City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

I'd long ago decided to try to deliver constructive criticism with this site. So in discussing the ideas for 'distributed exhibitions' in the previous review of the 'Modern Times' exhibition at the Powerhouse, I decided to try to make an example of what I meant.

The simplest possible offering that still illustrates the point would be a Google Map of 'modernism in Australia' – an artefact that lives outside the exhibition, guiding people to examples of the work that exist outside the exhbition. So I started a map, dragged a few blue markers into place, and then enlisted a few friends and colleagues to help me kickstart it.

And many thanks to Super Colossal's Marcus Trimble, Canberra House's Martin Miles, Rory Hyde from The Architects, who did the bulk of the additions. Stuart Harrison, Andrew Maher from work and a few others formed a supportive advisory panel. We have a few more potential contributions to come from Perth's Best, Max Creasy, architects at Terroir and Hassell, and a few others I hope.

But within a week, we'd got a pretty good set of examples – over 180 buildings and structures, located pretty exactly, and many with links and images (and we've tried to credit images where possible.) Houses, skyscrapers, civic buildings, sculptures, memorials. (And we didn't want to get into a debate of what formally counted as modernism and what didn't – inclusivity was the order of the day. Having said that, if you think there's a property that shouldn't be listed there, for whatever reason, do let me know.)

It's a little skewed towards the south and east, to say the least – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, to be precise. We're hoping to rectify that, with your help. We need contributions for the other major cities in Australia, and I've decided to take a curatorial approach rather than fully open, given the hard work put in by others thus far and the lack of back-up/roll-back facilitites in Google Maps. So if you want to join in, and if you know of examples of modernism in built form – buildings, sculptures, infrastructure, built or unbuilt – drop me a line (email address below-right, where it says 'email me') and I'll happily welcome you in.

In the meantime, we hope you find the map useful, interesting. It's embedded below, though you might find this direct link more useful. I'll also send it to the Powerhouse Museum, offering it up as a potential adjunct to their exhibition, if they're interested.

View larger map of modernism in Australia

Modernism in Australia [Google Maps]
"Modern Times: The untold story of modernism in Australia", Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, plus some notes on architectural exhibitions
Modern Times exhibition [The Powerhouse]


12 responses to “Sketchbook: A collaborative map of modernism in Australia”

  1. lauren Avatar

    brilliant! you’re so ‘good’ dan – most of us just whinge, but no, you go and collaborate and make an open source (ish) map. well done.


  2. Jacques Avatar

    Beauty, Dan! (and co). This will further entice me back to Australia.


  3. Foe Romeo Avatar

    Nice one. Who were you planning to send it to? I’m sure Seb Chan would be interested.


  4. Dan Hill Avatar

    Thanks everyone, but real credits to my collaborateurs. It’s hardly Mimoa but it’s a start.


  5. Seb Chan Avatar

    Hi Dan. This is really great. Thanks. Now it is begging for a mashup with the KML/GeoRSS from


  6. Dan Hill Avatar

    Cheers Seb, and nice work on the Flickr photos too. Go for it, in terms of the mashup.


  7. Ryan Taube Avatar

    Hi Dan,
    Great website, I’ve been following it for some time now. I like the maps idea, you have in this post. You should check out a project called MIMOA which is a collaborative map of Modernism throughout the world. It’s a great resource in Europe right now, but Australia is quite lacking and we’re looking for people to fill in those gaps.


  8. Dan Hill Avatar

    Thanks Ryan, much appreciated. I’m well aware of MIMOA (note my comment above), having been in touch with them a year or so ago. It’s a great site, and glad it’s extending beyond Europe. I always thought it had the potential to be an IMDB for architecture.


  9. Rory Avatar

    Hi Dan-
    Just came across this collaborative map project called Deco Detective, part of the education program for the Art Deco exhibition on at the NGV at the moment.
    They invite school students to “find examples of Art Deco design or architecture in your area, photograph them and describe them, and add your new locations to the interactive map to share your discoveries.”
    There’s not much on there yet, but I hope it takes off. Any Deco buffs out there? – RH


  10. Cormac Heron Avatar

    That’s amazing!


  11. Jarrett Avatar

    A perilous and therefore courageous project, such mapmaking. One is always in danger of making a map of that announces the limits of one’s own circle of awareness, which for urbanists understandably doesn’t reach much outside the capitals, your excursion to Townsville being the rule-proving exception. Are there possible competing narratives about modernism that would emphasise the rural and regional?
    I know, the blog isn’t called “Country of Sound.” But orthogonal maps do have a way of making the inter-urban spaces cry out. Perhaps you could explore those topological maps that stretch and compress geographical areas to make them proportional to populations, collapsing the country into little lubricative furrows between vast, round capitals.
    A friend of mine is trying to build a solar-powered house in the country near Lithgow, and has been told that he can’t have the roof pitched at an angle matching the latitude — 32 degrees I believe — because the council planners feel it would look “too industrial.” Some outreach re country modernism is clearly in order. There’s probably a PIA paper in it.


  12. Dan Hill Avatar

    Thanks Jarrett. Personally I reckon a map of modernism (a largely urban phenomenon?) in modern Australia (a largely urban phenomenon?) will continue to skew as it has, even if we had more inter-urban/exurban coverage. There’s plenty more to add in Syd/Melb/Bris amazing enough. But let’s see what happens – remember, it’s open to anyone to join in and help populate the map. Just mail me (cityofsound at gmail dot com) to join.
    Your friends struggles with the council planners made me smile/grimace. Shocking, really, all these years on (accepting that progress is not as linear as I’d hope).


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