Putting the oohs and ahhhs we emit pouring over listings, emails and the posts of others aside for a moment it is a fact that the MCM history of Australia is a small and secret record of names and buildings. And for every truly mind-blowing example we stumble across we also see the 10 photos of those which are no more, mostly demolished or ruthlessly reconfigured until any remnant of their creator's vision and built mastery is extinguished under white paint, expensive marble or cheap extensions. Most often this occurs before we really knew what we had.
Today we have a classic example of built heritage which should be preserved, nay publicly celebrated, but instead it sits on the market as a possible sub-division and renovators piece.
Snelling is well recognised as a classic Mid-Century Modern architect in the Sydney region, most recognised for his 'Arts and Architecture' House of the Year from 1956 - The Kelly House 1. With the dominating style of Frank Lloyd-Wright present in his earlier work and moving to more Neutra/Scandinavian then Pacific Tiki influences at the end (he retired to Hawaii), Snelling carried out major commercial and private commissions some of which remain as classic works of the Modernist ethos and which serve as tangible monuments to the political and social shift Australia took in the mid twentieth century from Europe and Britain across to Asia and North America.
This home is a classic. Set amongst 50 year old palms and fern-filled greenery. Of a complete but modest scale (for Mosman) and set to the back of a double block, it emits vibrations of breezy sanctuary the very antithesis of the aggressive, cheek by jowl, concrete mansions which surround it. It is centred, not unlike the Rose Seidler House, by a large sandstone fireplace and bears the hallmarks of pioneering Australian Modernism - open plan living/kitchen and easy indoor outdoor access. These principals which we, dear reader, revere unfortunately play into the ignorant prejudices of it's high-flying market who only sense living spaces with their shopping-list eyes -Those bedrooms are too small! No Media room? Only 2 car spaces?
There are faint signs that this building does have some level of protection (anyone with more info on this?). It sits on the Australian Institute of Architects Significant Buildings Register. The real estate agent's suggestion for building anew is reserved for the adjoining block only and there is a clear and unusual note at the bottom of the listing.
** All information contained herein is gathered from sources we consider to be reliable, however we cannot guarantee or give any warranty to the information provided. Interested parties must solely rely upon their own enquiries.
Reading between the lines we'd hope this translates as;
"If you have desires to call in the bulldozer on the original home and throw up some nausea inducing, neo-spanish, 16 bedroom villa to pointscore over degustation with other paunchy captains of industry, then think again because this home is protected mate, so get onto your lawyer to check the records first or, even better, piss off"
or something like that.
However, knowing the agent has not explicitly mentioned the architect of this building and with the outrageous loss of Snelling's far more prominent and magnificent Kelly House 1 in early 2013, in the very banal circumstances suggested above, we hold grave fears for the Smith House.
Is nothing sacred? Are building lists collated and heritage reports commissioned just so we can pour over our great losses in years to come and burn with frustration over why nothing was done? Time will tell. We can only urge you all keep yours ears to the ground. We have a finite amount of these buildings and an unforgivable multitude have already fallen without the recognition they deserve. We all need to bring some noise and light to these examples and to make ensure they do not just silently slip away on us.