With a love of things mid-century modern, there also comes the need to be constantly researching and trying to find more examples and photos from that time. I seem to find myself wanting to know more about the original gardens and how these spaces have changed over the years.
So it was with great joy that I discovered ‘Trove‘ which is a National Library of Australia on-line resource. The wonders of this website could keep me occupied for hours! There to be discovered are old newspapers, journals, magazines and, best of all, photos.
A quick search found some great photos of homes in Beaumaris (in bayside Melbourne) and even provided information on the original architects of these homes. All of a sudden I find myself comparing them to images of these homes today.
While this first picture was possibly taken just after the home was built and doesn’t give us any indication of the garden that grew around it, it is good to see the house hasn’t changed.
The photo below is of a courtyard at the home I wrote about recently in this post Beaumaris Modernist Home. In assessing the landscaping of the home I spoke about the consideration of existing trees on the site. This image shows how the courtyards featured even more trees than they do now.
As I have already written a number of times, the suburb of Beaumaris blessed with many existing examples of mid-century modern architecture. Many of these homes have been faithfully maintained or restored and have wonderful gardens that complement their built form. The image below of this prominent home on Beach Road shows a coastal, bush garden featuring existing Eucalyptus and probably Tea-tree.
Over time, these trees have been removed, however recent restoration of the house has included the creation of a very native and coastal garden. The image below shows the planting at an early stage and the native trees and shrubs have since matured. Whether the owners were aware of the original garden setting or not, the new landscape works well with the local environment, complements the mid-century modern architecture and is true to the original garden
We already know that a key element of mid-century modern architecture was the consideration of the outdoor spaces as part of the entire design, but do the gardens of today retain their original features and planting? Do they need to, to be faithful to the design of the home?
A garden is an evolving and living element. Trees grow old and do eventually reach the end of their life. A hotter Summer or wetter Winter causes ‘moisture stress’ that some plants cannot deal with and they die. These plants are then replaced with something different to suit the tastes of the home owner. Sparse areas of tea-tree in the 1950s are now densely covered as trees have grown to create the bushland characteristic that makes the area so popular.
And that is not even mentioning the changing of lifestyles and homeowners, which leads to different requirements for a garden. Today’s breakfast courtyard was yesterday’s kitchen garden and the new addition of a pet dog or kids’ trampoline requires the removal of a sprawling bush garden. Gardens that were once open to the street are fenced off for privacy or security and the increase in car ownership has required more emphasis on driveway layouts and lock up garages.
The key with any landscape is that it needs to work for the people who are using the space. The function of the garden governs, to an extent, the layout and is then enhanced by the materials and plantings to be used.
The benefit as I see it from having access to images of the original house and setting, is getting a better understanding of the architect’s intent for the home. Mid-century modern designers embraced the landscape and it is great to see how the original gardens were formed.
This can then be used as inspiration to recreate a garden that truly complements the home while still providing the necessary function for the home owner.
I am still on the look out for a photo of my own house from the 1960s to see if the garden my wife and I have created is in keeping with the architect’s original intent!