We always adore hearing the success stories, the validation of goals here at Modernist Australia and the relief of knowing a deserving listing has landed into loving hands. And often we are super jelly too, such in the case of the killer in Kanofski St, as new owner Michelle advised us joyfully of their purchase……
The rise of Beaumaris Modern, the preservation/celebration community residing in primo bayside Melbourne, has been a heartening development in the recognition and fight to secure our Australian Mid-Century Modern legacy. In just a couple of years this passionate gang of go-getters have evolved from appreciation website to local activists to open house & festival organisers extraordinaire. We’d urge anyone across the country who see their own patch being deformed by poor planning, negligible heritage assessments, unchecked ‘development’ and ignorant (and/or venal) councillors would do well to contact the leaders at Beaumaris Modern for a pep talk, direction of how and where to take the MCM fight and also when to spare negativity for more inclusive celebration (flies, honey etc).
The next stage of their increasing footprint is in-print with the timely arrival (for all your Christmas needs) of ‘Beaumaris Modern’ an absolute stunner of a publication. This lovely and sizeable book is a walk through some of the best residences in the Victorian crucible of MCM talent, and man-o-man what homes! A collection of cherished residences from the likes of Robin Boyd, Mockridge Stahl & Mitchell, Martin Sachs and David Godsell with in depth descriptions from BM lead, Fiona Austin, with contributions by Alison Alexander, Built Heritage oracle Simon Reeves and impeccable photography by Jack Shelton and Derek Swalwell, all delivered in the confines of sleek, hardcover, Modern graphica.
You can peruse and purchase a simply limitless number of flickable tomes about MCM design from overseas from UK Brutalist public housing to Fire Island Modern to Case Study Houses but it sure is nice to have comparably beautiful publications about our very own backyard and design heroes. As Molly says; do yourself (or the archi nerd in your life) a favour and check it out.
‘Beaumaris Modern’ will be released on the 1st December and is available for pre-order now.
We’ve just received the news from Keely (bittersweet thanks) that the magnificent Chancellor House II, yes David Chancellors own family home which he designed himself c.1957 and rebuilt again after a fire c.1970 (and which we listed last year) now has cyclone fencing around it. It has a demolition permit approved in City Of Whitehorse register and (surprise friggin surprise!) a permit approval for 2 dwellings. No doubt these two townhouses will be some of the most innovative, well conceived, architect designed and crafted homes of already assumed historical value to dovetail beautifully with those majestic, 50 year-old trees which we are sure will be left standing, cooling all as summer fast approaches and keeping the green suburban character alive, ultimately ensuring that the destruction of such a fine and livable example of our influential architectural heritage, materials and design will not be in vain.
Or maybe not.
Australia, we have a white supremacy problem.
We have witnessed with a keen eye the rise of home coveting (of which we can certainly take part blame) and ‘improvement’ to the point of fetishisation. We’ve seen the ascension of a privileged class of ‘designers’, cum lade graduates from the school of ‘I Saw You Coming’, a veritable flock of stylists over substance whose modus operandi is of very limited scope and can be best expressed in the the following terms: Antique, Vivid, Whisper & Natural. It’s time to put the brush down.
Arh! Our eyes!
As Australians we are quite rightly addicted to light. Those who have spent time in autumnal European climes will have pined for the brilliance of even a mid-winter Hobart sun. It is piercing, it is warmth, it is magnificent. Going full Trump we’ll happily state: we have the best sunlight, the best. In this knowledge and also knowing the role natural light plays as a defining feature of Modernist design, Australian Modernist homes have reaped the rewards. Other homes which have paid no heed to such elemental foundations and which continue to rise today in greenfield estates across the nation have instead embraced white as a way to bring extra light into the build. Refreshing older modest or mediocre homes generally involves a paint over of white. Thousands, perhaps millions, of kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms have been de-dagged with white tiles, paint and surfaces. To this end and within trend, this is maybe not such a bad thing. The bad thing occurs when white takes over. When it becomes the default. When not only average homes are snowed under, but also those with beautifully considered places of shadow and dark. Where cheap and nasty surfaces smother and destroy original raw brick, natural timber and coloured tile because of lazy, mass-market ideas about white supremacy, instead of carefully considered concepts of dark and light and material interplay.
34 Yarraville Rd, Kew (a Robin Boyd Home deformed into unrecognisable white space)
The plain truth is we are starting to have our retinas burned by blanc. Cosy spaces of depth being turned into Wonkavision studios. Elegant rooms ever changing with the sun’s rotation transformed into static labs. White is clean and sleek but it can also be cold, impractical, hard and above all, not the intent of the original architect and/or owner. Sometimes it’s just not the vibe and should it never be forced, and right now we believe it requires en masse restraint.
Fern Tree House by McGlashan Everist (c.1969) illustrates gorgeous dark and light and the irrelevance of white interiors.
Light is essential and the use of white in interiors can be magical but trends come and go, materiality plays a role and darkness is not something to shunned out of hand. We like to see those who call themselves professionals and/or ‘influencers’ in the world of home and interior design check themselves, understand the nuance of white and dark and work to curb the white walkers mindless advance. What say you Modernist Australians?
Next up on the event trail is a new exhibition about to open that MCM progressive laboratory, known otherwise Heide, tracing the life and work of our most celebrated designer couple Grant and Mary Featherston.
‘Design for Life: Grant and Mary Featherston’ (showing 30th June – 7th October) will display an all encompassing selection of work – not just the famous furniture but also promotional design, sculpture and photography and offers a wonderfully documented take on the Twentieth Century evolution at a local level, showcasing the creative lives so inspired and what it really meant to be ‘Modern’ back in the day.
For those of you wanting to take your love of all thing Modern outside a while there is a bouquet of MCM focused events coming up to pick from (sorry Australia, they are all in Melbourne for some reason). What better time to experience primo winter Melbourne; coffee, handsome folk in warms coats, endless music, bowls of warm pasta and this? So, get out there gang and rub shoulders with your fellow enthusiasts, who knows what you might learn or who you may meet!
First up – this Friday night our bosom buddies Outre Gallery are opening “Mid Century Modern Curated”, a multi disciplined and many faceted ensemble of Mid-Century Modern artworks and designs. Including original futuristic lithographs by designer Syd Mead, Alexander Girard wooden dolls, Mid-Cenutry Australian architectural renderings and a very special selection of original Scandinavian painting and prints from sister space – Gallery Midlandia. Get down there, enjoy the surprises and perhaps find that singular piece for your little Mod home.
Architectural rendering by Harry Divola (Australian) early 1960s.
A quick post today to acknowledge the great win for MCM heritage in Melbourne by the adding of Anatol Kagan’s Lind House to the Victorian Heritage Register. This was due to the City of Glen Eira not taking a previous Heritage Victoria recommendation to not place it on the register lying down. No siree! The council in a simply unheard of move decide to submit their case contrary this assessment to the Heritage Council of Victoria and with the masterful work of legit Modernist Australian hero Simon Reeves (Kagan know-it-all and consultant-cum-savior of so many MCM homes gone before) won the day!
Now not to take away form this giant killing win by these civic Davids (Glen Eira Council also take a bow!) but we must stress that you, dear reader, have played a major part in this victory too. For we see every other day homes of similar value to this one turning into dust (as per below), a major difference in the Lind House situation was publicity. This house and its imminent demise were broadcast far and wide across all channels: papers, magazines, the radio, blogs and Facebook pages aplenty and without this groundswell we wonder if the council may have been on board to save this slice of MCM housing with such gusto.
Suffice to say it steels our resolve to get it out there, to share and share alike, to kick up a stink to point out that which deserves to remain standing. We think we all should learn from this and live by the quote on diligence from The Shawshank Redemption “From now on we’re gonna write two letters a week, instead of one”
Now back to reality with the other kind of acknowledgement. The sad kind. The one which boils blood and whacks us (as stick not carrot) into action. We had notification last week from reader Carl that the wondrous Star-Warzian battlement of ‘Gandolfo House’ (Architect David Godsell c.1975) which was sold last year has been razed. We have no doubt that whatever wedding cake island of vulgar mediocrity which replaces it will be a forgotten and pitiful footnote to the legend this little patch of Toorak land once held.
Adding to the tears was the demolition of another smaller Iwanoff home, we neglectfully did not post at the time. which sold for a measly 1.27 million and yet was still seemingly only good for land.
And a final heartbreak – a report from a good mate that his glorious childhood home in sunny Bracken Ridge, a house which excited a lot of fans far and wide has been virtually demolished. According to a local report the pool has been filled in (this is Brisbane we’re talking here, who the f*ck does that?) and the house all but knocked down. Some images to jog your memory. Vale.
Our post the other day reporting the demolition of an Iwanoff designed home in Perth touched a nerve with those WA Modernist Australians who emphatically decry such vandalism. Fair play to you, we know its #notallperth. And let it be said that across this entire country and on a semi-regular basis we lament and damn Australia en masse for the loss of significant and beautiful MCM architecture. So it seemed timely that we went back and finally posted a little roundup we wrote months ago, noting similar tragedies in other locales. It may seem depressing, but let us assure you there are wins here too and it was not very long ago that we never even heard/tell of any wins at all.
First the bad news. The loss of a few gorgeous homes we listed on MA starting with Tunsmore Ave, in Leabrook SA which has reportedly been bought by a building company and is well on the way to a 5 way development of mega houses. Sigh.
We’ve previously mentioned of the loss of Daryl Jackson’s ‘Riley House’ in Sorrento to one of the ugliest concept drawings we’ve ever seen. It bares repeating that it’s one thing to destroy a beautifully designed and crafted residence but its tragic when it’s replaced by something not fit to take up space in any streetscape.
We also had a report of the loss of a home we never listed at the time, but which is so deserving of a little tribute we posted it retrospectively. Vale Flinders Ave in St Ives, still appearing in street view, but apparently razed in May, it too being replaced by an abhorrent assault on the senses.
We finish the bad news with one from Brissy – the not completely surprising but still infuriating loss of Winston Green, now demolished. Thanks to Monique for the update and pics.
Enough mourning, let’s have some good news. Starting with a reminder of the MCM fight flashpoint of Anatol Kagan’s ‘Lind House’ which due to large a dose of media celebrity (and council action) received an interim heritage control by the State Planning Minister and was subsequently bought for a handsome sum by owners who seek to sympathetically update it. This rolling saga not only saved this individual residence from demolition but far more importantly awakened many other councils and locals to address the issue of unevaluated and/or unprotected MCM architecture across the Melbourne and the country.
Coming with that tide was community group Beaumaris Modern who got their party started to roaring success and witnessed an early win with the ongoing campaign to protect the last vestiges of their very valuable MCM architecture, specifically 372 Beach Road, Beaumaris. As per their dispatch mid last year
“372 Beach Road, Beaumaris was identified as being of potential local heritage significance in the City of Bayside Inter-war and Post-war Heritage Study……..At its 25 July 2017 meeting, Council resolved to seek interim heritage protection for the mid-century modern properties in Beaumaris identified in the City of Bayside Inter-war and Post-war Heritage Study. Council is finalising the documentation to seek the interim heritage overlay controls, which is to be submitted today to the Minister for Planning for a decision. If Council’s request is successful, the Minister for Planning will put interim heritage protection in place over 45 Mid-Century Modern properties identified in the study until Council undertakes further strategic work to determine whether permanent protection is warranted.”
We also spotted glad tidings and recognition of MCM love, from a regional paper no less, about an unusually bold home on the river in Geelong which we thought was on borrowed time, but luckily has also landed in a safe harbour.
“The striking architect-designed split level residence sold under the hammer for $980,000 in a drawn out auction in the suburb’s riverside precinct. The house at 112 Camden Rd is one of five in the area to enjoy absolute Barwon River frontage…….McGrath, Geelong agent Wayne Baker said a young family from the coast would turn it into their future home……“They will be restoring and renovating to bring it back to its former glory,” Mr Baker said…….That news will be good news for architecture buffs…….“A lot of people love that era and they will be pleased to hear that it will be enhanced and extended accordingly and keep the period of the home as such with a modern day twist on it.”……..The gabled brick veneer house represents the most recognisable aspects of 1970s architecture, showcasing exposed mission brown timber beams holding the cathedral ceilings, with its split-levels offering various vantages furnished with well-worn shag pile carpets.”
– The Geelong Advertiser, 2nd September 2017
And finally a heart gladdening email we have received a while back from the owner of a Hunters Hill listing we posted back at the start of 2015. Although a positive post at the time (due to mostly to its downtrodden but still elegant beauty) internally we felt this one was a goner – but no! John has stepped in and this home, which was far from safe, let alone liveable and has been revived:
“As derelict as it was (no electricity or running plumbing, rot + termite eaten frame etc) we have managed to breathe new life back into the house, we are enthusiastic modernists though the original house wasn’t conducive for modern family life. We have saved all the key features like the banks windows, floors and spent a great deal of money to get things restored and bought up to code. We had to reworked some of the space to include more bathrooms and laundry. It’s quite seamless now and you wouldn’t really know it had been changed apart from some of the mod cons. It took more than a year to renovate the house itself. We have now just finished with council to do works on the grounds, so those works will start at some point within the next few months.”
Bravo John! We salute you and all those out there with the integrity and grit to see their Australian Modernist dreams come true. Your victory is also ours.
We cast a wide net on MA with some listings clearly on a higher plain of architectural merit and build quality than others. One such home which we prized as being on this higher side and indeed on par, we think, with the early forays of Boyd and Seidler was this classically beautiful Iwanoff we listed just one year ago.
The news is, as you may have guessed, miserable – it is gone. With bittersweet thanks to Chandra for this update and photo and in the words of the messenger, it was sold out of reach for 1.5 million dollars and subsequently wiped off the face of the earth.
Good going Perth, you just erased a standout home from one of your most celebrated architects. You pack of vacant-eyed,Trumpian philistines.
13 Minora Rd, Dalkeith today
Image: Buchanan House, by Wolfgang Sievers, Pictures Collection State Library of Victoria.
The Australian Heritage Festival, brought about by the National Trust in conjunction with interested organisations from across the entire continent is on the horizon. With the theme of My Culture, My Story as the focus you are able to take part as a presenter or participant of over 1000 events; from Botany Beyond Banks in Bentley(WA), Heroes and Villains in the Hunter (NSW) or Deadly Didge ‘n’ Dance on Palm Island (QLD) as mere examples – there’s too much to take in. That said, dear readers, we know why you’re here so please indulge our own trumpet serenade with a very special Melbourne Modernist event happening on Thursday May 17th in the MCM bosom of The Beaumaris Bowls Club: ‘Let’s Talk MCM Heritage – An Expert Panel Discussion.’
Proudly presented by Beaumaris Modern and featuring the astute executive director of Open House Melbourne Emma Talford as moderator, we shall navigate the questions, conflicts and opinion with a panel of some serious heavy hitting locals including master architect and educator Peter McIntyre, renowned academic and author Philip Goad, accomplished architect and presenter of Grand Designs Australia Peter Maddison and…….us. The Legend, the Professor, the TV star and MA – it’s all very Gilligan’s Island and with drinks at bowls club prices and red-hot passion for Mid-Century Architecture on the table who knows where we’ll end up!
Tickets go on pre-sale, then regular sale, next week (top tip- if you join Beaumaris Modern you can get the pre-sale tickets and cheaper!). So keep your diaries marked and the babysitter locked in for a chance to say hello to us and a host of like minded others on one very special night in a May – see you there!
Weee! Melbourne Design Week is almost here and with it comes a brain singeing list of events, tours and talks – all ready to provoke and please the soul. We could spend hours combing over the joy catalogued in the daily calendar, from chats about begining an architecture practice, to word nerds and Marimekko in Bendigo (now there is two words you never thought you’d see together) but getting back to our Mid-Century Modernist form we’d like to advise there is but one show left of a sell out series of Tim Ross and Kit Warhurst’s comedy and architectural fanboy shenanigans Man About The House, and this time it’s in the illustrious ICI Building, indeed a venerable place of worship in the Australian Modernist sphere. With reportedly a bunch of extra extras including installations of film and furniture, this particular round of Rosso is a dead-set love-in of the MCM kind, to enjoy with like minded peeps.
As the retail panic sets in, a few delicious tidbits for loved ones or maybe yourself (you’ve been very good this year right?) have fallen into our line of sight, well assured to delight the MCM nerd of any household. Take a look.
First up, a brand new book which gets to the heart of why Mid-Century Modern architecture remains so close to ours. “An Unfinished Experiment in Living: Australian Houses 1950-65″ by London, Goad & Hamann investigates the deliberate move to building for living in a contemporary community with the re-evaluating and upturning of concepts around construction traditions, family, nature and our unique climate zones. Using some of the best domestic buildings of the era to support their conversation, these three heavy hitters of the Australian architectural intelligentsia revisit these homes (which span the entire country) which continue to promote progressive, innovative and downright exhilarating concepts to their core, and prompting the ultimate, underpinning question: what happened to such a bright new world of thought and design?
“It puts forward new research founded on the premise that the most significant houses of the 1950s and 60s represent an unfinished and undervalued experiment in modern living. Issues such as the open plan, the changing nature of the family, the embrace of advances in technology, the use of the courtyard, and the orientation of the house to capture sun and privacy, were valuable and critical lessons. This book is a compelling reminder of their continuing relevance.”
Indeed and amen.
Now for those with a more stocking filler budget, especially those of the Sydneyside and/or visitors to the uncrowned capital the Footpath Guide crew have also recently released a new series focusing on thereabouts. Three new titles are there for you to take and use as a delightful walking companion, educating yourself on your own built heritage. They cover: “Sydney The Rocks 1815 – 1950”, “Sydney Inter-War 1915 – 1940” and of course our fav “Sydney Modern 1950 – 1990”. Get yours while there is still time and hit the streets this summer!
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
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.
Your fix of MCM homes and all the browsing joy it entails would not exist without web mastermind – Peter Bakacs. It is his unending toil which ensures MA is always live, looking neat-o and that any IT snafus are fixed ASAP. But that’s not all. Pete has also been endlessly toiling on his own artwork, painting away night after day, to make his colour-filled, ‘toon culture world of cars and creatures comes alive. And this weekend he stars in his very first solo exhibition! So to all our dear Australian Modernists in Melbourne town and nearby, we hereby personally invite you to the opening night – this Friday at Outre Gallery Elizabeth St CBD – from 6pm to 8pm and peruse this gorgeous, flawless work in all it’s glory. Pop in and say hi to MA in person (oooh rare treat!), see some art and/or cosy up with a bunch of fine people doing the same. We love to seeyasthere!
It’s been a while since we checked in on the Boyd Foundation’s bustling events calendar but this weekend is a particular ripper for those who revere progressive architecture but who, like us, are perpetually irked that civic planning and more highly conceived ideas for estate housing have completely fallen away amid the hoopla of real estate booms and urban growth.
Unlike today’s housing estates thrown up with the main focus of marketing events, shopping convenience and godawful street naming conventions (Mews? Passage? Way?) the heady experimental times of the 1970s saw several high-profile architects and building firms collaborating with other professionals in landscaping to deeply ponder the broader philosophies of community, movement, place, embracing the natural Australian environs and a push to develop housing tracts as a direct response. Winter park was one such ideological dream made real by Merchant Builders (originally founded by David Yencken and John Ridge) completed in 1974. This was followed up by the establishment of Vermont Park (confusingly in Nunawading) in 1977, a collaboration with Tract Consultants. As described in Architecture AU by Andrew Saniga:
“They converted a four-hectare site, formerly an orchard, into a residential complex of forty-three homes with shared access, open space and a community centre that had barbecues and a swimming pool. Tree preservation, new plantings and small garden spaces together gave the impression the houses were set in a forest.”
A community clubhouse! Perhaps a perfect, though unusual, marriage of exclusivity and communal space. Party down!
An open day this Sunday at Vermont Park, proudly presented by The Robin Boyd Foundation, offers us all a site-based insight into this project;
‘6 key houses from this award winning development will be open along with the residents shared Clubhouse All landscaped areas of the development open for exploration Exhibition panels showing Merchant Builders Chronology and exhibition catalogue on display Open Day insight catalogue provided to each attendee featuring essays from David Yencken.’
40 years on many of us pine for living options which offer such joys as rambling forests built for childhood adventures, community connection and natural bonds holding gorgeous, yet sustainable architecturally designed abodes. *Sigh* And though there is a new resurgence in architect led, community focused, residential developments such as Nightingale Housing it is truly a rare treat we get to look, inside and out, at a fully realised original.
For tickets check the Robin Boyd Foundation.
Sorry guys, after yesterdays St Ives discovery we wanted to let the whole negative trip rest but this morning it came like a kick to the shins once more. A text book case of the timeless elegance of Melbourne’s most genteel suburb being ripped out and replaced by bombast and a level of unwarranted architectural hubris we actually cannot process without weeping or laughing uncontrollably. To wit – a number of you will remember 3 Nola Court, Toorak at its gorgeous circular driveway, flagstone, mature trees and Sunset Boulevard-ish vibes. Just stunning.
Well, no more. Not renovated. Not extended. Not even demolished for a respectable replacement. Wiped in totality for the land. Like some kind of biblical force came and swallowed up the joint, leaving nothing at all.
Of course the big punchline is there are some ‘plans’ available for this site. So a question – what do you do when you are so wealthy you can drop 4 mil plus on a suburban block, but are so creatively and emotionally stunted you have no idea what to build on it? Enter architect Nicholas Day, a practitioner so ensconced in the world of lucre, south-side status and huge proportions (hhhhmmmm?) he seems to have dedicated a career into ‘designing’ the most aesthetically offensive, Nu-Maison, self-esteem compensators for only the dumbest big-money in town.
We all know label chasing, manufactured ‘exclusivity’ and the nauseating vanity of these architectural tumours championed by such parasitic courtiers, is in fact about as highbrow and exquisite as the mass produced LV handbags the clients no-doubt tote around (read: yeah, nah). It’s just an ongoing travesty that such egesta has to destroy real architecture, trees, streets and local personality to assert its existence.
We have been rather neglectful to not fully expand on the wonderful work of Sydney Living Museums and their celebration of Australian Modernism – time to remedy. ‘The Moderns’ is an exhibition and event series delving into Australian design and creativity; the items and the buildings as developed and completed by this county’s most valuable resource; the minds of ‘New Australians’. In the case of Mid-Century Australia, this emerged from a large talent pool within the European diaspora, fleeing war ravaged Europe and political persecution. Intellectuals, writers, designers, free-thinkers – washing up on our beautiful, backwater nation and leading the way into the future, with the support of their compatriots as benefactors, buyers and fans.
“Predominantly well-educated, urbanised and middle class, Sydney’s émigrés brought a direct experience of European modernism then available to few Australians at the time. Supported by a network of European clients and assisted by émigré craftsmen, they made a significant contribution across many fields of design and in the media, and quickly recast the suburban, low-scale city into a modern metropolis”
Though the name of Austrian-born, immigrant Harry Seidler is a well known as an icon of Modernist Australian architecture, many of his contemporaries have been forgotten, or lost in time. The program put together by Sydney Living Museums goes a mighty way in directing our gaze and appreciation into new and thrilling corners of progressive, Mid-Century boundary pushing, casting light on hitherto little known practitioners, our very own people, whose stunning creativity dotted the suburbs, strips and bushland crags of Sydney.
Though much as transpired already in this series of events, we’d remind you all it is on until November, so there is still plenty of time to go for a drive, visit an exhibition or plan that pilgrimage to Sydders and refresh your mind on what you knew, or thought you knew, about Mid-Century Mod in Australia.
“The Modern: European Designers in Sydney” Exhibition at the Sydney Museum, and including various house tours and events at locales around Sydney. On until Sunday 26th November.
It’s always very gratifying to see a little press about our enduring struggle for the recognition of Mid-Century Modernist architecture in this country.
Especially when simultaneously receiving bad tidings like the unholy demolition of Daryl Jackson’s Riley House, and if that were not dire enough replacing it with what can only be described as a pile of diseased architectural excrement.
To this, ew.
Yet we still believe the tide is turning and in our little corner of the world there are wins to be enjoyed (Sirius and Lind House as recent examples) and more importantly there appears to be an active coalescing of the various mobs of the Mod architecture tribes (Hello Beaumaris Modern! Yoo Hoo Modern House Co and Sydney Living Museums!). And it’s not like we are alone our counterparts in the US, home to some of the best MCM homes ever built, are still fighting to have even these masterpieces recognised, protected and not sold for the land. One only has to look at the current listing for Richard Neutra’s Chuey House (c.1956). A home built by one of the undisputed maestros of the Modernist canon, photographed by Julius Shulman in 1960, and about which the owner wrote to the architect as follows;
“You are an alchemist who has transmuted earth, house, and sky into a single enchantment….I can only hope that I can in some measure grow up to the wholeness and balance embodied here.” – Josephine Ain
Now being sold (for the very first time) without any images of the house, only the views, totally omitting mention of its monumental historical and architectural pedigree and of course with the spivvy, slimy statement; “These contiguous lots are collectively ideal for a compound, providing a truly unique development opportunity”
The only way to combat such wanton destruction before our very eyes is heads down and work harder, toiling together, encouraging each other and spreading the word high and low. Deep breath and soldier on.
A brilliant bombshell has hit the sphere of Australian Modernist preservation this afternoon. A megaton of court ruling which, when it landed and exploded, rained hope, celebration, encouragement and lifeforce to everyone across the nation fighting their own little heritage and preservation battles. We speak once again of the Sirius Building. For those not up to speed we say take a look at our earlier dispatches (and here and here) as onlookers from another state firmly supporting those who undertake the real grit to save this Sydney Brutalist icon and its origins as harbour side public housing, most notably the Save Our Sirius Foundation. To wit – everyone, but everyone, in the know (and the thousands more who just love it in their lives and movements) said this concrete construction of incredible architectural, social and historical standing was worthy of some form of heritage protection. Everyone that is, but the Heritage Minister himself (insert snort here) who couldn’t see any of this for the dollar signs in his eyes and the circling developers pitching woo with dinners and furs. No matter. The man in the wig has slammed his gavel and declared, for now, that ignoring this heritage value is ludicrous. The minister is wrong. That government coffers and the personal peccadilloes of a one temporary public servant should not dictate the life or death of such landmark architecture. That $50,000 fundraised from nothing to bring this matter to court is not to be sneezed at and is but one of many examples to bring weight to the idea that preservation of this landmark is a must. Now, we were not born yesterday and we know the fight is not over for Sirius or its place on the water as a home for non-millionaires. Those battles shall continue on. There will be regrouping required, skills to be shared and energy to be revitalised in the weeks and months to come but tonight – as they say – we party!