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Architecture: arrival of modernism

Beaufort Homes

During World War II, the resources of the building industry were turned to the war effort. Materials were scarce and domestic buildings were subject to strict guidelines in terms of size and expenditure. These restrictions continued into the post-war years when there was a desperate need for housing, with a wave of new migrants and returned servicemen all looking for accommodation.

The prefabricated Beaufort Homes (1946), designed by architect Arthur Baldwinson for the Department of Aircraft Production, were part of a government scheme to alleviate housing shortages. They were also a method of converting munitions factories to peace time needs. Although the scheme was ultimately abandoned, it represented a pioneering venture into prefabricated building design and production.

“The Beaufort Home is a culmination of intensive research in design, durability, insulation and equipment by the Beaufort Division of the Department of Aircraft Production in association with the Victorian State Housing Commission and the Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing through their Experimental Building Station … The house is essentially of steel construction, comprising floor members, walls, roof structure and sheeting, and is mounted on concrete foundation stumps.” (Brochure, 1946)


Beaufort Home - photographs

After World War II, the government looked to local and overseas companies for inexpensive and quick-to-assemble housing. Beaufort Homes represented a 'modern method of housing construction', combining the skill of architect Arthur Baldwinson, with the technical expertise of the Department of Aircraft Production which had previously been involved in producing Beaufort Bombers during the war.

A steel-framed prototype of the house was erected in three weeks and opened to the public in the Treasury Gardens, Melbourne, in June 1946, to raise interest in the project. The government at the time ordered five thousand houses for production, however only twenty-three were eventually built.


Beaufort Home - plans

Arthur Baldwinson’s modern designs for a prefabricated steel house were an innovative approach to post-war housing shortages. A prototype of the house, on display in the Treasury Gardens, Melbourne in 1946, was a simple two bedroom design, based on a three-foot grid, with steel frame, roof and cladding. Although initial interest in the project was high, the amount of steel required for large-scale production proved too demanding on post-war supplies and the project was prematurely terminated in 1947. Some examples of the house still survive in Victoria.

Plan, Beaufort Home, Beaufort Division, Dept. of Aircraft Production, [designed by Arthur Baldwinson], May 1946. Architectural Plan. PXA 372 v.5/18
Plan, Beaufort Home, Beaufort Division, Dept. of Aircraft Production, [designed by Arthur Baldwinson], May 1946. Architectural Plan. PXA 372 v.5/18

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