Hot Modernism: building modern Queensland 1945–75 is the State Library of Queensland’s latest major exhibition and events program unearthing the stories of Queensland’s mid-century architecture.

Hot Modernism: building modern Queensland 1945–75Showcasing the houses, hotels and public buildings that rose across the state during the mid 20th century and post-war period, Hot Modernism: building modern Queensland 1945–75 is shining a light on the global movements in modernist art and architecture that influenced our state’s landscape from July 9 to October 12.

This moment in our history, inspired by a new way of thinking about sub-tropical living, brought a new wave of fresh ideas, design and debate. As modernism swept the world during the mid 20th century, different relationships grew between local conditions and the international architecture scene, particularly in relation to the language of modern architecture. From the rolling expanse of the Riverside Expressway, to soaring concrete structures such as the Torbreck apartment building and houses that were explicitly tailored to our unique climate and lifestyle, this period of development paved the way for modern Queensland. It was an exciting era, but little is currently identified or celebrated in Queensland’s design practice.

The exhibition teases out the tension between regional building tradition and the global language of modernism in Queensland, and seeks to celebrate and reflect upon this significant period, re-igniting conversations about the designs and development of the past as we continue to define how we want to live today and into the future.

Exploring Queensland’s post-war development and how we continue to engage with questions around climate, urbanisation and lifestyle, Hot Modernism: building modern Queensland 1945–75 is structured around five themes; international influences, climate and regionalism, colour and art, urbanisation and lifestyle.

International Influences

Queensland’s new buildings drew upon the simplified geometries, colours, synthetic material, scientific systems of planning and mass production that informed the modern architecture of Britain, continental Europe and the Americas.

Climate and Regionalism

These two areas highlight the state’s growing interest in designing suburbs and homes that responded to its tropical and subtropical climate and culture. Modified to meet the requirements of Queensland’s climate, the international flavour of modernism was tempered by a renewed interest in local practices and devices such as the verandah, the elevated house and building with natural timbers.

Colour and Art

Inspired by global movements in modernist art and architecture, and mass production ideals, new architecture embraced simplified line, colour and style. The exhibition uncovers Queensland’s modern hues, and investigates how the local cohort of post-war architects integrated colour and art in their designs at a time when ornament was considered crime.


This theme of the exhibition takes a look at the larger scale, iterating how Queensland cities modernised, mushroomed and motorised to adapt to a new way of living. Eclectic nineteenth century neighbourhoods with their traditional timbered houses made way for mass produced cottages, high rise towers, multistorey car parks, community pools, expressways and shopping complexes.


Seeking a fresh start following World War Two, communities began to question tradition in search of modern and better ways of living. Queensland’s new modern lifestyle not only affected city planning, but also architecture and interior design.

After opening the doors to the public last week, the State Library of Queensland has begun to run a series of engaging and interactive talks, tours, films, workshops and special events designed to spark conversation about Queensland’s modernist past and its future. As part of the exhibition, visitors will be able to walk through a full-scale re-creation of the 1957 Jacobi House, examine 3D models, historical drawings and photographs, relax in a 1960s living room and engage with the Design our City space. This interactive space allows visitors to investigate international design challenges such as transport, access, sustainability, community and look to a future of planning to inspire our community to build our city of the future.

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