Agents at Leisure:
Modern Icons of Victorian Architecture
Marshall White Director James Redfern, shines a light on some of Melbourne’s most influential architects, who have had a profound effect on the urban landscape of our beautiful city.
Architecture in Victoria is distinctive in many ways. It is essentially influenced by the natural environment, landscape, culture, climate and the people, and as a result Victoria is renowned for its great architecture and residential design.
‘Emotional functionalism’ has been the underlying theme of Peter McIntyre’s architectural design style. McIntyre’s primary concern was the impact of the built environment on its occupants and his practice, which was founded in 1950, combined this with modern, high technology materials.
McIntyre’s impressive body of work includes the Melbourne Olympic Swimming Pool, designed in collaboration with architects John and Phyllis Murphy, Kevin Borland and engineering consultant Bill Irwin. He was also the architect for the redevelopment of the pool to the Lexus Centre, after which it no longer served as a public stadium, rather was used by the Victorian Institute of Sport and the Collingwood Football Club as a sports administration and training facility.
One of his most significant designs is the ‘McIntyre River Residence’ located at 2 Hodgson Street in Kew. McIntyre purchased the nine acre block of land in 1947. The terrain featured a variety of landforms such as steep cliffs, trees, thick scrub and a river that formed the title boundary along the south side of the site and left it prone to flooding. McIntyre referred to the land as ‘a bit of paradise’, highlighting his deep respect for the environment. The A-frame house he designed on the block gives due consideration to the natural environment surrounding it and in essence is a combination of basic geometric shapes, with two triangular prisms forming the striking elevation of the design and rectangular plan of the house.
Internally, the steel framing and rafters were all exposed, a trait of the Melbourne Regional Style of the 1940s and 1950s. It is painted in extraordinarily bright colours, with abundant natural light filling the interior as a result of the numerous skylights that punctuate the inclined roof. There is a deck at each end, sitting at the height of the canopy trees that envelope the house.
McIntyre has a strong and loyal following, even to this day. Over the years I have sold many of the properties he designed, such as the home at 19 Valentine Grove in Armadale, which he designed in 1984. The style is modest, light and unpretentious, employing every element that make his works so distinct. Simple materials and colours are championed as well as open spaces and an affinity for the surrounding natural environment.
I had the pleasure of meeting Peter and interviewed him about his work. At 93 years old, Peter is as energetic as ever about his work and is supported by a loyal team. You can read about my interview here.
An Australian post war architect, Kevin Borland was an exceptional architect and passionate teacher. Active from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, many of his significant works incorporated the use of raw materials and remain influential examples of the Brutalist style.
His first completed work, ‘Rice House’ in Eltham was built in 1953 and is an iconic example of his innovate and experimental design. It was constructed using a method known as the ‘Ctesiphon system’, which formed a series of catenary arches. Only three buildings were constructed in Victoria using this method, and ‘Rice House’ was the first and remains the most intact example. The main house consists of four arches sitting atop brick and concrete walls. A suspended, draped concrete covered walkway originally linked the two buildings, but collapsed in the 1980’s.
Another spectacular example of Borland’s highly distinctive style, is the home at 151 Finch Street, Glen Iris, which is currently on the market. It remains virtually unchanged and has only had two owners since being built in the 1970’s. Constructed with brick, the exterior features bold angular shapes and detailed timber panelling. The interior is filled with abundant natural light and green outlooks from every angle, creating a seamless indoor outdoor living environment.
Borland also designed a number of influential projects in collaboration with other iconic architects of the era, including the Olympic Swimming Stadium with Peter McIntyre as I mentioned earlier and the Harold Holt Memorial Swim Centre in Malvern with Daryl Jackson. Borland’s work has been widely recognised and he has received numerous accolades for both residential and public commissions.
As the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, the influence Daryl Jackson has had on the course of Australian architectural development is immense.
His farmhouse in Shoreham on the Mornington Peninsula is of particular interest to me as we recently purchased a home for our own family in the area to spend holidays. It’s a wonderful spot to escape city life, where the natural landscape is just beautiful.
Jackson’s understanding of the landscape and the power it commands saw him transform ‘The Jackson House’ into a unique and significant example of 1970s timber architecture which is intrinsically linked to the land. Referencing the surrounding landscape and nearby heritage buildings, it is conceptually sophisticated yet built in a minimalist manner.
Set amongst a backdrop of ancient native trees such as a large dominant eucalyptus, a creek and ridge, the terraced landscape is mirrored both internally and externally in the design of the home. In a secluded position on the block, with breathtaking views of the rolling hills, timber is the defining material of the home, which also employs other rustic urban materials such as corrugated iron.
Mentored by other iconic architects such as Kevin Borland and Peter McIntyre, there are so many notable designs Jackson worked on, such as the Harold Holt Memorial Swim Centre in Malvern. Designed in collaboration with Borland, this project helped propel Jackson’s profile. The building reflects the modern and brutalist aesthetic of its time.
A leader of contemporary design and architecture in Australia, Graeme Gunn’s designs reference the surrounding environment. The importance of landscape, open space and the presence and feel of a place are important considerations in his designs. Some of his most prominent projects include the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union Building in Victoria Street, Melbourne, the Melbourne City Baths and Prahran Market, as well as his numerous cluster housing projects such as Winter Park in Doncaster and VicUrban at Heathmont. Gunn was also behind the successful Merchant Builders company that was very popular throughout the eastern suburbs during the 1980’s.
I’m very fond of Gunn’s work and had the pleasure of bringing a property within a townhouse cluster designed by him to the market a couple of years ago. The house, one of nine built on the grounds of the original Sorrett Mansion site in Malvern, is set in a landscaped gated community defined by century old trees, with common gardens landscaped by Ellis Stones surrounding the homes. Located at 6/17 Sorrett Avenue, the home had undergone a sympathetic update, but remains a classic example of Gunn’s design, both sustainable and integrated into the landscape.
About the Author
James Redfern, Marshall White Director
Renowned for his sense of integrity and sheer professionalism, James is one of the industry’s most innovative practitioners. As a director at Marshall White, he also heads-up our training program, passing on his accumulated knowledge to new generations of real estate practitioners.
View more about James here.