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How Australia builds

Margot Riley
The recently digitised Building magazine is a trove of information about twentieth century construction.

Before the first issue of Building magazine was published in Sydney in September 1907, the contribution of the architect, builder or merchant to the construction of a building rarely rated a mention in the press. For their new magazine, husband and wife editorial team George Taylor (1872–1928), a trained builder, and Florence Taylor (1879–1969), Australia’s first female architect, insisted on giving all members of the building community full recognition for their work.

The Taylors had established the Building Publishing Company after their marriage in April 1907. Together, they developed a successful stable of industry publications, spearheaded by Building: The Magazine for the Architect, Builder, Property Owner and Merchant (1907–1972). 

Image of Florence Taylor, Editor, Building magazine
Florence Taylor, Managing Editor, Building magazine, 1953, Sydney Morning Herald photograph

Targeting the Australian building community, the editors promised their readers impartiality, declaring that ‘no puffing will be found in its reading matter’, and clearly stating the journal’s intention:

To record their doings, study their requirements, watch legislative and other movements that may affect their interests, lay before them the cream of the world’s research in their various lines, and study for them fluctuations in property and building materials.

Billed as the ‘magazine for the man (& woman) who thinks’, Building was proclaimed as ‘the high watermark of Australian magazines’ within 12 months of its launch. The Taylors upheld the philosophy of ‘The New Journalism’ — not only to ‘write’ things, but to ‘do’ things — and promised to keep readers informed about improvements in local and international construction methods, fostering modernism in architecture and promoting town-planning ideas. Florence Taylor also wrote a regular column highlighting women in architecture.

In 1927, Building became the journal of the Federated Master Builders’ Association of Australia (later the Master Builders’ Federation of Australia), the nation’s oldest industry association. That year the Taylors purchased premises in Loftus Street, facing the obelisk in Macquarie Place. Initially occupying two of the three floors, by 1939 the Building Publishing Co. had taken over the whole building with a full complement of staff and a printing plant.

Following her husband’s death in 1928, Florence Taylor took over as editor, a position she occupied until her retirement in 1961. Mrs Taylor kept the magazine in production during the Depression — which brought the building trade to a standstill — and continued its high standard of publication through the war years.

Writing for the magazine’s 35th birthday issue in September 1942, Florence noted that many architects and builders had kept all of the 429 issues produced since its inception. In making alterations to existing buildings, it was the reference they took from the shelf when they wished to see the original state of any building constructed in the past 35 years.

Building continued to offer ‘influential commentary on the built environment in Australia’ into the 1970s. Cycling through a series of title changes, it was finally absorbed by Construction in 1972. 



Margot Riley
Curator, Research and Discovery

Building magazine from 1907 to 1942 is available via Trove. 

This article first appeared in SL magazine, Winter 2017.

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