic’ in a variety of ways. The most convincing and accomplished interpretation of Neutra’s ideas could be found in the spreading houses of British-born, New Zealand-educated and Los Angeles-experienced architect, Douglas Snelling (1916–1985). His Hay House at St Ives in Sydney, with its pinwheel plan creating courtyards and stretching out into landscape, was described by the magazine Architecture and Arts as ‘a first class example of the brilliant planning developed by Richard J Neutra in his “house in the desert” in 1947’ (September 1954: 22).
Similarly, the most convincing interpretation of Wright’s ideas in the early 1950s could be found in a string of houses designed by Adelaide-born, Philadelphia-trained architect Peter Muller (1927–), whose Audette House in Castlecrag of 1952 interpreted Wright’s emphatic horizontal forms and his Usonian principle of a solid masonry base, clearly articulated and differentiated with lightweight timber construction above. Of all of Muller’s early houses, two stand out for their rigorous extension of Wrightian ideals and dramatic, even literal, embrace of the Australian landscape. Muller’s own house at Whale Beach of 1954 is on the edge of a steep cliff and embedded into the rocks on its site. With its oversailing flat roofs and block-like brick piers, the house is like a formalised camp site among the rocks and trees overlooking the beach. A central strip of glass runs along and divides the living room wing roof in two, so that inside, the feeling of roofed enclosure is reduced. The fireplace, set below the main floor but located in the same living room volume on its own ‘platform’, is set into an existing rock outcrop. It is as if the house has grown ‘architecturally’ from the ground. Equally spectacular is Muller’s ‘Kumale’, the vast stone and concrete Mervyn Richardson House, built for the owner of Victa Lawnmowers on a cliff face at Palm Beach in 1956. Richardson would arrive home from Sydney in a sea plane, catch a lift upstairs from the waterside, and occupy a series of spaces that resembled the horizontal and domed spaces of the naturally eroded crevices and caves of a cliff.
The scale and sophistication of Snelling’s and Muller’s Wrightian interpretations, however, are rare in Australia — largely because of their generous budgets. For the most part, Australian architects interested in a landscape-related architecture attempted to interpret the ideas of either Neutra or Wright in more personal ways. Their houses were smaller and — pragmatically — they adopted local material and construction practices, which inevitably were simpler, modest and even rudimentary: brick, timber and sometimes local stone. Thus it was that architects like Chancellor & Patrick designed houses on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula that seemed to blend the ideas of both Wright and Neutra in relaxed and informal ways. For the Bond House at Mt Eliza (1956), for example, the architects pared away the timber panelling and Japanese screens of Wright’s Hanna House, exposing the diagonal rafters to form a structural lattice overhead. Others engaged directly with the earth, as had Muller at Whale Beach. At his own house at Dee Why in NSW (1956), Derek Wrigley also placed the fireplace onto the actual rock of the site: his modest little house designed like a weather-responsive timber cabin around a campfire.
If these local examples were deliberate in their attempts to engage with the Australian landscape in what might be described as an organic approach, it was of course not the only way in which Australian architects, from the 1950s to the 1970s, chose to create a dialogue with the landscape. It is important to make this distinction: there is no correct or better response than another. Rather, the question is how well that articulation is made. What is often common is that architects and clients left the landscape alone around them; a circumstantial (largely through lack of funds) and an emerging recognition of the value – aesthetic and ecological – of the singular beauty of Australia’s indigenous landscape.
For example, Roy Grounds’ cylindrical Henty House at Frankston, Vic (1952) was situated comfortably in the landscape but with no obvious attempt to formally engage with the landscape’s particularity. This approach, almost Classical — the house is like an enclosed tholos in the tea trees — was not jarring but simply indicative of Grounds’ traditional approach to the making of form and the making of a plan. This was a tradition that included houses by Sydney Ancher and, into the 1960s, reached its zenith in the hands of Guilford Bell, whose Russell Drysdale House at Killcare Heights in New South Wales of 1965 extended the pastoral traditions of colonial times into contemporary form. The house’s symmetrical plan of modernist pavilions is a diagram not of dynamic interaction with landscape but one steeped in the ideology of the Renaissance villa, that of calm (and hierarchical) aspect and control over the land.
Such polarity between house and landscape was not limited to examples such as these. Harry Seidler’s Rose Seidler House at Wahroonga (1948–50) gained its aesthetic force from deliberate contrast: the Australian landscape was prized as a non-referential backdrop for deftly arranged late Cubist forms and de Stijl-influenced planning. Others like Bill and Ruth Lucas chose to perch their glass and steel house (1957) — through necessity — as almost invisible in a Castlecrag gully. It was a sort of anti-heroic gesture, as if living in the Australian landscape was a version of the Swiss Family Robinson tree house: dwelling temporarily among the trees.
These houses demonstrate not just extremes of position but also the richness and complexity of Australia’s post-war modernist architecture culture into which Enrico Taglietti found himself when he arrived in Canberra in 1955. The concept of living in the landscape was intrinsic to so many of the finest orthodox modern houses of the period, whether Russell and Pamela Jack’s house at Wahroonga (1957) which negotiated a steep gully, part hung off a brick wall and tip-toeing almost across the rocks on its sunny side, or McGlashan & Everist’s spreading Grimwade House at Rye (1960), where local limestone rocks, flywire and broad covered terraces combined to create at the end of the 1950s, one of the highpoints of Australian domestic modernism.
In 1960, Robin Boyd tried to simplify the post-war context with an easily understood polarity of design approach, writing in The Australian Ugliness that:
If [Sydney Ancher and Harry Seidler] were to set out to build themselves a house on the same slope of Sydney Harbour, one could anticipate … that Ancher would dig his house into the slope and Seidler would project his forward from the slope on some sort of cantilever. (Boyd 1960: 124)
This is, of course, too reductive an explanation: it simplifies what in actuality is a far more nuanced account if one considers a broader range of practitioners. Take, for example, the national surge of interest from the mid-1950s, shown by a younger generation of architects in pursuing and interpreting specifically Wrightian themes, from Neville Gruzman and Bruce Rickard in New South Wales, Geoffrey Woodfall, David Godsell and Charles Duncan in Victoria, to Eddie Oribin in northern Queensland, Ray Heffernan in Tasmania and Laurie Virr in Canberra. Frank Lloyd Wright’s death in 1959 seemed to trigger a new wave of critique of the modern, a wholehearted and renewed embrace of the human qualities of the enclosed room, the hearth and natural materials — and a sympathy for the sensitive placement of a building in the landscape.
So how does one place Enrico Taglietti within this picture of house and landscape in Australian architecture? For too long, Taglietti has been narrowly placed in this last group — the easy association with Wright; but there is more to it than that. Taglietti certainly had an early appreciation of Wright, gained largely through his experience of the writings of Bruno Zevi. But Taglietti’s interpretation of organic architecture, like that of Zevi, is broader, arguably richer, and materially more distinctive than a mere simulation of Wrightian forms.
Taglietti’s career and his work needs to be seen within his educational context, schooled at the Politecnico di Milano by leading architects Gio Ponti, Franco Albini, Bruno Zevi and also by the engineer and concrete specialist Pier Luigi Nervi. He was aware of Zevi’s writings and, as a student, had been to the 1951 exhibition of Wright’s work at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. In post-war Australia, Taglietti was one of a very small number of architects who had been educated in architecture in post-war Italy – all of whom have been little studied or assimilated into the accepted historiographic canon. The careers in Melbourne, for example, of Italian-born Ermin Smrekar (1931–), responsible for sculptural concrete work at the Veneto Club in Bulleen in 1972, or the Polish émigré architects John Holgar (1922–2006) and Helena Holgar (1923–), educated at the University of Rome as displaced Poles, who executed exuberant work in concrete in the 1960s, have always been seen as aberrant (see Lozanovaska 2012: 63; Reeves 2012: 336)
In many respects therefore, Taglietti’s work needs to be regarded within a broader context: first, of a coterie of unseen migrants educated in architecture in post-war Italy; and second, within a global perspective, where Taglietti’s work is seen against the work of other Italian architects affected by Bruno Zevi’s philosophy of organic architecture such as Lucio Passarelli’s Studio Passarelli on Via Campania in Rome of 1964 and Piero Sartogo’s headquarters building for the Rome Medical Association of 1966–71. The two Roman buildings demonstrated an organic architecture that did not mimic natural forms or the work of a master but, instead, arose from Zevi’s advocacy of an organic architecture of ‘asymmetry, rupture, dissonance and fragmentation’ (see Bennett & Graebner 2013).
For Zevi, an organic architecture was democratic, humanistic and centred around people, and it was linked to nature and its surroundings. He stated:
The organic architect concentrates upon the structure, and he regards it not merely from a technical point of view but as the complex of all the human activities and feelings of the people who will use it.
Architecture is organic when the spatial arrangement of room, house and city is planned for human happiness, material, psychological and spiritual. The organic is based therefore on a social idea and not on a figurative idea. We can only call architecture organic when it aims at being human before it is humanist. (Zevi 1950: 76)
This mention of the technical is important. So too is the linked notion of room, house and city, ideas to which this paper will return.
When Enrico Taglietti arrived in Canberra in 1955 it was a very different place from what it is today. The lake hadn’t been filled, the bridges were unbuilt, the city was in a fledgling state. There were a handful of interesting modern houses like Robin Boyd’s Fenner House (1954), Harry Seidler’s Bowden House (1950), and the dull, if responsible, New Empiricist-style houses by Brian Lewis at the Australian National University (ANU). The few residential structures that bore any relation to the Griffins’ original conception of Canberra were not individual houses but the spreading forms of Hotel Canberra (1924) and Hotel Kurrajong (1925–27), both designed by Commonwealth Architect John Smith Murdoch, built pre-World War 2 and featuring terracotta tiled roofs, broad eaves, flat-roofed porches and a clear, earth-hugging red brick base.
However, what was being constructed in Canberra from 1956 was Roy Grounds’ startlingly modern Australian Academy of Science, in reinforced concrete — a material with which Taglietti was familiar. Concrete was intrinsic to Taglietti’s Italian construction culture. As the building emerged as a thin-shell dome with a base of scalloped arches, Grounds brushed off accusations that it was home to the Martian embassy, as it had been nicknamed in the press. Instead he likened its final copper-clad form to the surrounding hills, as if it had sprung gently from the earth. Another building shortly to rise from the earth in Canberra from 1960 was Max Collard’s 1959 design (with the Office of JFD Scarborough) for the Menzies Library at ANU, opened in 1963. Its reading room sat above a base of local rock and concrete-faced sloping walls and beneath a parasol of flaring concrete vaults, and like the Grounds building, it suggested mass rather lightness, monumental permanence rather than fleeting occupation.
Fig 3: Sketch designs, Dingle House, Hughes, ACT (1968). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. With permission of Cross-Section Archive, Architecture Library, University of Melbourne.
For Taglietti then, Canberra in the late 1950s and early 1960s was an open canvas, an architectural tabula rasa, which he later described as his ‘invisible city’ waiting to emerge. His early buildings there and in nearby regional New South Wales appear to take cues not from any obvious local models but instead from a deeply felt belief that he could begin here with a personal interpretation of an organic architecture that was rooted in stereotomic mass separated from a tectonic frame — with man/humankind existing between. It was also an interpretation founded within the context of Taglietti’s sensitivity to the occupation of a landscape of powerful forms, which had been part of his own context of growing up for part of his life in Eritrea in East Africa. Subliminal memories of visiting churches dug out of the Eritrean and Ethiopian landscape and the visual, climatic and landscape affinities between Eritrea and Australia were acknowledged by Taglietti late in life as key formational influences on his making of form (see Taglietti 2018).
Fig 4: Noah’s Restaurant, Canberra, ACT (1961). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photographer unknown. With permission of Cross-Section Archive, Architecture Library, University of Melbourne.
Two of Taglietti’s best-known early works, the three-level Town House Motel in Canberra with its uninterrupted projecting balconies, and adjacent Noah’s Restaurant with its uninterrupted horizontal slot window (1961, both demolished), were in dialogue: together the two buildings created their own urban context with mass, horizontality and deep shadow as key design themes. Similarly, with the Town House Motel in Wagga Wagga, the translation of similar design themes into boldly expressed concrete balcony beams with chamfered and cranked gargoyle-like ends in 1962 brought even stronger emphasis to this idea, and it reached almost primeval apotheosis in the habitable architectural ‘landscape’ of the James Cook Motel in Griffith, ACT in 1969. Ettore Tadi described its layered pyramidal form as recalling Aztec and Mayan architecture (Tadi 1979: n.p.) — but it could also just be typical of Taglietti’s constant search for an organically derived, habitable mass with no specific reference other than the making of significant form.
Fig 5: Town House Motel, Wagga Wagga, NSW (1962). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photographer, unknown. With permission of Cross-Section Archive, Architecture Library, University of Melbourne.
Given this distinctive and unique contribution to the making of a contemporary residential type — the motel — it is instructive to look then at a small selection of Taglietti houses, mostly in Canberra, and see how some of these ideas are translated into a unique form of organic architecture for the Australian domestic scene.
Fig 6: Osborne House, Currandooley, NSW (1961). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photographer unknown. With permission of Cross-Section, no. 120 (October 1962).
The Osborne House (1961) at Currandooley, near Bungendore, was Taglietti’s first house in Australia. Set on a hill in a rural setting, with an L-shaped plan with roof porches at each end of the L, the whole composition was bounded by enclosing walls to form a larger protected courtyard. This house — overlooked in Australian architectural history — is one of the first to make overt reference to the vernacular Australian homestead. Taglietti here is completely unafraid of the pitched hip-roof, which for modernists was definitely outré.
Fig 7: McKeown House, Watson, ACT (1964). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photographer unknown. With permission of Cross-Section Archive, Architecture Library, University of Melbourne.
The McKeown House in Watson, ACT (1965) is heroic; its plan of two ‘kissing squares’, as Louis Kahn would call them has solid walls flowing on past their actual corners to generate a pin-wheeling plan. Two large chamfered planter boxes anchor both the plans and elevations compositionally. The living-dining area, shaped in an L, stretches around a kitchen; while an answering L is formed by the bedrooms and bathroom. With the giant reinforced concrete gargoyle cantilevering into space, nowhere in Australia has the collection of water been elevated to such monumental proportions.
Fig 8: Paterson House, Aranda (1968). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photograph: Philip Goad
The Paterson House in Aranda, ACT (1968) appears like a giant rock with a floating timber cap — with concrete bricks, concrete gargoyles and timber-lined ceilings and fascias — with a concealed circular courtyard. It is as if climbing through the house’s stereotomic mass, one comes upon a clearing — as if negotiating a series of boulders in the landscape.
Fig 9: Dingle House, Hughes, ACT (1968). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photograph: Philip Goad
The three-level Dingle House in Hughes, ACT (1968) steps down across its site with access to courtyards and hidden outdoor spaces. Its floating, splayed fascias are dark stained and offer deep shadows: they are in complete contrast to the protective scale of house’s rendered walls, which, although massive, seem to recede into the majestic setting of its bush landscaping.
The Evans House in Cook, ACT (1971) is, like the Paterson House, a guarantee of protected privacy and a bulwark against the sun. But instead of a singular mass, its temple-like base is modulated by a series of splayed buttresses and projecting gargoyles that drain a loggia terrace. Inside and above, the fortress-like exterior of this house belies the wealth of light from above gained from skylights and from its elevated hidden terraces. It is as if Taglietti has carved out this interior/exterior and placed a giant shading lid over the top of over it.
Fig 10: Paterson House, Aranda (1968). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photograph: Philip Goad
What is clear in the four Canberra houses is Taglietti’s special attention to the undulating and rocky hillscapes at the edges of that city’s suburbs. In each case, one ‘climbs’ up into the house like entering a bastion, or negotiates a path that ascends to arrive at an elevated plane or terrace. It’s the same as if one was climbing and find a place to sit among boulders and look out across the trees. In the Paterson, Dingle and Evans houses especially, this elevated position, reserved almost always for the main living and dining space, means that the views of any surrounding houses are edited out of the prospect: what remains is an uninterrupted panorama of tree canopies and hilltops. Taglietti has effectively placed the inhabitant in privileged dialogue with the house’s surrounding and distant landscapes.
Fig 11: Paterson House, Aranda (1968). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photograph: Philip Goad
The Smith House at Pennant Hills in Sydney of 1970 continues all of these themes. It combines the creation of an elevated horizontal terrace but this time containing a swimming pool, with the main form of the house defined by two pyramid roofs, one massive and monumental in scale, the other reassuringly domestic. What unites them are exaggerated horizontally cantilevered eaves that drain to a giant concrete gutter that divides the two roofs and spills its water out either end. This is also a house where Taglietti reaches the zenith of his exploration of off-form concrete in the domestic setting. Kerry Dundas’s photograph of the Smith House for Max Dupain has no peer in any account of late 1960s Australian domestic architecture.
In 2018, Paola Favaro drew attention to a 2005 interview with Enrico Taglietti in the Italian journal, Territorio, where he reflected upon his place in Australian architecture:
I believe that my contribution to the Australian architectural panorama has to be considered as the contribution of a solitary predicator of the organic principles of the ‘modern’, and as the antithetical merit of my Mediterranean culture in the middle of a prevailing Anglo-Saxon tradition. I hope that my position as an architect will be at the antipodes both of the doubting ecologic Puritanism of Murcutt and the formal continuity of that modernity which has become an excuse, a ‘style’. (in Tadi & Zanni 2005: 85)
This statement cuts to the heart of Taglietti’s unique place in Australian architecture: a lone practitioner of an organic modern architecture; an Italian migrant practising in Australia but not hogtied to his own Mediterranean culture; and a considered design position that is neither about ‘touching the earth lightly’ nor pursuing uncritically the look and feel of Modernism as a style; and, as this paper argues, a practitioner whose structure and material practices in residential architecture (especially concrete) sets him apart from his colleagues. This is the distinctive aspect that he brings to Australian architecture.
Fig 12: McKeown House, Watson, ACT (1964). Architect: Enrico Taglietti. Photographer unknown. With permission of Cross-Section Archive, Architecture Library, University of Melbourne.
In looking, albeit briefly, at this context of Australian residential architecture in the late 1950s and 1960s, the argument for the uniqueness of Taglietti’s contribution and significance becomes even more persuasive. If there is a comparator to his residential work in Australia in terms of stereotomic mass and the tectonic, the search for the human, and a symbiotic relationship between architecture and landscape, it can be found in the earth-hugging, rock-faced houses of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony in Castlecrag in the 1920s. Taglietti attempted to do what the Griffins had never been able to achieve in Canberra. He saw that the potential for a different form of living in the Australian landscape could be realised, one that was primal, even fundamental, and which had already been understood by that place’s first inhabitants who dwelt amongst its rock shelters and knew it as a place for people to gather: the meaning of the word Canberra is believed to have derived from a Ngunnawal word meaning ‘meeting place’. Over his career, Taglietti never made any such claims to connection with local Indigenous traditions. But what is striking is that there is in Taglietti’s work a self-conscious engagement with and an empathy for the Canberra landscape that echo with that landscape’s geology and topography and its own earthbound, stereotomic traditions. It is salutary therefore to repeat the words of Enrico Taglietti who passed away in early 2019. These words were written forty years ago and they accompanied the images of the McKeown House in Tadi’s 1979 volume; they read as a poetic anthem to a special way of thinking about living in the Australian landscape:
For fear of the present
In expectation of the future
Further than one’s own life
For warmth and earthliness
To enjoy mutations and seasons
To take care of,
To protect and to seek a common ground
For the individual
In the multitude
To demand communion with
To defy gravity
Toward a freer vision
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