The year was 1957.
“Dome Constructions Pty Ltd Subdivided the Hillcrest Estate out of the lemon orchards that run between Park Road and Deep Creek in Mitcham, now Donvale. The estate ran the whole length of Lisbeth Avenue and took in parts of the side street….Alistair Knox provided plans and built houses as required on the subdivision. He appears to have built 46 houses in all. Almost all still exist though many have been altered and added to, some in rather extreme ways.” – Alistair Knox.org
This home, dear readers (lot #13 on the original plan) is not one of the altered. A testament to the elegant, site specific designs Knox devised for this A-Little-Eltham-in-Mitcham estate, it stands still in the hands of the owner who built it c.1962 and though tired, it is simply lovely. We have been contacted by a neighbour who stated upon viewing that he nearly cried it is so original and beautiful. This house is nothing if not a bona-fide MCM gem in the urban bush which sweeps down from the north facing deck into a magical treed garden boarded by The Eastlink bike trail. It is unable to be sub-divided (hoo-bloody-ray!) though it is in clear need of a steady and knowledgeable owner to carefully revive it and reap the rewards. Those with the skills, and only those with an understanding of such design and history, need apply.
The year was 1957.
Like so many design and architecture practitioners Mid-Twentieth Century Australia, Alistair Knox was involved in the project home movement. Though well known in Melbourne for his gorgeous bushland residences, according to this excellent post from Mid-Century Domestic Architecture he actually is responsible for an entire (and hitherto unknown to us) tract of homes, a subdivision in Donvale, built in the late 50s to early 60s and totaling all up 46 glorious plan houses. See some of the the options in the post floorplan images* and indulge in a little playing ‘just-married-in-1957-Melbourne’ – which would you choose? Many of these homes still stand, in varying condition and here is one example currently on the market. We could dwell on it’s chances of survival in this developer led-market or we can decide to simply enjoy the beautifully progressive design and imagine what could be with a thoughtful head and skill hands, lets go with the latter.
*with many thanks to Steven Coverdale
Steven Coverdale* has sounded the bell, so gather around people and bear witness to this – one of those handful-a-year properties in which all sense of decorum flies away and one starts pacing, perspiring, heavy breathing and plotting. What looks to be an original 5 bedder, with pool and stunning tree coverage (on 1 acre actually) in the inexplicably high-finance hills of Donny and built round 1969 this is a dreamscape for lovers, like us, who revere Graeme Gunn and his gumnut solid forays of later stage, Australian Modernist living. Coverdale in his assessment suggests the influence of Ken Woolly and we’d agree, though that sublime fireplace/living room reminds us immediately of another Melbourne beloved, the heritage listed Godsell House *sigh*. Though all this having been said and all this monumental gorgeousness before our very eyes does not negate this home’s vulnerability. Donvale has more than its fair share of self styled, cashed up, amoral wankers who’d sooner see this demolished or ‘renovated’ for some impersonal flip gain, much like this nearby Chancellor and Patrick tragedy we highlighted earlier this year. So we’d like to make this clear right now – anyone who even thinks of such actions, let alone tries to execute them be warned; we’ll come for you in the night and not in the good way. This this home is pure untouchable and deserves nothing less than humble adoration.
*We’d like to credit Steven for post floor plan historical images, by Peter Wille.
After the privilege of seeing Graeme Gunn interviewed last year we have longed for one of his homes to showcase on MA. An architect of such grounded bearing and no-nonsense attitude who, in the often convoluted and self-important posturing of the architecture crowds, remains a humbling breath of fresh air. And throughout his legendary practice this thoroughly Australian personality is evident. Brutally solid structures, nothing extraneous, elemental yet not cold. We’re so lucky to see this particularly incredible home (c.1961) such an intact example of his work, on stunning acreage (those *trees*) which looks to have had not a single head hair touched and we’d dearly hope that’s the way it stays. But above all what we hope is that it stays with us at all – though not a jot of redevelopment sleeze in the sales pitch suggest that maybe this one has a heritage overlay? Surely it must be so?
No interior shots and its location do not bode well for this gorgeous home, already sold. ‘Better suited’? Thats really up for debate. We’ll just have to see what happens.
Enough with the units, let’s spread out rancho style with this glorious vision of 70s excess. Looking like a set piece from American Hustle this massive home on 5 acres yet only 20 kms from the CBD is flat roofed mansion, which suggests ownership by fame or serious money – anyone know it’s history? Ok, so the sprayed cement ceilings and lime kitchen may not appeal to all (do you think they’d throw in the waterbed too?) but at least it maintains the true essence and design of it’s time, something most likely to be rendered, white painted and marble benched into submission by the next owners, much to our dismay. In the meantime however lets take the time to celebrate Modernism of the heady ’70s with an Elvis bloat and Boz Scaggs soundtrack. Yeah.