What is Mid Century Modern Architecture?

When you look up on the internet “Mid Century Modern Architecture” what do you see? You may find yourself browsing through photos of floor to ceiling glass windows, flat roofs and houses that are very low to the ground. This architecture is very US based and has come straight from the balmy grasp of Palm Springs, California. But what does it look like in Australia?


History of Mid Century Modern Architecture

Mid Century Modern Architecture originated post-war, specifically in the 50s and 60s. The baby boom led to a housing boom, and houses popped up left, right and centre.

Two architects that played their cards right in this era of architecture were Harry Seidler and Robin Boyd, both making a significant impact on Australia’s architectural history. Seidler was the mind behind many gorgeous buildings including the famous Rose Seidler house. The heritage listed, now museum, was originally designed by Seidler for his parents, Max and Rose. This two-storey, 12 room house showcases a full view of the outside from every room, bar the bathroom. Seidler’s intention was to bring the outside inside – a very mid century modern move.

Another building that showcases natural light is Boyd’s Featherston House in Victoria. Boyd designed Featherston House to push the boundaries of classical architecture. The indoor garden, floating platforms and transparent roof is experimental and fresh. Boyd’s design choices set modern architecture in Australia into gear.

Characteristics of Mid Century Modern Architecture


Unlike the flat roofs displayed atop the Palm Springs houses in sunny California, houses in Queensland needs to be rain ready. Although Australia’s modern movement strayed from the flat roof, architects designed shallow pitch roofs, which are not too far from flat.

Open Plan

Many houses in Queensland follow a set of rules. The windows have to be in the middle of the room, and each room must have a different purpose. However, post-war modern houses reject these rules and follow their own destiny. When walking into one of these modern homes, you will notice the flow of the spaces. The inside holds a very strong connection with the outside and surrounding environment.


One of the aspects that give modern architecture away at first glance is the materials and the way that they are expressed. Glass is used widely in the lore of modern architecture. Glass assists with the flowing state of these post-war buildings, helping the outside to come inside. This move is seen in the ceiling to floor glass windows and doors.

Steel, concrete and wood also make their mark in many contemporary homes. Steel columns and exposed concrete add value to the overall aesthetics of the home. Wood is kept as natural as possible and is stained rather than painted.


The post-war era was an extremely optimistic time and these feelings are reflected in the exterior of the home. Many houses that were built in the 50s and 60s showcase bright colours to signify the optimism of freedom.


Post-War, Modern Mid Century Architecture within Queensland

In Queensland, the most common house is a Queenslander. Funny that! However, not all of these houses truly fit into the classical rules of Queenslander architecture. Read this blog to find our more about the classical architecture of Queenslanders. The 1920’s and 1930’s saw many Queenslanders popping up around the suburbs of Brisbane and beyond.  Post-war Queenslanders, built in the 50’s and 60’s, have slightly different characteristics to the classical architecture of the 20’s and 30’s.


A Queenslander that has been designed and built with windows in the corners of the room, rather than in the middle has most likely been built post-war. Windows in the middle of a room is a very common characteristic of classical architecture, so if this is not the case, you will get an idea of when the house was actually built.


Queenslanders showcase beautiful timber balustrades to match the details and materials of the rest of the house. So, if a house has welded, steel balustrades instead of timber, yet another classical rule is broken, and the house was most likely built post-war. 


Another aspect that differentiates a classically designed Queenslander to a post-war Queenslander is the flooring. Classical architecture in Queenslanders features timber walls, floors, you name it. However, in some Queenslanders the flooring is terrazzo. This is a post-war twist on a classic Queenslander.


A classic Queenslander design is seen in the tin, steep pitched roofs. However, some Queenslanders sport a tiled roof, which is a nod to modernism. 


Where’s the Mid Century Modern architecture in your suburb? Are you living in one? Now you know that aspects of this post-war architecture, it will be impossible not to spot.