The wild permutations of this swirling world are creating schisms in the fabric of our reality. One could easily slip through a finely worn section, back to 1967 and make a home here – a textbook example of a Graeme Gunn designed Merchant Builder’s home which has never seen another owner from those who built it that year. Pristine in its purist, Australian Modern design, without a single superfluous angle, line or space and made of neutral earthbound tile, timber and brick this home provides elemental solace and spiritual succor for these, our heady times.
For all the money, position and supposed savvy the bankrolled of Brighton assume, we sadly continue to spy example after godawful example of the tired trends and the repellent rebuilds in this suburb, often as prescribed by the most banal of the breed: the B-list celebrity. So when an insanely original, neutral-toned c.1968, Merchant Builders residence by legendary architect Graeme Gunn presents, as this one does, the alarm bells ring and the haunting spectre of a high-gloss, tinted-windowed, snow-white ‘renovation’ rises from the depths. Either that or worse – destruction in totality of every beautiful brick and valuable raw timber with one (r two) monstrous ‘luxe’ villas constructed in its place. Lets us try to not go there. Lets us dream that there is someone with both the integrity, the finance and the eye to grasp the rare beauty and seek to advance this truly wonderful family home in the sympathetic and creative manner it deserves.
To our minds, one particular vision of Australian Modernism really comes into its own in these winter months, when the sun is low (and if in southern states, the chill and drear settles in for a stay) and that is the organic, early 70s, Sydney school informed Merchant Builders estate homes as designed by Graeme Gunn. We have regularly kept a spot open for these wonders (see our most recent from the Keraboite Gully Estate in Mount Eliza) with their appeal in recent years having finally and rightfully rocketing within the generation of us who perhaps spent their beginnings in similar surroundings. Today’s version within the notable ‘Winter Park Estate‘ is a lovely unmolested example from a design originally devised by Gunn in 1965 called the T3* here slighted changed up for the site. This fait accompli combination of progressive and stunningly simple design, raw earthborn materials offers nil to do but move in your indoor plants and LPs to complete the picture. Extra points here for the green limed kitchen (which has unlocked an entirely new level of interior possibilities!) timeless bathroom and flawless timber ceiling. An all round unmitigated delight.
*check out MCDA for all your MCM project homes facts and nomenclature!
An unrivalled bushland bonanza of no ordinary origins here but rather a c.1975/76, mint condish Merchant Builders/Graeme Gunn colab within their planned mini-estate of Keraboit Gully. You can read the full intent in the original sales brochure here. But below is a taster
“The Concept. We don’t think of Keraboite Gully simply as “a development”. We think of it as a planned community of individual houses, where every detail- will contribute to an overall sense of harmony. Our principle aim is to make the most of the natural environment, and. to offer an attractive and workable alternative to the monotony of conventional development.”
How utterly familiar in intention and spirit this is to anyone taken by contemporary architect-led developments of higher ideals* (over simple return for financial investment) in this day and age. How trailblazing and yet sadly so cast by the wayside these concepts have been for the last 40 years!
Owner, Richard, has done a considered job of keeping this marvellous example of late Modern project housing intact with the a modest kitchen update merely reinforcing how such an aged residence remains timeless and seamless with its elemental materials and deference to the environment. We’d like to assume the new owners take on and embrace the similar spirit and immerse themselves fully in this home’s shining success in tranquil, comfortable and elemental bushland living.
*And if great architectural/development groups reading this want to branch out into regional Victoria to continue this particular bushland, lower density housing legacy – we’re on board – just sayin’.
Only for those with rose coloured glasses (or maybe glasses half full) comes this broken down beauty. Beyond the obvious cavalcade of dereliction, water stains, tile grime and the echo of boots on grainy floors is the promise of a dreamy half-acre compound with a centrepiece home (merchant builders perhaps?**) complete with timber ceilings, wonderful intervals of brick and glass, open flowing spaces of an utterly modern sensibility. Anyone driven by imagination, passion and elbow grease? This is a more than worthy contender.
**Update: ‘Tis confirmed! It’s a ‘Terrace House’ designed for Merchant Builders by our main man Graeme Gunn (cheers MCDA!)
We’ve had a numerous folks send this no-nonsense, Greame Gun (by way of Merchant Builders) beaut, not least the owners themselves. We’d like to thank Johanna for contacting us and offering some gorgeous insight of Melbourne now long past;
“This example of Graeme Gunn’s Courtyard House was built for my parents by Merchant Builders in 1972 in the Rosanna Golf Links estate along Salt Creek parklands at a time when most blocks in the street were still paddocks. As children we played in the life-sized ‘cubby’ houses being built around us.”
And also props for sending through the original elevations, quotation, manual and flyer for the estate, still in their possession for us to pour over at our MCM nerd pleasure. Trusty ol’ Gunn, this home remains as pleasant, practical and truly indigenous as they come.
Cast your eyes on this gorgeous Graeme Gunn courtyard house in what appears to be stunningly original condish. It stands as it has for 50 years, hidden from the street, waiting for you to walk in and experience it. And it bears repeating that the strengths of such architecture, such a regular suburban example, lies not in styling arrangements but in the elemental materials. Not in the perfumed candles, but in the breezy airflow. Not in expensive light centerpiece, but in the seasonal sunlight and deep shade governed by window placement. It’s not, and never has been, in the viewing but rather in the feeling.
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?
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.