Exhibition + Open House | Ernest Fooks – The House Talks Back: 18/19 March

Talks and Tour on the 18th and 19th of March 2017


An introduction to the former residence of emigré architect

Dr Ernest Fooks (1906 – 1985), with the opportunity to explore

an exhibition of archive material, brought together for the first time 

within the house at 32 Howitt Road – ‘The House talks Back‘.

More info at the Boyd Foundation web site and on this page

This exhibition and supporting research project seeks to create a fully documented archival database and repository of Dr Ernest Fooks. The Fooks collection itself presents a poignant window into the life of an exemplary architect, designer, theorist and artist. This can be seen through the countless travel slides, hand written lecture notes, letters to key figures, and numerous other documents yet to be examined. This collection has not been strategically archived, and thus, through this exhibition there is an opportunity to get a glimpse into this significant collection from the archives of the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne University, RMIT Design Archives, The Jewish Museum and The Holocaust Museum. These disparate collections will be brought together for the first time at the Fooks house, 32 Howitt Road, Caulfield North, Melbourne.


The Exhibition is brought to you by Melbourne School of Design

Curator – Alan Pert, Director of Melbourne School of Design

with contributions from 26 Msd Masters Students



Another opportunity to view

Due to public reception of this exhibition and open house in early December, there will be an opportunity to view in late February or beginning of March. A selection of key Fooks designed houses are also being explored to form a comprehensive Open Day. To be added to our mailing list and keep updated on the confirmed dates, please email




Sessions will be required to be booked in advance due to limited availability.



Background information

In 2013, Professor Alan Pert and his family moved into the former residence of émigré architect Dr Ernst Fooks (1906-1985). A house Fooks conceived as being “the focal point of a way of life rather than being simply a retreat from the pressure of daily living”, and Pert has described as “a form of domestic theatre”. Czech-born and Austrian-trained, Fooks was one of a number of European architects who lived and practiced in Victoria in the post-war period. Pert’s intimate acquaintance with this house, and with its library, has inspired extensive research activity that has so far culminated in the MSD exhibition and catalogue “X-Ray the City” at the 2016 Venice Biennale (titled after Fooks’ 1946 publication), and the exhibition presented here for this limited time, which is the result of the work of 26 masters students in collaboration with Pert alongside Professor Philip Goad. While this research is ongoing, and ties into a wider body of work of émigré architects in Australia between 1930 and 1970, the work completed here represents the first attempt to comprehensively understand and document the life and work of Fooks.




Taking his residence at 32 Howitt Road (1966) as an artefact – a lens through which to scrutinise the architect’s larger body of domestic work and the rituals of his daily life – the exhibition draws together archival sources from The Holocaust Museum, The Jewish Museum, RMIT design Archives, The State Library of Victoria and the University of Melbourne’s own “Fooks collection”; gifted to the Architecture Building and Planning Library in the 1990s by the architect’s widow, Noemi Fooks.


“The Fooks collection”, which includes countless travel slides, hand written lecture notes, letters to key figures, and numerous other documents yet to be examined, presents a poignant window into the life of an exemplary architect, designer, theorist and artist. The ultimate goal of this research is the formal creation of “The Ernest Fooks Collection”, a research, exhibition and publication project. With the exile of so many Europeans from countries like Austria during the Second World War, the influx of new professionals brought with them new teachings, new ideas, new theories and new skills that would highly influence planning, design, architecture and culture in the development of modernist Australia. These contributions present undiscovered narratives into the social and cultural capital of Europe and Australia, and offer insights into design trends during the interwar years, the war years and importantly, the post-WWII era. In turn, the Fooks collection manifests as a potential exemplar into the investigation of émigré professionals, as it does provide links to key areas of professional activity such as domestic houses, public housing and flat developments, and, to key institutions such as the Housing Commission, Victoria.



So why look at Ernest Fooks now?

Fooks was far more than an architect. He was a prolific traveller, artist, lecturer, interior designer, furniture designer, writer and theorist. Our ultimate goal is the formal creation of ‘The Ernest Fooks Collection’, a research repository, which brings together disparate archives and information located at the University of Melbourne, RMIT Design Archives, The Holocaust Museum, The Jewish Museum and the State Library of Victoria. Through boxes of letters to notables such as Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley, US urban theorist Lewis Mumford and former Bauhaus Director Walter Gropius as well as to the exemplary photography of his frequent overseas endeavours; a vast array of tangible histories preside around Fooks, yet to be uncovered and documented. There is more to understand and learn about Fooks, and in order to do so, ‘The House Talks Back’ begins to investigate, speculate and test the theoretical position of the somewhat forgotten archives of Ernest Fooks.



MSD Masters – Exhibition Contributors

Dewi Anwar
Mark Bligh
Michelle Chang
Emmanuel Cohen
Toby Dean
James Freijah
Aykiz Gokmen
Matthew Greenwood
Matthew Harkin
Darcy Higgins
Kyle Hui
Lewis Kingston
Shirley Kwan
Ruofan Lei
Han Li
Jane Mikhailova
Danielle Mileo
Melanie Modafferi
Maximilian Murray
Ka Yan Stephanie Ng
Xeyiing Ng
Mitchell Su
Jen Young Tan
Nina Tory-Henderson
Toby Woolley
Behnaz Zamani


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