For the taking – a triangle segment of architectural history

For those who seek out the more unusual real estate offerings which surface in print and online media, something very striking has recently captured our imagination; A classic Mid-Century Modern public building of concrete block and steel frame in an incredibly dynamic triangular form. A regional landmark informed directly by a new discipline for an emerging twentieth century intellect – Maternal Health and Early Childhood Development. Behold for your consideration, to take and make your own – The Bendigo Crèche and Day Nursery (1956-57) these days known as the Bendigo Early Learning Centre.

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A project originally conceived and built by prominent Melbourne firm Eggleston, McDonald and Secomb in the same year they completed the stunning Beaurepaire Centre at Melbourne University (1956-57) and one year before their other Bendigo gem (now heritage listed) was built; The Beaurepaire Tyre Service Garage (1958) (which was carried out at the behest of Sir Frank’s son – who had seen such roadside Googie wonderlands in the USA) but we digress.

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Now the situation is as follows – this building has seen out its days housing and educating generations of goldfields kiddies and is slated to be moved by the local council. It will not be demolished (huzzah!) and in fact it is being offered to the public with every hope for its continued preservation and use, be it under the banner of community service or some other. It has already been relocated once before from its original site (over a creek) in 1995.

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The council is undertaking an Expression of Interest process for suitable candidates to remove the building at their own cost and give it a new life. So now we hand over the reigns to you. A 500 square metre internal space, in a framed triangle form, elevated so as to hover ever so lightly over the land; what is it? A new kindergarden? A corporate bolt-hole for creative weekends? A community arts centre? A winery/ brewery/distillery/dining hall? A new surfclub, golfclub, nightclub or cult headquarters? Express yourself (and your interest) to the City of Greater Bendigo by the 23rd of this month and it all could be yours for the taking.

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Australian House and Garden to revive the Post-War house plan?

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The eternal MCM lament – we had it and we blew it. What galvanises us? The brilliantly conceived, the simple, the elegant, the flexible, affordable and the sustainable. What unites us in despair? That the final decades of the last century saw so much of this design; buildings explicitly devised and constructed for the masses, lost in the mainstream. A diabolical whirl of economics, fashion, shortsighted planning, instant gratification and the increasing worship of planned obsolescence ran roughshod over the domestic architecture created by Mid-Century visionaries, big names and small. What has ensued is a cancer of anti-design and volume built environment advancing across the nation; ugly, unhealthy, blaring static claiming the mantle of modern living. The big question – how do we get it back? For all the FB pics of Pettit & Sevitt house plans, the bellows of ranting bloggers, the essays in Architectural magazines and lectures on YouTube will not effect the seismic changes required. We at MA are convinced that the buy-in of Modernist principals and future mass housing of merit must come from the market itself and therefore initially – the big boys who service the market already, and today of all days we have spotted them sniffing the wind. Enter Australian House and Garden Magazine. Like so many of the old guard home mags, it once was a part of the Mid-Cenutry house plan schema. And now it appears some blessed creature over there has decided perhaps it needs a revisit, in the form of a home design competition, supported by a construction behemoth and heavily drawing upon the ideals of its MCM house plan heritage:

My Ideal House competition

Home design competitions abounded during the early 1950s and a great number of collaborations from the mid-1950s through to the mid-70s brought architect-designed homes into sharp focus. Many wonderful ideas were developed by talented and committed architects as they explored new housing ideas – supported by developers who were prepared to put these ideas to the market.

Australian House & Garden followed the whole movement, capturing and nurturing the optimism of a generation as they embraced the ideas being put forward and bought off the plan, commissioned or even built their own homes, drawing on the many plans and schemes published and built at the time.

Times have changed but the need for well designed, affordable, sustainable, future-proofed housing has not. We think it’s time to reignite the conversation around good home design again. And with our project partner Mirvac, Australian House & Garden is launching a design competition: My Ideal House.

This is a chance to be grasped with two hands people*. We call out to everyone, but especially architects, of clear Modernist principals and contemporary vision to flood this comp with entries of beauty. The cynics out there may snort it as mere lip service and marketing, and maybe it is, but there is no better chance to pierce the armour of insipid mediocrity and waste sheltering an entire population of deluded vandals who call themselves ‘designers’ and their armies of jerry builders who continue to make our worst nightmares the norm. We all need to take this invitation and bring 2000 of our closest mates to crash the party and make the point – Good design matters. Solar passive orientation matters. Clever density, not McMansions nor sh*tboxes, are the future. It is not a choice between light, space and affordability. And the best homes are never a triangle upon a square.

*We confirm we have no affiliation with AH&G (or any Bauer Media, or ANY media whatsoever – we knuckleheads still don’t make a dime off MA.)

Vale Neil Everist (1929 – 2016)

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It was with wistful resignation we recently read through Simon Reeve’s all encompassing round-up of notables and influencers of Australian Mid-Century Architecture who left us in 2015*. Though only 1 week in to 2016, we now note the loss of one more, an Australian architect at the heart of Modernist Australia’s very inception – Neil Everist, of Melbourne/Geelong firm McGlashan Everist.

As our about page says, we were fortunate to live our first 18 years in a home designed by McGlashan Everist, commissioned by our family and in completed in 1970. As a Geelong project it was overseen by Neil Everist (as this is how they generally divvied up the projects). The brilliant yet ephemeral qualities of living within quintessentially Australian Modernist architecture, the rules of its design and the intention in every aspect, dug into our soul and never left – arming us with a heightened sense of what housing in this country could and should be – elemental, light, airy, of integrity and honesty. Last year we finally achieved our goal of bringing together our mother and Everist (and the outstanding Jill Everist) for an afternoon of tea, cakes and chat on architecture, the making of our home, and the projects of his lifetime. Neil Everist was as vital and impressive as his imposing stature (both physically and professionally) suggested. He was beyond gracious, bringing along documents to back-up the historical aspect of his career with late partner David McGlashan and the conversation that wintery July day was as genial and enlightening as we could have ever hoped for. We finished with a shared joke and a wave. We regret that we were unable to collate this meeting into something readable for Neil Everist to look over before this day, but we are now working extra hard to bring it to you in the coming months.

We pass on our deepest sympathies to Jill Everist and family with the reassuring joy of his long life, well lived.

To everyone else we suggest to look up the catalogue from a Heide exhibition in 2006 (re-printed last year) “Living in Landscape: Heide and houses by McGlashan and Everist” for a succinct overview of Everist’s esteemed career. Alternatively crack open any essential ‘top Australian MCM home’ coffee table books – The Forever House or Iconic Australian Houses 50/60/70 for example, inspect one of the many open houses available throughout the year (or on Air BnB!), and/or check the MA site for our regular fawning rants, as you know Neil Everist (and David McGlashan) will always be here.

 

*Victorian Modern, essential educational Facebookery – join up today.

….and you lose some

We’d like to thank and commiserate with Australian Modernist Martin who let us know of what we all just lost. Guilford Bell’s superb riverside villa on St Georges Rd, Toorak, complete with large Edna Walling garden taking up the glorious northern orientation, which sold 2 years back for 5.5 million, has been reduced to rubble this past week. We suppose it will be replaced with some form of venal mega mansion but who knows? All we do know is that when people can’t see the value in holding onto a sensational home built by one of Australian Modernism’s heavy hitters, then what chance does anything have?

Footpath Guides

Do you love meandering the Melbourne streets, admiring the local (or not) architecture? Would you like a lil’ written history to go with it, but preferably not the form which promotes staring at a screen over soaking up the view? Do you love a publication of beautiful design (well of course you do, that’s why you are here right?) Then here you go – a plucky team of enthusiasts have identified the most basic gap in the market and produced their own ‘Footpath Guides’ for Melbourne town (fear not outliers, we are sure there will are more in the works for the rest of Australia).

These three guides, of pocket size, are a great introduction to the architectural heritage of the city. Encompassing the commercial buildings of Mid-Century Melbourne’s Internationalist legacy, the works of Victorian mastermind Joseph Reed and the eclectic architectural landmarks of St Kilda, they include just the right amount of information and images to make for a wonderful wander on a lazy day, a concentrated afternoon or a quick minute to check just who did what. As lovely little books in their own right they’d also make a ripper gift for the archi- nerd of the family or visitor from out of town.

Pick up your own Footpath Guide from any good local bookstore or contact them directly.

 

Win! (x2)

We received a couple of Mornington Peninsula updates this week from two very lucky families. Each have purchased homes listed with us!

Samone her husband (and twins) have snapped up the sweet and neat Parkdale gem in Ilma Court, after seeing it here no less! They are looking forward to keeping it pretty much the same and enjoying its beautiful family set up (though they’d love the name of a good cabinet maker who can slightly adjust the kitchen, in keeping with the original Mod lines – anyone?).

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Venturing further to Frankston and we have Sally and Michael who will draw jealous sighs from many with their purchase of the magnificent Chancellor and Patrick homestead ‘Polperro’ (see header image). They too intend of keeping it as original as they can.

What can we say? This is what we are here for. MA have always subscribed to the idea that although heritage listings are fine, they ultimately cannot protect nor sympathetically enhance a great Modernist home in the same way an appreciative and sincere owner can. With this lovely news we are overjoyed that we have helped to secure two more righteous properties from the ravages of mediocrity and more importantly see everyday Australians enjoying their new homes and lives within.

Keep them coming people!

The Thurlow intrigue continues…

We kicked off the year with the discovery of a gumtree post, a piece of uncommon real estate being flogged on a very common trading site which set Mid-Century aficionados across the country just a little crazy. Who sells such legacy architecture that way? Who owns it? Why are the selling it? What’s the story? Within 24 hours there was a litany of speculative posts online, the gumtree ad was pulled, architect’s flame-keepers weighed in as well as the owner’s estate, a subsequently disputed newspaper article set the spin as old, cold, not worth it and then….silence.

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Well, MA very proudly have the latest scoop in the saga and we’ll be hitting you with it later this week and just between you, me and that dreamy staircase, we think you’ll love it.

Photos courtesy of Michael Nicholson Photography.

 

ps. For an interim Seidler fix, check Monday’s  apartment listing.

It’s all about us!

We’ve been approached several times by the media over the years, and of course we’ll be anywhere for the Modernist Australia cause, but we must say we’re extra chuffed with the two page exposé in The Age’s Domain today. We suggest you grab a copy and see our most flowery comments (passion over moderation we say!) laid next to some of our great listings. Remember we are doing this every weekday so there’s always some new property to discuss, praise and natter about in our little world of MCM architecture and design and as always we welcome all voices and viewpoints with open arms.

Man About the Penthouse

This month sees the busy Tim Ross continue his in-person series combining his two vocations – comedy and Modernist architecture, this time in the penthouse baby! The Man About the House circuit has delivered Rosso’s comic conversation (backed by ex-rocket scientist Kit Warhust) across an impressive set of MCM locations in the past – Walsh St, Rose Seidler, Eisenmenger House in Brisbane, The Boyd Education Centre, the Young House in Hobart, not to mention the Donner House in New Zealand and of course various Palm Springs pads. For an excellent night of chuckles and a drink or two in the swooniest MCM abodes around (what a heavenly combo) look no further. Rosso’s playing to the home crowd for two weeks, MA says do yourself a favour.

 

Mr Seidler goes to Harvard

From the Harvard Graduate School of Design comes a lecture given there by Harry Seidler in 1994. A little seen gem on the tubes. If you have a free hour, take in this excellent overview of the buildings, construction objectives and creative insights of the man himself . Enjoy.

Oz reppin’ at Palm Springs Modernism Week 2015

It’s here again, that time of year when all Modernist tragics want to be nowhere but Palm Springs, California. The 10th annual Modernism Week is kicking off on the 12th of February with a howl inducing array of events, which seem to get bigger and better with each passing year. Intended to explore, foster and celebrate Mid-Century Architecture and Design, in a town which maintains the most intact and high-end collection of MCM homes in the US, if not the world, Palm Springs Modernism Week is fast becoming a must-do for all fans of the era and it’s creative output. And this year it’s with glad tidings we found out Australian Modernism is being represented within a show-case of ‘regional’ Modernist lectures, by Sydney all rounder Annalisa Capurro. As a design lecturer, passionate historian and (point of serious jealousy here) owner of the Jack House in Wahroonga, Annalisa is well placed to expound to the world about the conditions which saw Mid-Century Modernism bloom in this country and walk through some of the best practitioners and examples we here all know and love. We wish her luck and a guaranteed ball over in the desert. Meanwhile back home the refrain remains the same; next year in the holy land, next year, we do Modernism Week in Palm Springs.

Local Modernists go to the mattresses.

DIY activism has seen a resurgence with the advent of a baying social media audience and it’s no more visible locally than in the hostile plains of real estate and land development. Recently MA spotted this instance, where a passionate citizen of Melbourne bayside Mod hotspot, Beaumaris, has taken action of the most direct variety to voice their concerns and warn those who may not share their same appreciation.

We have seen this method used in the inner city where the battle for the first amenity rights of music venues to continue their business over the demands of new neighbours to quieten down saw handwritten signs on sparkling new apartment sales boards, warning prospective buyers of the rockin’ nightlife they will be moving into. And here we see it take a rather interesting architectural turn.

The house in question is a prime example of formative Australian Modernism (it’s a McGlashan Everist beauty – see our listing), stuck in a suburb which, for all it’s brilliant Mid-Century history, eats ‘older’ style homes for breakfast. And sadly for us at this juncture MCM architecture is still maligned by the larger public while earlier styles are steadily climbing the preservation hierarchy. That old 70/100 year rule strikes again.

We are unsure whether this notice is still there, and not really certain of it’s overall effectiveness, developers be developers after all, however it’s somewhat gratifying to see a shared frustration manifest itself in such a way. In the various the devilish ways we have dreamed of acting upon such frustrations, this real-world example is overall pretty tame and fuzzy.

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Please be seated.

As part of Penrith Regional Gallery’s annual exploration of Modernism and in honour of it’s foundation in MCM ethos via the bequest of artists Gerald and Margo Lewers, we all have the pleasure of accessing the most comprehensive survey and display of MCM seating design credited to this country, right now. The curators of “Take a Seat, Australian Modernist Seating” (22.11.14 – 22.02.15) have put together an exhaustive group of classic furniture and 2D artworks with a collector’s veritable hit list of all the known and not so known greats: Featherston, Lowen/FLER/Tessa, Meadmore, Snelling, Parker, Hall Best and Ward. If unable to get there in person we highly recommend a peruse over the catalogue – insightful, far-reaching yet oh so easy for those always interested in this particular strain of Australian Modernism but unsure where to start.

A new year, a new MA – welcome aboard!

As we pull ourselves out of the holiday jag, don’t think that we’ve been spending it all languorously flipping through Mid-Century mags beside a kidney-shaped pool, no! We have been hard at work putting together a brand new site with new features and scope for more than we’ve ever had before. And here she is!

There will still be our signature, every-weekday real estate listings of the best, most curious and most endangered MCM homes we uncover across the country, this time with greater search options (by state, date or architect etc) and an archive of all our old ones as far as we can go (this may take a while- patience is a virtue). We’ll also introduce our ‘Desperately Seeking Modern’ section for potential home buyers and like-minded sellers to find each other, ensuring that the right residences fall into the hands of the most deserved of new owners. Rentals will finally get a serious look in with their own page, so anyone with a retro beach shack to jaw-dropping Mod honeytrap for hire – we’d love to hear from you. Not to mention a much clearer features section and plans to draw up the ultimate MCM architect list, building and restoration advice area, readers homes section, a marketplace for MCM homewares and furniture………… the high ambitions are starting to rumble.

So stay aboard, find a banana lounge and sundowner and enjoy 2015 on the good ship Modernist Australia as we attempt to get serious. Anchors away!

Iconic Thurlow House by Harry Seidler for sale on Gumtree!

Intrigue (but now updated with extra info) A 1952, notable Seidler House has popped up on Gumtree. Using the flawless, original photos (confirmed by the owner as the work of Max Dupain) to show off the breathtakingly progressive attributes of this amazing residence we are all left stunned and a little worried as the seller seems to very much understand that the pricey location and expansive land size may see this one razed without too much ado. Expressions of interest before the agents are called, as a way to derail what might otherwise be a foregone conclusion of loss.

Designer Suburbs reprinted – huzzah!

It came in 2012 like a thief in the night – A simple, concise yet visually elegant book detailing the advent of Australian Modernism and just as quickly it sold out before many knew it’s existence, but hark! Just in time for Christmas, a reprinted edition of Designer Suburbs: architects and affordable homes in Australia is available once more. If there is one book which any self-respecting Modernist Australian should have – it is this one.

From the Powerhouse brains trust of Charles Pickett and Judith O’Callaghan and in association with the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment and NewSouth Books, this instant classic expounds the essential narrative of Mid-Century suburban expansion as influenced and created by our ground breaking Modernist architects in the propagation of a new Australian ideal. The result was the wondrous built legacy we hold dear today – the Pettit & Sevitt and Merchant Builders project home, Boyd’s Small Homes Service, the rise of Lend Lease and so on.

“….architects created small, deceptively simple houses which transformed the look of suburbia. They were not designed to look impressive from the street, but to complement and enhance their setting, to reduce barriers between inside and outdoor living, to maximise the visual and social pleasures of home.”

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Of course the conclusion of their writing is far from Scooby-Doo, as the innovation of these trailblazers has been waylaid in the last few decades by the rise of vomitous mega-‘burbs, mass-produced in a design vacuum and based on the seemingly untouchable tenet of over-consumption as virtue.

“Today, the distance between the architectural profession and suburban housing has never been greater, with Australia?s super-sized, energy-guzzling project homes the biggest in the world.”

We of course dear readers know better and this book provides a certain level of comfort in the knowledge there are many people out there, just like us, who feel the same. Others who also revere this precious past and perhaps, in critical mass, can help shape homes, suburbs and living for the future.

Local concerns – Fighting to save the Ivanhoe Library

As one battle to save an historical Modernist home is won, we turn our eyes to the many other tussles continuing to play out around the country.

MA has received a heads-up about the fight by concerned locals to save the Ivanhoe Library. Designed by local Melbourne firm, Leith & Bartlett who were also the architects behind Burwood Skyline, Melbourne’s first drive-in theatre (c.1954) of course now demolished (sniff), this is clearly a much loved MCM building. And although may be ending it’s shelf life as a public library, we believe it’s nonetheless supremely valuable as the public building and deserves not to be merely written off in some consultant’s/developer’s enthusiasm for forging brand new public works and buildings which, of course, will cost ratepayers a bomb.

We at MA are nothing if not pragmatic and true Modernists that we are, we do not believe in buildings for buildings sake. We understand that accessibility for all members of the community and integration of technology, especially into the bibliographical sphere, is paramount. We applaud a council which seeks to create a community focused and well utilised hub for their community. What we do not applaud however is the idea that buildings of 50 years standing, from which these services may be relocated, are automatically considered useless or possibly a hinderance for future development (see: The Ivanhoe Civic Master Plan). This a magnificent chance to maintain an iconic-to-the-area structure and turn it into another valuable asset for the council with much less financial burden to the community. Where is the thought for sustainability? The imagination for re-use and reconfiguration? There is speculation that the vacant land left in its regrettable footprint could be sold off to private interests, which would explain it. Of course the only outcome more sinister than the abject loss of a superb Modernist building is that dovetailing with a continuing cancerous trend of transforming of public land into private holdings.

According to the Ivanhoe Library Heritage Assessment, it was suggested that this building is in the way, but in the way of what? It’s difficult to ascertain, as there is limited info on what exactly is planned for this space.

“The retention of this building……will place unnecessary constraints on the future use and development of the Ivanhoe Civic Precinct”

However, there are some passionate people out there trying to change the direction of this seemingly pre-destined endgame. If you know the building and what to see it remain, if you are a rate-payer and wish to see it re-used rather than millions spent in it’s place or decry it’s possible loss to commercial interests or if you are just sick of seeking Modernist public buildings fall, only their loss to be lamented years later –  click over to the petition and put your thoughts into action.