There are three intriguing reflections of Greece in Australia: first there are the places that tell the story of the experience of migration, namely occupying a ‘space-in-between’ two cultures;second there is an accident in the history of urban planning, when Doxiades was in Brisbane;and third, there is a flowering of the Greek spirit in a number of leading planners and designers who are children of Greek migrants.
Greek migration has made a significant contribution to Australia in many ways, from early 19th century beginnings, to the inter-war years when Greek migrants established milkbars and fish and chip shops in country towns, to the 1950s-1960s ‘building of a nation’ through hard work in factories, steel mills, and the wharves.The experience of migration and the ways Greek migrants sought to make Australia feel more familiar resulted in places that were hybrids between ways of life in Greece and new lives in Australia.Greek churches, restaurants, milkbars, houses and gardens are all ubiquitous, although fast disappearing, elements in Australian towns.
The influence of Doxiades is less easily discerned.It is a little known part of Australian planning history.He was sent to Brisbane to recover his health, which was seriously affected by his major role in the Greek Resistance and the rebuilding of Greece immediately after WWII.Brisbane in the 1950s was a sleepy retreat where Doxiades, an Athenian patrician, recovered his well-being by growing tomatoes in a market garden area of rich volcanic soils.During this healing and contemplative activity, he developed his concept of EKISTICS as the way to rebuild cities in the 20th century.
The flowering of the Greek spirit in the second generation is fascinating to unravel.What is this spirit in contemporary planning and design in Australian cities?It is manifest in a number of ways:first as disciplined logic and discriminating scepticism derived from the heritage of Greek philosophy, exemplified by the design work of Alec Tzannes and Sophia Anapliotis:second as a visceral relationship between landscape, materials, and built form, exemplified by the work of Nonda Katsalidis;and third as a mystical and order-disturbing response derived from the Byzantine and exemplified by the work of Paul Katsieris.
In this work of Australian-Greek designers, we can also see a doubling of cultures where the sense of being Australian intersects with Greek heritage.A close look at the work of Paul Pholeros shows the oscillation between a deep commitment to Indigenous Australia and a particular respect for the knowledge embedded in the building process, characteristic of a number of Greek designers in Athens in the 1950s, such as Pikionis, Konstantinidis and Zenetos. It is fitting to celebrate the cultural pluralism in Australian planners and designers in the Year of the Built Environment because, within our cities and designed landscape, there lies a priceless cultural concept of interweaving and hybridity which will yield rich understanding if explored.