In a recent project documenting the iconic architectural work of Iwan Iwanoff, photographer Jack Lovel foregrounds Perth’s unique landscape and light.
What’s more ‘Perth’, one might ask, than the view of a perfectly manicured, dark green lawn, contrasted against a saturated, blue-asblue sky in garish midday light? Our suburban landscape is dominated by these elements, and they foster an easy going lifestyle just as unique. This dynamic was not lost on Iwan Iwanoff, a seminal Bulgarian-born architect who brought international design and architecture finesse to Perth when he moved here in the 1950’s and established Iwanoff Studio. Between then and his death in 1986, Iwanoff designed somewhere around 150 residential, commercial and public buildings that have acquired a cult following among Perth design enthusiasts for their signature detailed woodwork, breezeblock facades and midcentury open plans. In a recent body of work by architectural photographer Jack Lovel titled The Architecture of Iwan Iwanoff: Through The Lens of Jack Lovel, which documents more than twenty Iwanoff homes, this relationship between the Perth landscape and Iwanoff’s relics comes into renewed focus.
“The isolation of Perth greatly informed Iwanoff’s work and is something that should be celebrated,” says Lovel, who grew up in the Jordanoff House, designed by Iwanoff in 1954. Nowadays, he is an accomplished residential and commercial architectural photographer based in Melbourne – but he made more than fifteen trips back to Perth over the course of two years to document Iwanoff’s oeuvre. “Due to that isolation, Iwanoff’s work is widely unrecognised to this point. Hopefully, this project will start to change that and garner more recognition for his work.”
Lovel’s photographs place Iwanoff’s body of work firmly within the Perth landscape. According to architect and Restoration Australia host Stuart Harrison, who opened an exhibition of Lovel’s work at There.Is Studio in Perth in June, “Iwanoff is to Perth what Gaudi is to Barcelona – a figure inseparable from the place in which he worked.”
Harrison, who is also originally from Perth but who’s architecture firm, Harrison and White (HAW), is based in Melbourne, also mentioned in his opening remarks the unavoidable presence of those aforementioned green lawns and blue skies. Lovel’s images – shot from the front verge of each of the twenty featured homes in almost identical clement conditions – are an honest depiction of Perth’s stark aesthetic that champion, above all else, the uniqueness of Iwanoff’s work.
“The homes are all located around suburban Perth which is one of the most fascinating aspects about them,” says Lovel. “The snippets of houses and rooftops on either side give the viewer some insight into the surrounding neighbourhood. The big blue skies are characteristically Perth. Whenever I got off the plane from Melbourne, I was greeted by that beautiful weather and stark landscape, something I have come to appreciate more since moving away. No doubt WA’s harsh climate greatly informed Iwanoff’s designs and my aim was to convey this through my own photographic approach.”
Indeed, he is right. As Harrison explained at the exhibition opening, Iwanoff’s unconventional designs directly responded to his newfound geography in Perth; as an outsider looking in, he came to acutely understand the city’s light. His signature use of Besser blocks, for example, don’t just achieve a brutalist aesthetic; they filter hot sunrays, provide aeration and insulation in climbing temperatures, and are hardwearing enough to weather Perth’s harsh climate.
For Lovel, this started as a passion project. The idea came when he was driving around Perth’s White Gum Valley – not the location of any Iwanoff projects, but rather dotted with old Italian homes that invoked a sense of nostalgia, and a desire to document ‘home’. Lovel’s personal relationship to Iwanoff’s body of work helped him connect with other homeowners, whose support became crucial to the success of the project. But the purpose of the project was not one of vanity or even pleasure – it was to enshrine Iwanoff’s body of work, and to give it its rightful place.
The Architecture of Iwan Iwanoff: Through The Lens of Jack Lovel will be exhibited again in Melbourne later in 2019, and Lovel plans to include more of the detail shots he obtained rather than just the facades. Beyond the local exhibitions, Lovel also hopes to present the work internationally and is considering a potential publication of the images. He says that through showing the work outside of Perth, he hopes to raise awareness of Iwanoff and of the fact that, as Harrison summarised neatly, “good design has happened, does happen, and will continue to happen in Perth.”
“The body of work created by Iwanoff over his 35-plus-year career is a truly unique example of Western Australian residential architecture during a time of great development in Perth. My goal for this project was always to bring greater attention and awareness to Iwanoff, his work and life in Western Australia,” says Lovel. “My hope is that people outside of Perth see the images and are astounded by the fact that an architect of this calibre with such a unique style was practising in WA for so many years virtually unknown and unrecognised by a wider audience.”
Visit – Jack Lovel