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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Robin Boyd

In their own words

Recorded 1962

Robin Boyd
Audio: 2 minutes

I think because of the social implications of all buildings and their tremendous influence on the lives of the occupants and of everybody who sees them it is important for the architect to set down in black and white what he really believes architecture is.

The key thing about architecture, after all, is the fact that it serves people, it’s not just mirroring society involuntarily but it is serving people at the same time. In doing this it must observe certain disciplines. If you remove these disciplines, well, it’s just another matter of aesthetics, a matter of good taste, it’s an inhibited sort of sculpture. But if you accept the disciplines necessary, then I believe it becomes the real mother, the greatest art.

Of course, I admit that it is much more fun for any architect to let his imagination run riot than it is to accept the realist discipline. But anybody who thinks that architecture is primarily concerned with appearances, with beauty, with plastic excitement and all that sort of thing, I think would really be better off in window dressing.

And so I say that there is a basic choice for every architect to face, between the romantic and the realist. To be realistic, I think we must accept that the human being isn’t just a lump of pink flesh that has to be kept dry at about 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This particular lump of flesh has other properties, such as a mind that gets all sorts of illusions about its own importance and about God and about space, and certain longings, perhaps to long to be out in the open, free, or on the contrary the longing to crawl back into the womb. And part of the function of buildings is to supply these needs as well as the purely physically functional ones.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Robin Boyd is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency