It’s all a bit topsy turvy when the room in best condition in a house is the bathroom, but this certainly no ordinary place with more than it’s fair share of mad hatter vibes (must be that wall paper). Though needing a little love there is a world of potential to harness – including stonework, built in furniture, carport and main room configuration, overgrown garden and Easter Island face wood burner (haven’t we seen you before old friend?).
It is with wistful resignation we wish to pay our respects and recollect the awe for architect and Australian Modernist giant, Neil Clerehan who passed away late last week, 7 weeks shy of his 95th birthday. A man of wit, generosity of knowledge, a pioneer of design ideals and writing, a family man. It is an ambitious task to attempt to detail such a life and career, such is its all encompassing impact; the searing clarity of his work and the incredible legacy he leaves behind, spanning the entire breadth of Modernist Australian architecture; the post-war pioneering years in Melbourne toiling alongside Robin Boyd and travelling to meet global instigators such as Philip Johnson, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright, the project homes, the awards, the remarkable public and private commissions, the later destruction and dismissal of many buildings and the resurgent recognition of Australian Modernism and Clerehan himself are now receiving more readily.
Clerehan House II (c.1964)
Always an indicator of quality person and their body of work is the words of contemporaries, however as Clerehan has in outlasted so many, maybe most, in his immediate professional sphere that job now falls to the newer generation to speak about the man. As their trailblazing forebear into architectural expression and exploration, planning and living, these later architects, designers and fans have been inspired, mentored and awed. It is these words gleaned from the webs, that we’ll leave here.
“…..elder statesman of Melbourne modernism, keeper of the flame, indefatigable chronicler of (and eyewitness to) eight decades of local architectural trends, a figure admired for his erudition, bodkin-sharp wit and unsurpassed gift for playfully scurrilous anecdote.”
– Simon Reeves, Architectural historian, Built heritage.
“farewell Neil Clerehan……a lifetime of buildings left for us to celebrate and enjoy”
– Kennedy Nolan Architects
“A giant of Modernist architecture in Australia. He was Director of the RVIA Small Homes Service (1954–61), and wrote weekly articles on architecture for The Age newspaper. In 1961, he published Best Australian Houses. Briefly in partnership with Guilford Bell, he was still designing into his 90’s.”
-Scott Burchell, Director, Comb Construction
“I have a lot of respect for his dogged passion for architecture. He did great things with both the Small Homes Service post WW2, and his boldly understated houses.”
-Jason Haigh, Cloud Dwellers Architects
“One of the best.”
-Grazia and co.
“It was with a deep and profound sadness I heard about the passing of Neil Clerehan. Neil was one of our most significant architects and he made an enormous contribution to the standard of post war housing in Melbourne.”
“Vale to a giant of Australian architecture. 1922-2017. #neilclerehan leaves a huge legacy after a sixty plus years career. His work at the #smallhomesservice continues to inspire my thinking about houses, more than fifty years later.”
– Rory Toomey, Rory the Architect
A subtle street presence. Cared and lived in, in a manner which itself demands our admiration for such negligible wear and tear, whilst still evoking instant welcome, warmth and ease. An epic front door. Solid, unyielding brickwork and tiles. A stylishly daring kitchen. Windows everywhere letting the light flood in. Talismans of cultured European owners. A no-nonsense floor plan. A backyard just aching for a tiny zhush of festoon lights (or maybe a pool?) to make it sublime. Everything one comes to expect from a certified Caulfield North classic. *sigh*
Its always super exciting to post up the opportunity to live in a bona fide amazeballs Mid-Century home, this one right on the river with an immaculate timber and painted brick schema and a distinct Japanese design influence, without the million dollar price tag. That’s rental living for you, in this case you get the very best of the west, without having mining magnate on your CV. Diggit!
Hold the phone! An awe-inspiring, chest-bursting residence from the hand of notable, Hungarian emigre architect Frank Kolos (just the fellow to be celebrated with his colleagues in the recent exhibition from the Sydney Museum ‘The Moderns’) has popped up for sale. And could there be a greater testament to the ideas and execution on Mid-Century Modern design than this? Around 60 years old and as fresh, attractive and responsive to today’s needs as any contemporary build going on (and, lets face it a hellava lot more beautiful than most). How many other examples in the field of design – appliances, cars, clothing or tech could stand up to that comparison. Yep, not many. Of course another plus with a 60 year old home is the 60 year old garden to go with it – that stunning sweep of a drive leading us up to this beauty, nestled amid towering trees. We dare anyone to look at this a not see it as a work of art, and we will be questioning mankind en masse should it not be standing this time next year – Sydneysiders, a sure one for heritage protection no?
This, like yesterday’s ripper in the exclusive Sydney ‘burbs, could be the living dead. No classic Mid-Century design and external appeal, no cutie-pie kitchen, no stunning copper-detailed fireplace, no demurely simple colour scheme and no walls of windows opening onto serene sweeping gardens can save such a place on over 1000 square metres in this developer Sodom and Gomorrah. Indeed it would take something truely biblical to walk this one through such a valley of destructive darkness.
We are head over heels for the low-key elegance to be found here. No rah-rah, no flash, no bling or imposingly huge residence. Just a lovely restrained, Japanese influenced set of spaces, walls and garden. Absolute lifestyle catnip for those of us who long for the days when being cool was measured with a boho yardstick – each line a marker of what you read, what you made, the times you had, the friends and family you fostered and the peaceful, humble environment you based it in – a far cry from the bloated worship of stuff, selfies and excess taking over every suburb. We’d truly save this one if we could.
Just 6 kms north of the Cup Day chaos sits this rectangular, 2 storey residence which has been setting an entirely other collectives’ heart on fire. Particularly striking due its intact presentation and wild retro detailing (a rarity from a suburb infilled with conservative clinker bricked, tiled roofed, postwar 3 bedders) and its easy ability to retain this glorious look whilst allowing a few adjustments for supreme family living makes this one a kitty in the pigeons. No doubt another high stakes race will be on here, as well as down the road in Flemington, this coming Saturday afternoon.
If you didn’t already cop onto Canberra’s status as possibly our best city to explore Mid-Century design, including such architectural icons as the Australian Academy of Science AKA The Shine Dome, as well as a clutch of impressive domestic and public buildings from the cream of Australian architecture, including Robin Boyd, Roy Grounds, Harry Seidler and local luminary Enrico Taglietti then now is the time to explore – Canberra Modern (as part of the Design Canberra Festival) has begun!
“Canberra Modern (7-16 November) is an independent program of events being held during the Design Canberra festival 2017. Canberra Modern was initially inspired by Palm Springs Modernism Week and spearheaded a small team of local heritage and design professionals. We hope to promote the appreciation and conservation of the unique mid-century modern places which make an irreplaceable contribution to Canberra’s unique historic urban and designed cultural landscape through fun and inspirational events such as walks, talks, a vintage market, a dinner and a martini masterclass that celebrate Canberra’s modernist soul.”
The Shine Dome (AKA The Martian Embassy) by architect Sir Roy Grounds (c.1965)
From joyful rubber necking on bus tours, Sunday market, Conversations with contemporary experts and living legends, The sublime winners of a MCM photography competition, An arvo spent with Rosso and his comic celebration of Modernism die-hardery, and, what we love the most, after a long day of talk and appreciation perhaps a chance for some good old fashioned martini soaked fun times and/or an ANU great hall dinner with fellow travellers – what more could you want?
‘Benjamin Residence’ Alex Jelinek (c.956). Photo: Darren Bradley.
Get onto all the events in the links, post haste as they are selling out fast! And of you wanna mix it up with a bit of house peeping – Check the clutch of Canberra listings we’ve just posted; from a nifty Seidler townhouse to a glamorous updated residence to the re-listing of a jaw dropping, cold-war diplomatic compound there is always a little something for everyone in our (design) capital.