Image courtesy of Mark Strizic, Living in Australia p. 32
In January of this year we noted that the Handfield House was on the rental market. I’ve had two emails this week pointing me to a website advertising its pending sale.
The Handfield House was built in the bush at Eltham, Victoria, in 1960. In Living in Australia (1970) Boyd describes a big house clad in asbestos-cement sheeting. Boyd liked the ‘humble’ cement sheet. He considered it to be an appropriate backdrop to the many local gumtrees.
In Transition No 38, the Robin Boyd special issue (1992), Professor Philip Goad explains why the simple, untreated cement sheeting was specified by Boyd. Goad also describes the significance of the ‘Japanese inspiration’ the estate agent refers to:
“Boyd’s experiments with timber demonstrate his fondness for the structural prop and clear expression of the structural frame. His two books on Japanese architecture, Kenzo Tange (1962) and New Directions in Japanese Architecture (1968) complemented his interest in structural and material truths. Elements of Japanese architecture – bold expressed timber construction, sliding screens, broad timber balustrade and handrail details, platforms of space floating within an open volume and the shibui restraint of unfinished natural materials – are all part of Boyd’s domestic vocabulary from the late 1950s until his death in 1971.
The Handfield House … replaces the brick pier of the pier and infill houses with a graphic explanation of the post and beam timber frame. Unfinished asbestos cement sheet panel infills and floor to ceiling windows divided horizontally like shoji screens impart the air of a Japanese house. Formal qualities arise through the inherent qualities of the ordering system of the modular grid i.e. symmetry, repetition and harmoniously proportioned volumes. Spaces are formed by a series of platforms arranged around a courtyard. A wide suntrapping living gallery acts as a transition zone between this external space and the more enclosing living room overlooking the Yarra Valley”.I have not yet seen the project but, from images available on the agent’s site, it appears that the exposed timber frame Goad refers to has been painted, in the interiors, to match the ceiling. Boyd most certainly would have expressed the timber construction by either sealing or staining the timber, retaining the grain and woody tones. It is difficult to compare the black and white external view taken by Mark Strizik with the contemporary images, but I suspect the external timber members that were, perhaps, stained or limed have also been painted (I could be wrong – opinions and reports welcomed!).
Boyd's much loved, untreated asbestos sheets have also been painted (a practical update, for many reasons). I doubt the asbestos sheets have been replaced – it would be safer and simpler to paint them. That may be a question a potential buyer might ask.
It is a wonderful home in a great location and appears to be in excellent condition.
The inspection times are:
Thursday 30 October, 2:30pm-3:00pm
Saturday 1November, 11:30am-12:00pm
The Auction is scheduled for 12:00pm, Saturday 22 November, 2008.
The property is listed with Morrison Kleeman as ELTHAM - 16 Homestead Road VIC 3095
Images courtesy of Morrison Kleeman