Sit down gang, we’ve got something to show you and it is nothing less than a knee-buckling slice of pure Australian sublime. Not content with being a pristine example of exquisite 1960s indigenous architecture from one of the nation’s most beloved Modernist firms – that of Allen Jack + Cottier – this unassuming 3 +1 bedroom, c.1968 residence sits nestled and harmonious on a headland so naturally beautiful we cannot quite believe it’s real. Unreal or otherwise the only course of action is to admire it all, let the imagined rumble of the ocean, the smell of the timber and the very ebb of your soul astral project across your troubled plain and into this crowing glory of our breathtaking national bounty of both man and earth. Amen.
Tonight a remarkable testament to the timelessness of accomplished Mid-Century Modern architecture from one of the most celebrated Australian firms of the time. This grand home situated within the gorgeously lush confines at posh heart of the Sydney elite, was built for a Dr. Pantel and designed by John Allen & Russell Jack Architects in 1962, and has remained in the same family until now. In stunning condition, with not a blemish to be spotted in those unyielding grey brick walls, nor clean windows, nor timber detailing, this home presents as a series of seperate living pavilions which together enclose the inhabitants in an unspoken security of being, whilst inviting the earthly beauty of the locale to take centre stage – views, light, air and sound. An almost perfect expression of peak Modern ideals; functional, beautiful and, though exquisite to look at, would be even moreso nourishing of the soul and the senses, than the eye.
Melbourne produced a purebred this week and Sydney have responded in kind. And it doesn’t get more relevant to the story of Mid-Century Modernism in this country than this, at first glance, unassuming 3 bedder. Firstly it is located in Castlecrag, a suburb with progressive ties stretching back to the 1920s when sections of the suburb were carved into estates complete with homes built all under the vision of Sir Walter Burley Griffin, the American-born architect of our nation’s capital (among many notable urban planning projects) and working colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright.
This home though was built in 1964 and is a prime example of it’s creators; the notable Sydney firm of Allen Jack + Cottier. Within the same year this firm were to produce the much revered, award winning residence (and personal favourite of ours) for the Cater family in Canberra, and this? This could be its little sister. The very same elements and materials which conspire to make that house a glorious yet tranquil retreat on a hill are the very same at play here, as described in the linked article:
“From the later 1950s, Sydney architects such as Russell were drawn to the work of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and to the spatial organisation and constructional motifs of traditional Japanese architecture. There was great interest in the natural environment, demonstrated by the design of climatic controls, the manipulation of natural light, the orchestration of views and a response to the forms of the landscape. Russell’s houses of the 1950s and 1960s embody these references in gestures such as the clarity of natural materials and construction techniques, the juxtaposition of dark timber joinery and white walls, and the use of sliding doors and screens to manipulate internal spaces and diffuse the boundaries between inside and outside.”
Again Frank Lloyd Wright is referenced in a returning progression of development and design influences in this special part of Sydney. But it wouldn’t be a listing with MA without the bitter sting of threatened loss. It is a deceased estate. It is on a large block with stunning harbour views. It has already been messed with in various spots (the bathroom, but to a more worrying extent that hideous marble fireplace – why?) and the most distressing of all, the agent after citing its historical provenance blithely suggests knocking the whole place down to build something we’d rather not contemplate.
So once more we put out the call. The bat signal flashes in the sky. Who can take on this glorious place to live? A property which not only grows daily in history, integrity and architectural stature, but is also a comfortable, sunlit, family-sized home? We wonder. We hope.