The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney

SLM Friscoe furniture store Punchbowl 1963 (c) Max Dupain Archives, State Library of NSWA new exhibition at the Museum of Sydney, The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney celebrates our modernist émigré design community; their backgrounds, their Australian careers and their legacy.

Opening 22 July, The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney explores the personal stories of our ‘forgotten’ émigré designers during mid-20th century; their career achievements, loss, adaptation, ingenuity and their distinctly European style and influence in shaping modern Sydney.

Modernism flourished across Europe during 1920s – 30s with its emphasis on simplicity and functionality. In Australia, a large number of Europeans immigrated to Sydney as a result of imminent war and included a significant number of architects and designers.

Well educated, urbanised and middle class, Sydney’s émigré designers brought a direct experience of European modernist ideas and working experience with them. Whilst many of the designers encountered obstacles in returning to their chosen professions, they re-adapted their skills and went on to have a substantial impact across architecture, interior design, furniture making and the media.

A few of these émigré designers became known for their work during 1950s – 60s but many were not. The exhibition features a number of new discoveries; designers with remarkable European design pedigrees working virtually unknown in Sydney.

“Through exploring the stories behind our émigré design community, we are reminded of the richness that migration brings and of the diversity in the history of our city,” said Rebecca Hawcroft, guest curator, Sydney Living Museums. “This exhibition is both a social and design history and an acknowledgement of their substantial achievements.”

One such couple were architects Hugh and Eva Buhrich who trained in Berlin and Zurich before immigrating to Sydney. As their qualifications were not initially recognised in Australia, Eva adapted to pursue a career in architectural journalism while Hugh, unable to take the title of architect, continued to work unregistered as a ‘planning consultant’.

Their second house, Buhrich House II, designed and built by Hugh in 1968 – 72, a remarkably individual and sculptural work, is now widely acclaimed as one of the finest examples of modern architecture in Australia.

The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney is a richly illustrated exhibition with photographs from the Max Dupain Archive, original furniture and design objects and media of the day including the very popular ‘build-your-own’ furniture plans published in Australian House & Garden.

The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney is a part of A Modernist Season and our broader House & Architecture series, celebrating modernism, the renewed public interest in its bold, simple, aesthetic and its significance to Sydney’s heritage,” says Mark Goggin, Executive Director Sydney Living Museums.

The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney
Museum of Sydney, Corner Philip and Bridge Streets, Sydney
Exhibition: 22 July – 26 November 2017
Free after museum entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Frisco Furniture Store, Punchbowl, 1963 (detail). Designed by Lukacs & Gergely Architects. © Max Dupain Archives, State Library of NSW.