A month overdue, but still some great news, Harry Seidler’s Thurlow House, a home transfer which caused a minor snafu in Modernist and heritage circles last year has with co-operation from the new owners and the Heritage Council of NSW, achieved state heritage listing, meaning it it now safe from demolition and can now be adored by generations to come. Hooray!
It’s finally here, after over a year of waiting and working ourselves into a pitched fever tomorrow, the 8 of November, brings to a head the culmination of so much hard work and lays bare a full dissemination of all that is good and evil in this world. We are speaking of course of comrade in arms and long-time supporter of MA, Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross and his ABC show on Modernism in Australia (election? what election?). ‘Streets of Your Town’‘ (2-part programme starting tomorrow night, 8.30pm ABC tv) should bring nothing but sheer excitement, validation and gleeful eye-candy for all of us already Modernist Australians out there but much more importantly this program may hopefully open the eyes of the uninitiated and unaware masses pushing the ethos of Modern design for living, which soared last century and was then tragically cut down in a tide of money, commercial interests, politics and fashion. Tell your friends, enemies and otherwise. Share, like, repost, follow and get it out there. You need to watch this. We.all.need.to.watch.this.
Time to relay some good, nay brilliant, news stories which have been floating around the traps in the past month or so.
First up, a suburban Melbourne listing we posted early last year, with a depressing resignation that it was not long for the world. Well, it is always grand to proven wrong! The wheels of heritage justice have been slowly turning and here’s where we are (as summarised by Simon Reeves of Built Heritage, who has been a main player in its salvation.) Sincere congratulations and love your work sir!
- In 2013 the house was flagged to potentially appear in a “City of Whitehorse Post-War Heritage Study” though at the time is didn’t make the cut due to the mystery of its creator, later discovered to be the family home of architectural draftsman and Lithuanian émigré, Bolius Kunciunas.
- Threatened with demolition and replacement with townhouses after a developer purchased it last year (as per our listing) a specific assessment of the residence was commissioned by council (yay!), after much gum-shoeing by Simon Reeves in consultation with Kunciunas’s daughter Ryta, it was confirmed her father was indeed the designer, having been completed in 1962, thereafter the design was submitted into the Age Small Home Service, and became a standard plan #V374. Kunciunas himself completing his own architecture studies at RMIT after this in1964. Here is the citation from Built Heritage.
- As a result of all this fancy foot and paperwork this residence has now been officially protected by a heritage overlay, to be enjoyed by a new generation and not bowled over for some lacklustre new development.
Don’t we all love a Scooby-Doo ending?
We sit here at MA headquarters, 1000 kms away from the Sirius Building, ruminating on what is to be done. We applaud the ongoing and thankless yakka the SOS team, especially Shaun Carter, are ramping up. They started this. They work the legal angle and take on the matey compromised bureaucracy at every wicked turn, which is the most important prong in the fight. We suggest all of you – people who flip through design books, who aspire to one day own a Featherston chair or Pettit & Sevitt home or who just know what is right and good in this world to immediately put your pennies where your heart is and support them via the crowd funding the legal challenge to save Sirius here.
That said we ponder what else can the rest of us do? The brazen attention seeker in us considers the audience and thinks of showmanship*. The narrative of this fight has been highjacked by adversarial government with their snivelling observation that the saving of this ‘ugly’ building is only the realm of a minuscule set of hipsters and SJWs. They like to proclaim that no-one else will miss it, telling themselves that only a precious few value it. We call bullshit (and a quick cash injection to the crowdfunding above would be the most direct way to drive that message home, just sayin’). We know there is a greater community element to be harnessed here and just as the forests of the Tarkine have national cabal of charismatic ferals shifting in its trees and the CSG plains wars attract pure salt of the earth nans and pops D-locking their necks to gasfields so must we, design/architecture/community peeps, start coming together, acting up and making some noise. Do what we do best – get creative, draw some attention nationally (globally if possible) and ping questions of this government directly into the mind of the masses.
As proud participants of the successful Melbourne SLAM rally we witnessed (in the weeks leading up) just what a witty slogan here and small action there could do, something which any number of careful radio and newspaper interviews could not; freely accuse those guilty, clarify their wrongs, gain wider attention with one fiercely unapologetic tagline/poster/image after another. So with that in mind let us brainstorm and plant some seeds……
The basics; posters stuck all over/stickers/t-shirts. Perhaps with “Minister Speakman, The price the of everything, the value of nothing” or “Mark Speakman, Minister of Commercial Property” or “Mark Speakman Member for Packer” “Speakman, Minister of I just don’t like it” You get the picture………
Events in situ. This is a public building right? And we know Sydney are having a rough time with lock out laws right now so why not kill two birds? Make like 1989 and set up some thumping, underground warehouse *cough* Sirius *cough* parties (with the consultation of SOS/the residents of course). Or a perhaps a speakeasy in one of the apartments. Ain’t nothing like drone images of happy party people, drag queens and DJs getting dragged off those beautiful terraces by uniforms as the ultimate bad look for government which prides itself on its supposed celebration-centic city.
Or maybe a more sedate version, if partying ain’t your style there are plenty of spaces for some ol’ fashioned sit-ins, sleep-ins, poetry-reading ins, moth-ins, jam-ins, paint-ins, birdwatching ins, lecture-ins, dinner party-ins, slot car-ins, scrabble-ins, parkour-ins (or is that outs?)
Speaking of parkour, maybe some abseiling is in order? or rock climbing? death-defying skate tricks or some formation dancing (those terraces again!) or anything else which gets the town looking at Sirius and asking wha?!
Children of Sydney, MA is asking you to call in the ratbags. It is time to start rumbling.
*Disclaimer: no activities of disruption, trespassing, civil disobedience or general silliness have been discussed with nor endorsed by the Save Our Sirius group, nor anyone within.
The Heslop Government of NSW has spoken or maybe that pie-faced billionaire or pick another faceless consortium in yet another forgettable tax-haven, can anyone tell the difference anyway? The Rocks may have been saved once before, but today’s tradies now demolish to the blare of JJJ, ‘wealth creating’ their own investment properties brick by brick and have no inclination for green bans now. What a viciously keen culture of avarice dressed in a tattered lambskin of ‘development’ we have completely instilled in this town. And the ghost of Juanita Neilson glides over empty bars in Kings Cross and weeps at Barongaroo will soon have a new stop in her tour of loss. Sirius. I mean really? How could public housing tenants hold onto such views for so long? How could the same little people still be there after 200 years? How could anyone hope to see inner Sydney’s last strand of social history, of Beatie Bow and toil and drama remain alive? How could architecture, such aesthetic adventure, intellectually challenging and of brutal sophistication stand when the land is worth 1000 million bjillion tramillion dollars? I mean Sydney isn’t one for ‘interesting’. We are not Madrid. We are not Marseille. We are certainly not London. We are Vegas. We want shiny surfaces, endless noise, empty calories, commercial networks, prices on application, purchased and geographically entrenched social classes. And we are winning.
Seems we just can’t keep away. After such an outpouring of love and appreciation when we announced MA was ceasing in its present form, we were quite taken aback by the sheer number of Modernist Australians out there, honestly, we had no idea. Over the last couple of months mulling it over we’ve not only missed what we do but feel it is almost churlish to stop the site dead. So, just like John Farnham jerking you around with yet another comeback tour, we too are back. The listings will not be quite so often – one or two beauties a week, but that should be hopefully enough to keep you and us happy. Yes, we are open!
Unfortunately using our limited time keeping regular with real estate listings, gives us no chance to revel in our other true Modernist loves, and this is a big one; big and hard – Brutalism. A love that, until recently, dare not speak its name is slowly stepping out of the shadows and being welcomed – be it in one of our all time favourite feeds, ‘Socialist Modernism’ or in the current Brutalism love-in currently playing out in Melbourne. “What’s the beef with Brutalism?”, a succession of talks, doco screenings, tours and concrete ping pong (yeah!) from our good buddies at Open House explores the love and hate of this most polarising of architecture and asks us all – where does its future lie? We’ll be calling in all favours and frocking up for one movie date in particular – “Bunkers, Brutalism & Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry” including a pre-show special guest star Graeme Gunn (squeal!):
“……a BBC FOUR two-part documentary in which Jonathan Meades makes the case for 20th-century concrete Brutalist architecture in homage to a style that he sees as brave, bold and bloody-minded. Tracing its precursors to the once-hated Victorian edifices described as Modern Gothic and before that to the unapologetic baroque visions created by John Vanbrugh, as well as the martial architecture of World War II, Meades celebrates the emergence of the Brutalist spirit in his usual provocative and incisive style. Never pulling his punches, Meades praises a moment in architecture he considers sublime and decries its detractors.”
We suggest all of you who love a bit of concrete to get amongst it this coming month and let your grey flag fly.
Earlier this month the Heritage Victorian saw fit to (finally) add a notable work from a living legend to their heritage list (‘Concrete brick ’60s townhouse wins heritage protection’). Neil Clerehan‘s 1967 South Yarra townhouse in Domain Rd, already an award winner at the time of its build, is recognised for its magical Modernist intent and success of blocking out the rumbling inner city and creating an open plan, light filled oasis within. We Modernist Australians who have wandered past this residence before would have guessed at its hidden interior and spaces, for in terms of ‘giving to the street’ as the great man says: “If you want windows and a nice high roof, it gives f*** all I think would be the term. But it fits in well with the street.” It is this uncompromising facade which is all part of the genius, a mindset which suggests tranquility in a bustling metropolis is a higher objective, than producing a facade obsessed flashpad. It is sensational news to see a succession of these post-1940s dwellings and public buildings getting the recognition and protection they deserve in Victoria. Hit us up with more we say!
Those eternal coolsies over at Monocle have latched onto one of the jewels of domestic Mid Century Modernism in Australia, the Seidler family home (1966) in Killara. Who can ever get enough of this place? If you, like us, cannot then sit back for a dreamy 6 minutes more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.)
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.
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?
**Update** The who knows question has been answered by those close to the project over at RAIDSTUDIO Architects & Interior Designers and it seems the house may have been indeed unsalvageable. As always, clarification is key, and we welcome any updates from those so concerned ………
“I thought you and your readership may be interested to know that the so called ‘superb riverside villa’ designed by Guilford Bell was, in fact, lost to insensitive alterations and additions works many years ago. The house was originally built in 1953 for the Long family but underwent major alterations and additions works under the direction of architect Norman Brendel and Associates for the Johnson family in the 60’s………Indeed, I am reliably informed by Bell’s surviving practise director Graham Fisher, that many years ago, subsequent to the alterations and additions works, even Bell himself lamented the deterioration of his design as they both drove past the property along St Georges Road!
And on Edna Walling’s garden, I also attached photography from 2014 showing the state of the garden. I am sure that you would agree that what remained was surely beyond resurrection? That is, what remained was literally an assortment of weeds species with no garden beds to be seen.
Our client purchased the house on the pretense of sincerely appreciating and wanting to live with modernist architecture. However, due to the fact that the existing house was not up to the building regulations of today – non-compliant stairs, windows, insulation etc. – and riddled with asbestos, extensive demolition of the somewhat dubious ‘superb riverside villa’ was required. Our proposed remodeling of the house seeks to restore certainly part of the physical fabric of the original design but also the spirit of mid-century modernism from which the house originally sprung. We would welcome your commentary on the completed current project which is scheduled for completion at the end of 2016.”
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.
A few months back we were honoured to be invited for a brief chat about Mid Century Modernist architecture on the ‘Afternoons’ programme at 774 ABC Melbourne. Along side us was the indomitable Simon Reeves of Built Heritage – the all knowledgeable David, to our enthusiastic Margaret. Those who didn’t catch it the first time, press play and enjoy.
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?).
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!
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.
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.
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.