One of the things I like about many of the houses in the book is that they were not built with endless budgets. There is very much a sense that it is the ideas and their execution that count not the actual dollars spent. Sean Godsell’s own house is a case in point. ‘We were young and poor and it was built on the smell of an oily rag’, he says.
The house is very measured in its décor. Artworks are propped up against walls and the backs of sofas rather than hung and there is a sense that the objects that have been chosen have gone through a rigorous selection process. An Akari standing light by Noguchi and a sculpture by Pilar Rojas, flank a sofa designed by Godsell – a tribute to Donald Judd.
Godsell does play with concepts from east and west in the house. ‘The divided plan shows the influence of Asia on Australia’, he says. The living area has a sliding wall to separate the space and create two areas, just as in Japanese architecture a series of rooms is animated by operating screens. The house has no corridors and so has a continuous flow of space, which Godsell admits was easier when he son Jack was a small child rather than a teenager.
During my research for the book I came across, and fell in love with, the work of Tasmanian architect Michael Viney. In the words of Gerard Reinmuth, an advocate of the work his mentor, Viney, ‘ fused a commitment to Corbusian modernism with Japanese spatial techniques, geomancy and a particular reading of the Tasmanian landscapes, resulting in a suite of exemplary works anchored in his heightened spatial intelligence’. Pictured here is the ‘Viney House’ (1975-77) which he designed for his family on a Hobart hillside and is now placed on the Australian Institute of Architects register of Nationally Significant Twentieth Century Architecture. Viney studied sculpture with Peter Taylor and the sculptural qualities are very evident in the work. The façade of the Viney House sees the influence of American architects such as Richard Meier but remains site specific with the landscape acting as a guiding principle.
Access to the house is via a raised walkway.
The spare furnishings in the interior space concentrate the mind on the landscape beyond and Viney was highly tuned to the relationship between the two. “Architecture is created from the inside out – from space to form, they are integral to, and inform each other to resolution’.
The Viney House appeared as a hero feature in Architecture Australia magazine at a time when it was hard for Tasmanian architects to get national coverage of their work. RMIT Professor Richard Blythe notes, ‘Viney’s work stands out because of his ability to take a cosmopolitan view, to be concerned with the particularity of place, of the relation between a subject and the landscape beyond the immediate site while resisting the sentimentality of a regionalist approach’. Shown here is the glazed southern wall facing the surrounding bush.
The Droga apartment was commissioned by Daniel Droga and still belongs to him. We approached him to see if it would be possible to launch the book in the apartment and he kindly said yes. It was the perfect venue – centrally located with a large balcony and a generous living space. Guests where keen to have the opportunity to see the apartment first hand and at dusk the view from the balcony and mezzanine level was something else.
The architects of the apartment – Neil Durbach and Camilla Block were at the launch, as was Glenn Murcutt, Peter Stutchbury, Ken Woolley and Russell Jack, while other architects, from interstate, where there in spirit.
This view of the apartment shows how easily the place opens up to accommodate a crowd and is one of the perspectives of the house that both Durbach and Block remarked upon as it simultaneously takes in the exterior city view and the main sweep of the house, bisected by the powerful curve of the wall.
Barrie Marshall’s Phillip Island House was the very first one I visited for the book, in July 2009. I was rather nervous to meet an architect from a big global architecture firm like Denton Corker Marshall, but Barrie Marshall, who was there with his wife Raine, couldn’t have been more approachable. I had seen photographs of the house in an issue of Architecture Australia magazine, but to experience the house directly was a real privilege.
The house responds incredibly well to the movement of the sun throughout the day and rooms become lit by sharp shards of sunlight while other areas remain in shadow. The Vico Magistretti ‘Sinbad’ Chair sits behind a prototype of a coffee table Marshall designed for the Adelphi Hotel.
The little ‘penguin windows’ – named by Marshall’s colleague John Denton – run along the north west side of the building, allowing light in from the courtyard but not allowing direct visual engagement with it.
My interview with Timothy Hill in the ‘D’ House in Brisbane’s New Farm, didn’t get off to a good start – through no fault of Timothy’s. Ever stretched for time I had been re-reading my notes on the progressive architectural company Donovan Hill, on the flight from Sydney to Brisbane. I had written my long list of questions and felt quite prepared. I had a bit of time to kill at the airport so had a coffee, answered some emails and then grabbed a cab to the city. When the taxi pulled up there was no mistaking the house – the distinctive timber screen, the irregular façade like a ‘garden wall’ and the grove of tuckeroo trees leading to the gated entrance. It was then I discovered – I HAD LEFT ALL MY NOTES AT THE AIRPORT. This is not how you wish to start an interview with an intelligent and discerning architect. I should not have worried. The house is a beautiful experience, questions came readily, and Timothy was most articulate about his work. The concepts are fascinating and he explained them clearly to a lay person like myself.
Some things are embedded in architectural history such as the Luytens concept of over-sequencing the approach to a house to enlarge its scale. He acknowledges that it was a ‘dud site with no view so we needed to ramp up the value of what is actually outside’. This house is different from every other project in the book because it is not seeking privacy – rather it seeks to engage with the streetscape through the use of a generous horizontal window and its proximity to the road.
This corner of the main living space says much about the Donovan Hill ‘D’ House. The furniture is built-in and designed with practicality in mind – you can easily sweep under it, use it as an extra bed, bring a dining table close and use it as bench seating. It also has the effect of creating lightness and transparency as you see through to the courtyard beyond. Hill also custom designed the copper wall light situated above the window.
This view into the kitchen captures the soft finish of the set plaster. Many of the materials are honest and unadorned and the shaft of natural lights highlights the ‘wacky patina’ of the wall. The skylight is placed above the threshold of where decisions have to be made and also allows tantalising glimpses of the sky.