Monday, 27 October 2008

Handfield House (1960) in 'Gregory's 200 House Plan Ideas'

Tim Reeves, our driving-tour guide for the recent Canberra Tour, sent me this article from Gregory's 200 House Plan Ideas . It was penned by Beryl Guertner, editor of Australian House and Garden magazine and is one of the many homes originally published in Australian House and Garden. Tim advises that no publication date is listed, but he estimates circa 1956/6.

The text reads:

A House For Three Generations

Built on a sloping site, this house at Eltham (Vic) contains a complete flat for elderly parents; this flat is situated on the lower ground floor. The family-living section is U-shaped and grouped around a courtyard. Sleeping wing is divided into two separate areas. A large dormitory for the children has its own bathroom and leads to an open veranda. A long gallery with a floor of diagonal boarding flanks the study, living and dining areas and leads to the service wing.

Construction: House is post and beam construction built on a 4 ft module. Half inch tick asbestos cement flat sheets were used so that they needed to be nailed at the edges only; edges were then covered with a charcoal painted timber moulding.

Thanks Tim!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

For Sale: The Handfield House (1960), Eltham

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.
Goad continues:
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

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Next Open House and 2009 Events

Images, top to bottom:
The Haughton James House (1956-58), picture: Jane Poynter, courtesy of The Age
The Brett House (1955-56), Toorak
, picture: Wolfgang Sievers, courtesy of the NLA
Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar (1962), Carlton, picture: Mark Strizic, from Living in Australia (1970)

Next Open House: The Brett House (1955-56)

Invitations were sent today for the next Open House at the Brett House (1955-56), Toorak, to be held in mid-November 2008. I was fortunate enough to visit the house recently courtesy of the owners and DOCOMOMO (a group concerned with the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the modern movement). It is a delightful home and, apart from some practical updates, is largely in its original condition.

The discussion at our event will revolve around comparisons between the Melbourne home of the 1950s versus the Melbourne home today. How does an architect–designed home in an inner suburb in 2008 compare with one designed in 1955? The Brett House is an excellent talking point as, by today’s standards, it may be considered modest in size. The newly built Australian home is larger than it has ever been yet accommodates smaller families than those of the 1950s. The discussion will highlight significant shifts in Australian housing trends, a brief overview of the history of Victorian housing, of societal values that drive 'taste' and the effect the Australian economy has on building design.

The invitation also included the 2009 Calendar of Events, which includes a day trip to Colac to view the Clive and Patricia Winter Irving House (1956-57). We are attempting to arrange a viewing of another property in the area that was not designed by Boyd but is of similar significance. Lunch will be arranged at a local venue (tbc).

In September 2009 we will also be viewing the documentary Your House and Mine (1958) written by Robin Boyd and directed by Peter McIntyre. The screening will be accompanied by a slideshow of images from selected Boyd properties. This evening will occur at Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar (1962).

Events in 2009 will conclude with an Open House hosted at the beautiful Haughton James House (1956-58). The banks of the Yarra River in Studley Park, Kew, were (and remain) a favourite with architects and Boyd transformed a very difficult site into a home that has become an icon of C20th Australian Modernism.

For more information please email nicdowse AT