Labassa Mansion A Prime Example of Architectural Decorative Features

Labassa Caulfield

The mansion known as Labassa in Caulfield was formerly a modest country house built for Melbourne judge Richard Billing in 1862 and originally named Sylliot Hill. Alexander William Robertson of Cobb and Co Coaches fame, renamed it ‘Ontario’ when he purchased it in the 1880s. Robertson had big plans, commissioning the German born Architect John A B Koch to remodel the house into a 35 room mansion. The home, situated on a 6 hectare site featured gilt embossed wallpapers, ornate and finely detailed stained glass feature windows and a unique ‘trompe l’oeil’ ceiling (a painted three dimensional mural) when remodelled. Robertson also added massive caste iron gates, redolent of an English palace.

The next owner was John Boyd Watson II, the heir to a Bendigo Mining fortune, who purchased the mansion when Robertson died.  Watson was a man of leisure who did not need to work. When he died in 1920 his wife sold the property. Unfortunately, the beautiful home steadily deteriorated over time and by the 1970s it had become a virtual commune with hippy tenants paying homage to Bohemia.

The National Trust purchased the property in 1980 and faithfully restored it to its former glory. Its magnificent verandahs, corinthian arches, ornate plasters, grand staircases, trompe l’oeil ceiling and ornate decorative mouldings on the exterior and interior once again reflecting Architect John Koch’s vision, in its ‘French Second Empire’ style.

Labassa is of genuine architectural significance as the most prominent example of a small number of houses built in Australia in what is known as the French Renaissance style. It is the most important surviving work of German Architect John A B Koch.

Homes of historical architectural significance are prime examples of the beauty of architectural decorative mouldings and much of their magnificence is due to these decorative features. The Finishing Touch are suppliers of modern era decorative mouldings, which are lightweight, high quality and easy to install.

Master Builders Appointment Sends a Welcome Message to Females in the Industry

International Women’s Day was a good day to announce that Master Builders Australia had appointed a women as its new CEO.  Denita Wawn has made history being the first woman to hold this role in the Association’s 127 year history and it is a strategic appointment, with a view to attracting more female workers to the $200 million building and construction industry.

Currently only 10 per cent of the workforce is female and Ms Wawn will work with schools, universities and employers to encourage wore women to join the 32,000, mostly male, workers in the industry. Ms. Wawn said that employers should be more proactive attracting women to the industry such as specifying in job ads that female applicants are welcome. She is hopeful that her appointment will help people to see that there’s a cultural shift in the industry and women are welcome. “I would love to think in 10 years if we can get it up to at least 25 per cent that would be fantastic,” she said.

Having held senior roles with the Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand and the Australian Hotels Association and National Farmers’ Federation, she has plenty of experience in male-dominated industries and her message to young women is to be yourself and not try to be “one of the boys”.

The Finishing Touch welcomes this appointment and hopes to see more females attracted to the building and construction industry. As suppliers of decorative architectural mouldings to builders, the company has a long association in the industry and sees cultural shifts like this as beneficial.

Increasing Housing Supply

The Property Council of Australia welcomed a report released in December 2016 on housing affordability, saying governments need to focus on solutions that will make a difference to housing affordability for all Australians. The report was released by CoreLogic and Australian National University showing an increasing gap between household income and the amount needed for a 20 per cent deposit to purchase a home.

“This new report shows the problem for all to see – now we need solutions that will make a difference, not political distractions,” said Ken Morrison, Chief Executive of the Property Council. “Real solutions are required to ease housing prices for home buyers – and that is largely through increasing the supply of housing.” Melbourne house prices are 30% cheaper than Sydney prices and Melbourne has had 112,000 more building approvals over the last decade, illustrating that more supply results in lower prices. However, although Sydney has the highest shortage, Melbourne still needs more housing to meet demand.

The other factors that affect housing supply are unnecessary delays and costs, which drive up the costs of new dwellings.  Ken Morrison said that all levels of government, Commonwealth, State and Territories, need to take responsibility and strike a deal to incentivise reform to fix the housing supply problem.

It would certainly be good news to builders and suppliers to the building industry to see governments working together to help increase housing supply. The Ai Group and Housing Industry Association Performance of Construction Index (PCI) rise in February 2017 to 53.1 showed a pleasing increase in construction activity for housing, but the current forecast by HIA predicts a drop, levelling out to 172,000 dwelling construction starts in 2018. However, HIA also reported that demand associated with population growth remained reasonably robust, particularly in Melbourne, and that new house construction would remain at historically healthy levels despite dropping back from the record levels of today. Apartment and town house constructions would be the most contracted, falling from 111,810 to 69,940 starts. Detach house construction would be less affected, with starts dropping from 116,420 to 104,440.

The Finishing Touch supply builders, architects and owner-builders with high quality, lightweight exterior mouldings that create a decorative finish to dwellings.  Their lightweight decorative mouldings come in a range of styles, including French provincial, post-modern, Mediterranean and Georgian.

2017 Colour Trends Married To Architectural Styles

post modern design

Looking at the Dulux colour trends for 2017 as forecast by Bree Leech, their Trend Forecaster, Creative Director, Producer and Stylist we can’t help but marry the different colour palettes with house styles. Entwine, based on the idea of weaving and woven colours and Construct based on architectural periods like brutalism with a focus on materials and form and  Sentience the offset to our online lives.

Entwine – an eclectic range of rich, warm colours in earthy red and botanical green with unexpected accents.  The palette is influenced by global cultures and landscapes from around the world, creating a link between modernity and traditions.  The architectural style that comes to mind is Tuscany or Mediterranean which would be a perfect fit to the colourful woven mats from far off lands and mix of rich, warm colours in the interior.  Decorative mouldings for this style from the Finishing Touch include corbels that protrude from the beams and are available in a wonderful array of shapes and styles.

Construct – Luxury is derived not from frivolity but raw materials, structure and form.  This pared back beauty is obtained from rawness in architectural angles, concrete, steel and galvanised finishes. Interiors follow an atmospheric palette of dark blues and greys with accents in platinum, copper and rust.  The architectural style is post-modern, with stark, simple lines. Decorative mouldings accentuate the lines with eave mouldings and flatbands, which can be made to any dimension.

Sentience – using textures in interiors to offset the effect of so much screen time in our lives, the lack of feeling crispy paper when reading  because now we read ibooks, izines and news online. The continual swishing and swiping on our devices means our eyes are tired and our finger tips are feeling the same flat surface, so when we look up and around us we should be surrounded by interesting textures like woollen knitted rugs, linen bedding, painted exposed brick and when we touch we should be feeling handmade ceramics, unrefined soaps and plants. A colour palette in subtle pastels in washed, earthy tones, soft naturals like earthy pinks, new beige and lichen greens. This would go beautifully in a French provincial style home,styled with the great range of Finishing Touch decorative mouldings specially designed for the French provincial style.

Architects Gender Pay Gap Exposed in 2016 Surveys

Sugargum Dve Hillside

The Finishing Touch is a supplier of architectural decorative mouldings to the building industry and found the results of 2016 surveys conducted in both the United Kingdom and Australia showing that male Architects are paid more than female Architects across the board in the UK and for  most levels in Australia disappointing. Not only that but the pay disparity is actually widening in the UK, according to the results of the 2016 Women in Architecture survey conducted by the Architects’ Journal and The Architectural Review.
The UK survey shows salary discrepancies of up to £55,000 at top levels between women and their male counterparts, as well as widespread discrimination in the workplace and on site. Women working in architecture are also waiting longer to start their family than the UK average the survey shows and that female architects found that having children has a detrimental impact on their career.
It doesn’t matter what level of seniority the women have climbed to, 36% still reported experiencing sexual discrimination whether they were directors, partners, principals, associate directors or project architects, and not far behind, 24 %of architectural assistants reported the same. This discrimination took place in the office, on site and in meetings with clients and contractors.
This bias is represented starkly in salary figures at all levels, with the gap broadening between men and women as seniority increases.The survey showed that women are paid £55,000 less than men at director, partner and principal level. This figure has risen by £42,000 in the last two years.
In Australia the Association of Consulting Architects conducted a national salary survey in 2016 and also found gender pay gaps for architects in all but two of the nine levels surveyed.

gender-pay-difference-aca-aust
Due to this survey sample changing from year to year, it was not possible to analyse whether the gender pay gap is increasing or decreasing.  However, the association reported that the ongoing suggestions of gender-based gaps in this data are of serious concern. The ACA advises architects that there is a clear business case for pay equity, as well as the obvious ethical issue.
As a supplier of architectural decorative mouldings to the building industry the Finishing Touch often work in sync with Architects producing decorative mouldings to create the finishing touches to the architectural style of their buildings, both from the product catalogue but also manufacturing customised lightweight mouldings to specifications.

Cases That Affect Contractual Agreements in the Building Industry

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As a supplier of decorative mouldings to the building trade the Finishing Touch works with a range of builders and sometimes directly supplies to owner/builders and was alerted recently to some court cases during 2016 that could affect contracts within the building trade. Contractual agreements between parties in the building industry can become the subject of disputes and when they do the clauses in the contracts become critical.

The first case can be applied generally as it relates to the amount of damages a party (for example, the builder) will pay when a contract breach occurs agreed upon at the time the contract is first entered into You may be familiar with the term ‘liquidated damages’. The case between Paciocco v ANZ [2016] went to the High Court in Victoria. The case looked at the possibility of a particular liquidated damages clause being struck out or struck down. This can occur if the court says the amount of liquidated damages specified is considered ‘extravagant’ or ‘unconscionable.’ In this case the court was dealing with the issue of late payment fees the bank was charging but the principles stated apply in other contexts, and they apply in particular to the construction industry.

In this case the court set a ‘new bar’ as to when a liquidated damages clauses may be struck out which has resulted in that bar now being set far higher than it used to be. This will make it much harder in future to have such a clause struck out as the precedent has been set.

Another case heard in 2016 in Victoria was about security of payment legislation. The case between SSC Plenty Road Pty Ltd v Construction Engineering (Aust) Pty Ltd involved the issue of a construction contract which provided for a method of resolving disputes between the parties if meeting and talking didn’t lead to resolution. The method stated in the contract was mediation. The case was to determine if the contract contained a ‘method of resolving disputes under the contract.’

Mediation was found not to be a ‘method of resolving disputes’ as it was not a method of resolving a dispute which is final, due to the fact that mediation of a dispute may or may not resolve a dispute and therefore the dispute may drag on. The overarching purpose of the legislation which is to settle disputed claims for payment quickly and with tight time frames was not met by mediation the court found as it was not a method of resolution of disputes, but a ‘mere’ forum for the issues within a dispute to be aired.

As, in the case of The Finishing Touch whose supply of lightweight, architectural decorative mouldings to builders has become ever more popular, business increases and more agreements are entered into it is important to be across changes that may affect the outcome of any disputes.

The Modern Arch Has Classical Design Elements Yet Is Lightweight and Decorative

crypt-archway-path

Arches have long been used in building design and in modern times they add a classical, elegant finish to a house build.  Originally built in materials such as stone, marble then cement, the easiest and most effective method to build an arch these days is to use a lightweight house moulding with a steel support.

Dating back to 3000BC was the original arch, the corbel arch consisting of two opposing sets of overlapping corbels, resembling inverted staircases, which meet at a peak and create a structure strong enough to support weight from above. Babylonian architecture made wide use of corbel arches. Then the Romans created a semicircular arch that could support great amounts of weight.  A wooden arch shaped frame was first constructed with stone work being built up around the frame and finally a keystone was set in position. This allowed the wooden frame to be removed and the arch was left in position. Stone arch technology was used on large buildings such as the Colosseum in Rome.

The next major design innovation in arches was in Gothic architecture with the experimental use of pointed arches. The pointed shape introduced a new aesthetic dimension and reduced the arch thrusts by as much as fifty percent which meant that the weight of the roof was now being supported by the arches rather than the walls and therefore the walls could be thinner.

The basket arch is a three-centred arch and sometimes called  ‘basket-handle arch’ or ‘anse de panier’. The Basket arch is a flattened arch whose ellipse like shape is determined by three arcs that are interconnected; with each radius being drawn from a different centre. Also known as Semi elliptical or Elliptical, this style of arch is mainly used in modern day building due to its simple design.

The Finishing Touch are the masters of lightweight decorative mouldings and can create the style and shape of arch desired in any building design.  For a custom made decorative arch moulding made from lightweight materials contact the Finishing Touch.