My visit to Robin Boyd’s house in Walsh Street, South Yarra exceeded all of my expectations. The house is truly amazing and should definitely be maintained as an icon of Australian architecture.
Before diving into the elements of the house and landscape I have to make mention of the Robin Boyd Foundation and comedian Tim Ross.
The foundation was established to continue the work and spirit of Robin Boyd and the Walsh Street house is the focal point for foundation activities as the venue for functions, dinners and seminars. I encourage everyone to read more about the foundation at http://robinboyd.org.au/ and sign up for membership!
Tim Ross is self-confessed modernism architecture tragic and through his show ‘Man About the House’ he provided an entertaining insight into growing up in the suburbs, family interactions and also great interpretations of contemporary hip-hop (you had to be there). What was great about the show was that proceeds went towards the preservation of the Walsh Street house and afterwards Tim was happy to chat with anyone and everyone about the house, his shows and modernism in general. Hopefully this show can return to Walsh Street for more people to experience it. Keep an eye out at: http://timross.com.au/
It was a great opportunity for those that attended to experience the house in the same relaxed, social atmosphere for which it was intended. I also finally got to see in person the artwork of my favourite artist Shag. His representations of the Walsh Street house are fantastic!
Boyd House II – Landscaping
As I mentioned in my previous post, the design of the Walsh Street house provides a truly integrated approach to inside and outside areas.
From the street the property is concealed behind a brush fence which presents a softer frontage than the masonry front walls of adjacent properties. The dominant feature is a 150 year old pine tree which was clearly a consideration in Boyd’s design, as the highlight windows to the front of the house provide stunning views of its canopy.
By cutting the house into the sloping block Boyd turned the front yard, which is accessed from the downstairs kitchen, into a secluded space. This front courtyard also performs as a visual element to those entering from the main gate up the tapering steps, with views down to the formal paving, low stone retaining wall, planted beds and fish pond. Creeping fig grows up the front wall of the house and softens the facade.
The real landscape feature of the house is definitely the central courtyard. On entering the upstairs living room your eye is automatically drawn across the curving roof, through a wall of glass and down into the garden. Clever plantings of citrus to the southern side (for the most sun) provide a source of fruit, traditional garden species such as Camellias provide seasonal colour and the large leaves of a Monsteria provide an interesting contrast of foliage.
To either side of the courtyard brick paved paths connect the two sections of the house, while the central space uses large natural stone slabs amoungst planted pebble beds.
With the internalised design it is important to recognise the boundaries of the property, where the house is setback approximately 1.5 metres on either side. These spaces allow access but are essentially a backdrop to the glass walls of the main courtyard. The combination of tall narrow plant species, such as bamboo, and the glass walls of the courtyard provide seclusion from adjacent properties. At night, the bright lighting of these spaces creates a dramatic backdrop to courtyard without being intrusive on neighbouring properties.
Designed as a family home, the Boyd House II would have provided fantastic secluded spaces both inside and out, for all members of the family.
So what can be learnt from the Boyd House II?
- The landscape is an integral part of the overall design of house rather than an afterthought.
- Clean simple paving and materials compliment the building features.
- Thoughtful planting provides a backdrop to elements of the house and retains the privacy and seclusion of outdoor spaces.
- Both the front and central courtyards perform as both a space to enter and also as gardens to be viewed from above.
- The existing pine tree was seen as an important element of the site and was retained as part of the design rather than removed.