What is it about mid-20th century design that has sparked its resurgence?

Is it nostalgia? Is it the clean modernist design lines? Whatever it is, this style has certainly captured the imagination of a whole new generation of people.

Many look to California Modern, Festival of Britain 1951 or even Robin Boyd’s Melbourne Modernist Movement for their modernist design inspiration, however one does not have to look too far from home, in post-war Queensland, to know that modern design was alive and flourishing in our own backyard!

And that is essentially why Brisbane Modern: mid-century design magazine was created. It was written to highlight the talented and overlooked pioneers of Brisbane modern design and to capture their stories before they disappeared from living memory. State Library’s Hot Modernism exhibition in 2014 is also testament to that fact.

The magazine was an entirely independent venture by publisher Chris Osborne with the assistance of helpful contributors, generous bookstore stockists and supportive businesses that paid for ads to help fund that first publication back in 2007, which was produced locally in Brisbane. It was always important to keep everything local despite the Siren’s call of cheap off-shore printing.

We produced three Brisbane Modern magazines over a three year period, followed by a national Australian Modern magazine and then a more ambitious hard-cover book Australian Modern Design. I was the copy editor on all of these publications.


It is nearly a decade since that first Brisbane Modern was released and it was a gratifying experience to be involved in bringing to light some of the untold stories of mid-century Brisbane.

I still recall one of the meetings with many of our contributors congregated in Chris’s lounge room, as we looked over the final proofs before Brisbane Modern went to print. Little did we know that small independent publication would go further than that one issue and that it would eventually be digitised by the State Library to live on forevermore!

The stories contained within the pages of Brisbane Modern are an eclectic mix covering architecture, design, art, furniture and music and the people who were the creative force during that period in Brisbane’s history.

Some of my favourite stories in the Brisbane Modern magazines include a profile on modernist émigré sculptor Erwin Guth, who has since died; the interesting story about Brisbane’s Danish Quality Furniture; the Discover Brisbane Architecture walking tour (which will be ‘pick the buildings still standing’ tour); a story about the soon-to-be-demolished Plywood House; and the long-gone kitschy Gold Coast theme park Santaland.

It was definitely a fun period of my life where I became immersed in Brisbane’s mid-century architecture and design history. It fuelled a love for modernist design and I am now a custodian of a modernist home, designed by Queensland architect Peter Heathwood, which we are restoring to preserve for future generations.

Digitised copies of Brisbane Modern: mid-century design magazine can be viewed through SLQ’s One Search catalogue. This magazine was digitised as part of SLQ’s Community Heritage Digitisation Offer.

Anita Lewis

Photo credit: Brisbane Modern meeting
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