Jet Crossings: Flying Hybrid Machines Over Rose Bay Seaplane Airport (1938)

Dieckmann, Clare

Ngā Pūtahitanga / Crossings: A Joint Conference of SAHANZ and the Australasian UHPH Group

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The invention of flying boats in the early twentieth century prompted architects and urbanists to adapt to a new hybrid transport technology. Flying boats’ ability to take off and land on the water made the water an endless runway with airport terminals positioned on coastlines. The miracle of flying boats and, more broadly, aeroplanes in the air struck a chord in the popular imagination of ordinary tourists, avant-garde architects and urban designers. The Art Deco style expressed their excitement for the new modern transport technology, with smooth, streamlined aesthetics based on the curved, aerodynamic surface of aeroplane bodies. Design professionals internalised aerial themes when shaping places where the sea meets the sky.

Taking full advantage of aircraft technology with the ability to take off from the water, Qantas built Australia’s first international airport and maintenance facilities at Rose Bay in 1938 for easy access to the waters of Sydney Harbour. To serve further increases in the popularity of international air travel, a second international airport was proposed for the waters at Newport in Sydney’s Pittwater. The airport buildings at Rose Bay and Newport are examples of airport architecture at a local level, their stories providing tangible and material insights into the broader history of Australian aviation heritage. This paper’s archaeology of Rose Bay’s and Newport’s terminal buildings as obsolescent objects will uncover glimpses into how architects networked innovative transport technologies into the modern cities of the past.