‘McNicoll House’ 19 Gordon Gr, South Yarra VIC

Every now and then we are able to post up a residence which transcends our little world of listings and design chat and stands within a greater avenue of historical document, today we have a standout. ‘McNicoll House’ was a commission by Major General R.R.McNicoll for firm Grounds, Romberg and Boyd however this transpired in the very years in which Roy Grounds walked away with the National Galley of Victoria commission and this most famous of partnerships dissolved (1962). Suffice to say that while that drama played out on St. Kilda Rd on the other side of the Botanical Gardens this home initially begun by Grounds and concluded by Boyd, was conceived and constructed (c.1963). And it shows in that soaring heft of form that this encapsulates an architectural spirit more indicative of a Grounds design than Boyd. The main entry point is a private and unassuming drive in from Gordon Grove, whilst from the secondary road access of Caroline St. rises the bold, double story intervals of glass and block wall. A renovation in 2007 has kept the original timber and brick finishes internally, whilst adding a pool and some ‘contemporised’ flair, along with natural form landscaping by Caroline Blackman. 
This local landmark has been home to three families and the current vendor seeks similar to assume gracious custodianship of this remarkable building.
We ourselves have been very lucky to receive some extra information about this residence, not least in a letter (posted here) from Robin Boyd to the owner dated April 1960, which not only captures the pragmatic and stunningly Australian casualness of Boyd but also offers a rare glimpse of his incredible design mind, in his own words.
We welcome you all to look, read and soak up this slice of Modernist Australian history at your leisure, and if you have the means then perhaps take it a little further……..

*B&W images curtesy of MCDA.

A Boyd night out

Ever wanted to pop into Boyd’s legendary home in Walsh St? Perhaps wanted to say hi to us? Well tomorrow night you can do both as we venture into the weeds of ‘Midcentury Modernism in a Post Ironic World’ – the third instalment of the Boyd Foundation’s Heritage Speaker Series as part of the ‘Robin Boyd Centenary of Design’ year long celebrations.
We are honoured to sit beside heavy hitters Debbie Ryan, Adele Winterage, Erna Walsh forming a quartet of Melbourne design lady-power and talking all things Modernist, irony, trend and identity. We would love you to swing by and join the chat, so come on over!

Post irony is a term used to connote a state in which earnest and ironic intents become muddled – is modernism simply a trend on repeat or does it have deeper connections to modern living?

Post-Ironic Modernism – Heritage Speaker Series #3 

Wednesday 16th May 6.30 – 8.30pm
@ 290 Walsh St, South Yarra.
Tickets can be bought here.

Robin Boyd – A Centenary of Design

It would be very remiss of us to not remind you all about the entire year of celebratory events the Robin Boyd Foundation has locked and loaded in for 2019. In celebration and homage for Australian architecture’s largest luminaries, in what would be his 100th year (if he hadn’t exited the building far too early) this long-play birthday party includes everything from house tours, topic expert speakers, exhibitions, films nights, concerts, commemorative stamps (did you get yours?) and discussion panels (perhaps including a special guest appearance from us!).

Boyd’s enduring and expanding legacy is reflected in this program with a myriad of community partners coming onboard to help celebrate including Parks Victoria, The National Trust, Australian Institute of Architects (Vic), Melbourne and Monash Universities, The State Library and Open House Melbourne and in varied locations from ground zero at his Walsh Street house in South Yarra to Shepparton, Koroit to Sydney and Adelaide.

Over the coming months we’ll be cherry picking a few of these events to highlight in detail. But in the meantime, get over to the Boyd Foundation’s dedicated program page, peruse the offerings and book in before it’s sold out.

Canberra Modern is back!

The closest we get to Palm Spring Modernism Week, in terms of celebrating our own MCM heritage en masse with plenty of home tours, guest speakers and cocktail mixers to loosen our learned minds – Canberra Modern – is back! Starting next week (13th April – 5th May) you’ll have so many choices to make. Do you set out to absorb the indigenous, Modernist housing dream in situ at Urambi Village with the architect himself, Michael Dysart as guide (we listed a home in sister development Wybalena Grove just last year)? Do you get your fash on with the Marion Hall Best exhibition or Marimekko talk (oops – already sold out!)? 

Do you check out Rosso in full suburban flight in his Design Nation show? Or (our particular fav this year) get on the bus and stop at Canberra’s collection of iconic Modern bus stops with artist Trevor Dickinson? In any case, and with any MCM taste, there is a little somethin’ – somethin’ for you all and we’d suggest for East – coasters a road trip should be in order to really soak in all up (along with a dirty martini or four at Robin Boyd’s Manning Clarke House c.1952).
Check the website for the full program and ticket purchases and remember after all there’s no Australian Modern quite like Canberra Modern.

‘Bridgford House’ 242 Beach Rd, Black Rock VIC

When checking a constant stream of MCM Australian Homes as they pop up on the market we can sometimes get a little complacent about just how innovative and in-tune with our emerging lifestyle many of these designs were, but nothing brings it back into sharp focus quite like one from an undisputed master. ‘Bridgford House’ was Robin Boyd’s most expensive commission to date when undertaken in 1954, at the behest of wealthy boatie Charles (& wife Phyllis) Bridgford. Sitting on a corner allotment this is only its second time on the market and (thanks Steven Coverdale for the historical pics and info) we can note the current owners have undertaken a beautifully skilful revival with a contemporary architect –  oh so light and delicate, in keeping with the truest sensibilities of Boyd’s early domestic catalogue. It is also with a recurring knot of sadness at the loss of Boyd so young, that we pour over every room with the sheer cleverness of his craft on view; the inbuilt cabinetry, dividing kitchen shelving, that wild indoor to outdoor dining table, groundbreaking walls of glazing, those stunning bedrooms – not hanging their attractiveness on large footage but rather on utility, light, formation and the unadorned beauty of raw materials – honestly we could look at this house all day and find something startling and elegant to gush over every time. The one recurring minor note to this tune is the question fate and future, for this prized residence sits in a now very ‘aspirational’ area where those with money far in excess of their cognitive skills race to build ever more bloated monuments to vapid consumerism and self-loathing and this home has no protection, heritage or otherwise, of any kind. It could be that in the wrong hands this home is dust by Christmas 2018 and a McMansion by Easter 2020. We cannot allow this to happen. We all must find a new custodian of this uniquely beautiful and notable residence ASAP!

**Update** It is with elated exhalation that the news has filtered through that this residence, more worthy than most preservation, as been saved via private sale! A news report details (that in itself a positive sign if the passion for MCM within our community) the new custodians to a local architecture and hospitality power couple  –  a combination no better suited we think to assume ownership of this fine home and assure it’s passage through the coming years.

“The piece of modernist history….. sold to Melbourne University architecture lecturer Catherine Duggan and her hospitality tycoon partner Maz Salt. Mr Salt owns some of Melbourne’s most popular restaurants including Belleville, Section 8, Ferdyduke and The B. East…….They plan to live at the home with their children, and Mr Salt said they were “looking forward to a long residency.”

Real estate agents take note – there is a market for properties in these high-inspirational suburbs which extends far beyond mere land and development potential. It would bode well for you all to recognise and cultivate this burgeoning market sector, for we all know a developer sees through a narrow lens of profit margins with a set spend limit, whereas those people of means (most often those for whom curiosity, creativity and adopting early are the foundation of their success) when enraptured by the beauty of Mid-Century Modern architecture will move heaven and earth to get what they want. 

‘Wood House’ 12-14 Tannock St, Balwyn North VIC

A piece of Melbourne history has just popped up playing its chances on the market. With thanks to Steven at MCDA for the info This 1940s Robin Boyd which was subsequently updated twice more by the architect at the owners behest, now stands on the precipice. Not helping its case in the slightest is it’s location in Balwyn North, essentially the Azkaban for Mid-Century homes, as we’ve lost count how many were built there in the first place and have been destroyed in the past decade, perhaps more Australian MCM history lost than any other suburb in the country. Let us not dwell on that right now, but rather luxuriate in the classic Boyd lightness of build and progressive design prioritising the site. Let us remember that this home was built in a time before television, before rock and roll, when everyone wore hats and gloves and was called Smith or Jones or Harris that is to say this is the future as born in the olden days.

56 Alice St, Mount Waverley VIC

Just like Gareth yesterday, Alice has seen better days, in fact she was once an  ‘It Girl’, delivered unto a dynamic post war Melbourne by none other than Robin Boyd himself. Those optimistic times heralding exciting new concepts of considered housing and architecture ultimately gave in to a depressing regression of design, horrific volume builds and a dumbing down of everyone, and what was once the start of something special, sat quietly in the eastern suburbs and gathered cobwebs. However what goes around inevitably comes around and we are overjoyed by the benevolence of this agent, for it is a certainty that if this way listed pre – 2017 we wouldn’t even see a photo of this house, let alone a suggestion of renovation or an acknowledgment of the advancing MCM buyer’s market. Let us collectively confirm Michael’s instincts shall we, and see it go to a lover not a developer.

Canberra Modern – a capital MCM celebration

If you didn’t already cop onto Canberra’s status as possibly our best city to explore Mid-Century design, including such architectural icons as the Australian Academy of Science AKA The Shine Dome, as well as a clutch of impressive domestic and public buildings from the cream of Australian architecture, including Robin Boyd, Roy Grounds, Harry Seidler and local luminary Enrico Taglietti then now is the time to explore  – Canberra Modern (as part of the Design Canberra Festival) has begun!

Canberra Modern (7-16 November) is an independent program of events being held during the Design Canberra festival 2017.  Canberra Modern was initially inspired by Palm Springs Modernism Week and spearheaded a small team of local heritage and design professionals. We hope to promote the appreciation and conservation of the unique mid-century modern places which make an irreplaceable contribution to Canberra’s unique historic urban and designed cultural landscape through fun and inspirational events such as walks, talks, a vintage market, a dinner and a martini masterclass that celebrate Canberra’s modernist soul.”

The Shine Dome (AKA The Martian Embassy) by architect Sir Roy Grounds (c.1965)


From joyful rubber necking on bus tours, Sunday market, Conversations with contemporary experts and living legends, The sublime winners of a MCM photography competition, An arvo spent with Rosso and his comic celebration of Modernism die-hardery, and, what we love the most, after a long day of talk and appreciation perhaps a chance for some good old fashioned martini soaked fun times and/or an ANU great hall dinner with fellow travellers – what more could you want?

 ‘Benjamin Residence’ Alex Jelinek (c.956). Photo: Darren Bradley.


Get onto all the events in the links, post haste as they are selling out fast! And of you wanna mix it up with a bit of house peeping – Check the clutch of Canberra listings we’ve just posted; from a nifty Seidler townhouse to a glamorous updated residence to the re-listing of a jaw dropping, cold-war diplomatic compound there is always a little something for everyone in our (design) capital.

 

Vermont Park Open Day

It’s been a while since we checked in on the Boyd Foundation’s bustling events calendar but this weekend is a particular ripper for those who revere progressive architecture but who, like us, are perpetually irked that civic planning and more highly conceived ideas for estate housing have completely fallen away amid the hoopla of real estate booms and urban growth.

Unlike today’s housing estates thrown up with the main focus of marketing events, shopping convenience and godawful street naming conventions (Mews? Passage? Way?) the heady experimental times of the 1970s saw several high-profile architects and building firms collaborating with other professionals in landscaping to deeply ponder the broader philosophies of community, movement, place, embracing the natural Australian environs and a push to develop housing tracts as a direct response. Winter park was one such ideological dream made real by Merchant Builders (originally founded by David Yencken and John Ridge) completed in 1974. This was followed up by the establishment of Vermont Park (confusingly in Nunawading) in 1977, a collaboration with Tract Consultants. As described in Architecture AU by Andrew Saniga:

“They converted a four-hectare site, formerly an orchard, into a residential complex of forty-three homes with shared access, open space and a community centre that had barbecues and a swimming pool. Tree preservation, new plantings and small garden spaces together gave the impression the houses were set in a forest.”
A community clubhouse! Perhaps a perfect, though unusual, marriage of exclusivity and communal space. Party down!

An open day this Sunday at Vermont Park, proudly presented by The Robin Boyd Foundation, offers us all a site-based insight into this project;

‘6 key houses from this award winning development will be open along with the residents shared Clubhouse All landscaped areas of the development open for exploration Exhibition panels showing Merchant Builders Chronology and exhibition catalogue on display Open Day insight catalogue provided to each attendee featuring essays from David Yencken.’

40 years on many of us pine for living options which offer such joys as rambling forests built for childhood adventures, community connection and natural bonds holding gorgeous, yet sustainable architecturally designed abodes. *Sigh* And though there is a new resurgence in architect led, community focused, residential developments such as Nightingale Housing it is truly a rare treat we get to look, inside and out, at a fully realised original.

For tickets check the Robin Boyd Foundation.