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Lust for lifestyle: Modern Adelaide Homes 1950-1965 is an exhibition at the State Library of South Australia exploring the allure of modern living in a changing South Australia. A booming economy and emerging consumer culture led to a desire for enjoyment and a celebration of the pleasures of ‘everyday life’. A new generation of socially mobile individuals sought to define themselves through modern architecture.

Curated by Dr James Curry (School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Adelaide), and the State Library of South Australia, the exhibition delves into the relationship between the owners and their homes. Who were these people and what inspired them to leave (or demolish) their traditional family home to commission or move into a modern, architect-designed home? What were their backgrounds and social network?

Architect John Chappel is central to this discussion about modern architecture and though well-known within architectural circles, he was largely forgotten. Dr James Curry says, “John Chappel’s photographs and writings offer a unique perspective into the Adelaide experience of Mid-century modernism. The exhibition brings into view how individuals glimpsed the limitations of their old Adelaide homes and begun to redefine themselves through shifts in everyday living and consumer practices. It was not simply a change in an aesthetic but a drive for lifestyle."

Bringing together photographs, drawings, plans, and newspaper and magazine articles from the State Library’s collections, as well as material from other organisations and private family records, this exhibition celebrates the diverse work of architects and firms, including John S Chappel, Robin Boyd, Dickson and Platten, Peter Muller, Lawson, Cheesman and Doley, and others.

Also featured in the exhibition are video interviews with people who lived and worked in these remarkable buildings, giving a personal perspective.

Geoff Strempel, Director State Library of South Australia says, “After many months of being closed due to the impacts of COVID, we are excited to once again have our gallery open and filled with the stories of South Australia. Sharing these stories provides an important glimpse into our state’s social history.”

“We are pleased to be partnering with the University of Adelaide to show how the library’s collection can be used to create important work in other fields. Working with Dr James Curry has also given us a deeper insight into the John S Chappel collection, adding value to the library by enriching the collections. Thousands of images from the Chappel archives are now online and accessible to all via the library catalogue,” says Geoff Strempel.

To gain a deeper understanding of the exhibition and modern living in South Australia at the time, there is a public program of events, including walking and garden tours, and floor talks from designers, gardeners and academics.

For more information on the exhibition go to our exhibitions page and for public programs see our events page.


On now until Sunday 5 June 2022
Open: Monday to Tuesday: 8am to 7pm
Wednesday to Friday: 8am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday: 12 to 5pm
(closed public holidays)
State Library Gallery
State Library of South Australia
Corner North Terrace and Kintore Avenue
Free entry

Media enquiries:

Mark Gilbert
Media Content Librarian

State Library of South Australia
Mobile 0403 934 678

Download the media release