Boyd House II – Part II

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.

Boyd House II – Front Door (

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 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:

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!

Dickiebird – By Josh Agle (aka Shag)

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.

Boyd House II – Site frontage (

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.

Boyd House II – Front Courtyard (

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.

Boyd House II – Central Courtyard (Robin Boyd Flickr)

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?

  1. The landscape is an integral part of the overall design of house rather than an afterthought.
  2. Clean simple paving and materials compliment the building features.
  3. Thoughtful planting provides a backdrop to elements of the house and retains the privacy and seclusion of outdoor spaces.
  4. Both the front and central courtyards perform as both a space to enter and also as gardens to be viewed from above.
  5. The existing pine tree was seen as an important element of the site and was retained as part of the design rather than removed.

Image Sources:

Robin Boyd Flickr



3 thoughts on “Boyd House II – Part II

  1. Jason, Thanks for a thoughtful analysis of the relationship between the wonderful Boyd House and its landscaping. I attended the same show the previous night and was very pleased to see how well the spaces and the courtyard worked as a venue, for the fund raiser. I thought that the landscape treatment for the front and side setbacks were clever and admirable in what they achieved. However I thought that the landscaping in the courtyard looked tired, old, well past its prime and actually detracted from the courtyard, and its use as a venue.

    Based on the success of this show as a fund-raiser do you think that the Robin Boyd Foundation should consider completing new planting for the courtyard to soften it, and make the courtyard more flexible for fund-raising events, or is the heritage of the old planting too important to replace?

    Alistair at Secret Design Studio


    1. Thanks Alistair!

      I think the paving to the courtyard is still a valuable part of the design and works for hosting such events. The planting didn’t work as well in that format, however I think the character of the older plants would be hard to recreate and do represent the original concept of the space as a family garden.

      From that point of view, I wouldn’t want to see it changed, but I guess it would also be a good discussion to be had with the foundation to find the right solution!


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