George Molnar: Kings Cross and Other Follies. Curator Jo Holder — 10 October to 1 November 2003

Curated by Jo Holder

Molnar delighted in the vernacular architecture and streetscape of Kings Cross. As deregulated height limits and a property and speculative building boom swept aside post-war dreams for a Great Society, Molnar disputed jargon and pointed out the half-truths and myths peddled about the benefits of consolidated cities and towers, freeways and remote suburban developments. Despite the activism of unions, communities and professional associations, more than half the city's heritage was destroyed before the Heritage Act (1977) and Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (1979) were introduced.

During the 1980s Molnar worked on his watercolours which he ironically described as contemporary portraits of Sydney in the moral tableaux tradition of William Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson. But he had become his own style and brand of activist.

 

w01XAP2Molnar492001.jpg

       
Human Scale in Architecture George Molnar's Sydney, City Exhibition Space, April to July 2001.

 
w02XAP-2-Molnar_54-1981..jpg w03XAP-2-Molnar_66-1970.jpg

w04XAP-2-Molnar_67.jpg

   
George Molnar, Sorry I Thought It Was a Dole Queue. Published, Sydney Morning Herald ,19.1.81.
George Molnar, ???, Published, Sydney Morning Herald, 22.7.67. George Molnar, As I was Going up the Stair, I Met a Man Who Wasn't There. Published, Sydney Morning Herald, 20.10.73.
 
w05XAP-2-Molnar_45-1956.jpg w06XAP-2-Molnar_69.jpg

w07XAP-2-Molnar_41-1987.jpg

   
George Molnar, Darling, You Know We're Not Supposed to Use The Balcony...., Published, Sydney Morning Herald. 1956.
George Molnar, Two Decades of U.S. Painting, Published, Sydney Morning Herald,  22.7.67. George Molnar Kings Cross & Other Follies, Kings Cross for Adults Only, 1987, Watercolour.
 

 

These are not just engaging works by a clever social commentator; Molnar's message is current. We are still dealing with exactly the same issues. Molnar pilloried the sell-off by politicians of the green belt, investment in freeways at the cost of public transport and banal towers intruding into the 'human scale' of the city. Today we struggle to keep the harbour foreshores public and to retain the last remnants of the Cumberland Plain.

George Molnar (1910 - 1998) is best known for his cartoons that documented Sydney in flux for the Sydney Morning Herald. This exhibition of his remarkable watercolours show his passions: planning and architecture and picturing folly and greed.

Molnar, a talented Hungarian modernist architect and professor of architecture at Sydney and NSW universities, alerted many to the high cost of 1960s and 1970s development booms: the destruction of most of Georgian and Victorian Sydney. Molnar advocated a 'human-scale' approach to the city's growth, and planning tolerant of creativity and diversity. Today this might be described as sustainable development.

 

Further reading: Jo Holder, Joan Kerr and Robert Freestone, Human Scale in Architecture: George Molnar’s Sydney, Craftsman’s Press/Thames & Hudson, 2003. Cross Art + Books

Cross Art + Books;
Thames & Hudson;
National Library of Australia