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.
It is the fact that I live in a Bruce Rickard house ( where my family and I have been for 11 years) that started my whole interest in Australian domestic architecture and those that created it.
My husband and I got to know Bruce and were part of an informal club which met, visited each others houses, and then had lunch with Bruce. It was a great opportunity to see his different projects, on different sites for different clients – but all with his use of natural materials and his use of space for communal use – and all with a deep connection to the natural landscape.
My family and I were part of his 80th birthday celebrations at a house he had built for himself at Cottage Point. It was a joyful, inclusive affair with all generations in attendance. Many of his children spoke, as Bruce himself did, in his quite considered and gently humorous way. The warmth of the occassion was unmistakable. When his son Sam let us know he was in hospital and dying it caused me to consider, and write down, what living in a house Bruce had designed meant to me. Much of it was to do with raising the children in the house – how it contributed to their appreciation of nature as the skies change and the southerlies blow in; how I have bought a day bed specifically to lie in the winter sun Bruce so cleverly arranged to pour into the house in winter. How my daughter (who loves the house and never wants to leave) and I look for patterns, faces and animals in the sandstock bricks. His influence has been profound as it was Bruce who ignited my interest in architecture and the two books that are a direct result of that interest. I was pleased that Sam got the opportunity to read the letter to his father before he died.
The house is built in a mixture of natural materials – sandstock brick, timber and glass and sits on a battle-axe block amongst the angophoras.
One of Rickards main concerns was the connection between indoors and out an so the house is designed to open up to the surrounding garden in summer and close up to be cosy and protective in winter.
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.