So where do you go if you want to buy an amazing architect designed modern house?
Modern House describe themselves as “the only estate agency in Australia specialising in the sale of architect-designed houses and apartments – Modernist, mid-century and contemporary homes of outstanding design” and their listings, while small, include some great examples of Australian architecture. Lately, one house in particular has the MCM community in a spin.
The Gissing House by Harry Seidler
Designed and built between 1969-72, the Gissing House is a fantastic example of Harry Seidler’s work. The home was occupied by the original clients until 2008 and then retained in its original state by its subsequent owner.
A thorough history of the home and its Architect can be found on the Modern House listing here: http://www.modernhouse.co/property/1134264-gissing-house and is well worth the read.
From a landscape architectural point of view, the home and garden read as a thoughtful and functional response to a sloping block of land. As seen so often in mid-century modern architecture, the external spaces are considered as part of the overall design, with the main living area opening out onto a terrace and swimming pool.
The timber paneling to the ceiling and the concrete block walls extend beyond the line of windows and are then complemented by the terrace pavement of natural stone.
It was not surprising to discover that the garden had been designed by Bruce Mackenzie, a popular Australian landscape architect. The planting is simple and provides clean minimal lines throughout the garden to provide a suitable backdrop to the form of the home.
The plantings are functional and minimal. A single row of evergreen screening trees provides privacy and softening to the boundaries around the pool. Beneath these rows are mass planting of hardy strappy leafed groundcovers.
The pavement extends from adjacent to the living room and around the pool. The natural stone continues as the pool coping, creating a seamless pavement between the home and pool. Surrounding the crisp lines of the pavement is the lawn, which also forms a clean line against the external walls of the home. While I would normally place a barrier between the two (either pavement or planting) it really does work here and maintains the minimalism of the design. It must be a job to trim those edges though!
A feature deciduous tree offsets the solid elements of the building facade, provides seasonal colour and shade and is underplanted with a bed of ivy.
To the rear of the house a separate garden extends from the family room, and is also viewed from the master bedroom balcony. The same natural stone paving is used for a smaller terrace and a clean garden space contains a layer of pebbles with a backdrop of evergreen shrubs and trees.
Again the planting is clean and simple, with mass planting at the ground layer and larger screening trees providing privacy. A deciduous feature tree provides shade and seasonal colour. Although opening from the family room, this yard appears to be more formal and aesthetic, rather than providing the space for outdoor recreation that the main yard does.
The garden of the Gissing House provides a great example of a Australian modernist home that incorporates a more minimal character than the bush garden style. The plantings are used more to provide a dramatic backdrop and contrast to the home, rather than trying to provide a natural setting.
The sketch by Harry Seidler clearly demonstrates the architect’s vision of how living room and pool terrace should be read as one space and even an understanding of how the planted landscape would provide this backdrop.
So what can be learnt from this home?
- The house is designed with consideration of the natural slope of the land and uses this to enhance the architecture.
- One paving material is used, a natural stone paver that complements the concrete block walls of the house.
- The main living room flows out onto the terrace which is read as a continuation of the internal space.
- Fewer plant types, planted densely creates a dramatic green backdrop to the house and garden.
- Feature trees provide interest with seasonal colour.
- The clean lines of the terrace paving and even the lawn reflect the feel of the building.
The Next Step
If you have a home and garden that you think could be improved through a thoughtful approach to modernist design then please contact me and we can begin the process!