This post is written in anticipation of something I have wanted to do ever since I fell in love with modernist architecture and design. This weekend, my wife and I will be visiting Robin Boyd’s house in Walsh Street, South Yarra!
The reason for the visit is to attend the latest show ‘Man About The House’ by comedian Tim Ross, who is also a self-confessed modernist architecture tragic. Details of the show can be found here http://timross.com.au/tour-dates and for your sake I hope there are still tickets available!
Robin Boyd House II
The Boyd House II is an iconic landmark in Australian architecture and was designed by Robin Boyd in 1957. The design perfectly addresses a narrow sloping block while also pushing the boundaries of residential design. The house is divided into two, with a double storey section to the front including the living, kitchen, bathroom and combined master bedroom / formal living room, and a single storey wing to the rear housing the children’s rooms. Both wings are contained beneath a single curved roof structure of cables and timber which opens above the central courtyard.
More information on the significance of the Boyd House II can be found here: http://www.architecture.com.au/emailnews/national/Heritage/VIC-RobinBoyd2.pdf
From a landscape architecture point of view, the wonderful element of this house is the way that the garden is an integral component of the design. Too often a house is designed and built without consideration of the landscaping until the very end of the project (usually with a substantially reduced budget).
Boyd’s intention of the design was to divide the house in two by a garden square with a two-storey parents’ block at the front and a single-storey children’s block at the back. The central garden was to be protected from wind and rain by tall glass walls to either side which would still allow the sun in. Boyd wanted to ‘create a private indoor-outdoor environment despite the narrowness of the allotment and the congested surroundings of an inner suburb’. Karen McCartney’s 50/60/70 Iconic Australian Houses cleverly observes that the contemporary ideas of outdoor rooms and extending living spaces are by no means new, as Boyd had thoroughly embraced the concept in 1958 (2007, pp92-98).
Boyd saw the technical developments in materials and engineering as the way forward and spoke of making ‘great open spaces without visible means of support, to throw out parts in cantilever and to open up entire walls to the outdoors through sheets of glass’ (McCartney 2007, p91). In this way, the design embraces the outside elements as an integral part of the house.
To be continued in Part II with a review of the house, garden (& show) next week……
McCartney, Karen, 2007, 50/60/70 Iconic Australian Houses – Three Decades of Domestic Architecture, Millers Point [NSW], pp 86-101