From Roofs to Routes: The Possessive Logics of California Mission Architecture in Australia, 1915-1945

Authors: Genevieve Carpio*, UCLA
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Immigration/Transnationalism, Landscape
Keywords: Mission architecture, home building, California, Australia, Mexican American, Indigenous, Spanish Fantasy Past
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Chairman's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This project looks at the interwar period, when the characteristic verandas, archways, and red tile roofs of California mission architecture began appearing throughout Australia’s eastern suburbs. It starts from the position that the spread of Spanish-Mission architecture and its “possessive logics” (Moreton Robinson, 2015) is a settler colonial project that remaps Indigenous territories through home building. Where scholars have richly examined the ways mission architecture and its related ideologies helped shape racial regimes across the American Southwest with consequence for the Mexican American population, they have yet to examine how these links might translate beyond the U.S. context. This line of inquiry reveals much about why and to what effect these narratives travel, particularly where the Spanish-Mission style gained root outside of Spanish colonial spaces like the United States. This paper argues that the cross-coastal adoption of a hybrid Spanish-Mission style reveals not only the mobility of architecture, but also the flexibility of the Spanish Fantasy Past, a “selective tradition” that legitimized unequal power relations between white settlers and Indigenous people reaching across the Pacific (Williams, 1977). In both the U.S. and Australia, a narrative of Euro-progression replaced the violent and systematic conquest of Native people. In this regard, the Spanish Fantasy Past was a mythology with extreme fluidity, one adapted to legitimize unequal power relations in settler societies.

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