Boyd Baker House Australia’s Most Important Post War Building

Boydbaker house 1

Dr Michael Baker, a mathematician, demanded very particular mathematical and geometric rules. He had discovered the area of Long Forest near Bacchus Marsh, which was dense, untouched bush at the time. He commissioned Robin Boyd to build his home there in 1966. Both men were visionaries and the resulting property Boyd Baker House has been called ‘One of Australia’s most important Post War buildings’ by Melbourne University’s Professor of Architecture, Mr Phillip Goad. Robin Boyd is one of the foremost proponents of the ‘International Modern Movement’ in Australian Architecture. Dr Baker said “For Robin Boyd it was not just another project. He treated it as a masterpiece”.

Robin’s book ‘The Australian Ugliness’, published in 1960, is a critique of Australian Architecture in suburbia and the lack of a uniform architectural goal. He is the younger son of painter Penleigh Boyd and first cousin of the renowned Australian painter, Arthur Boyd. Dr. Baker was before his time, demanding a plan of the house prior to approving the build.

Boydbaker house plans

Michael Baker decided against a large English garden, saying “The flora and fauna of the bush are tied up together, they cannot be separated and each relies upon the other.  The koalas, possums, bull ants species, many small birds and the wallabies all rely on the delicate, struggling foliage of the mally trees and their under story for survival.  The relationship is age old, delicate and all too important to upset.” Thus trees that obstructed the views were never cleared with the house being the only manmade thing to disturb the calm of the bush.

Boydbaker house with trees

The roof became a low pyramid, 27.5 metres square over symmetrically curved stone walls linked by straight window walls.  The water tanks became stone cylinders supporting the edge of the roof.  Service rooms and children’s sleeping cubicles formed an inner ring around the court. The stone was quarried locally in Bacchus Marsh, floors were polished concrete and the roof was thatched.

Boydbaker house ext

In 1967 Rosemary and Michael Baker’s family had expanded to five children, all being home schooled, so they decided that they needed another house. Robin Boyd was once again commissioned as architect for the new dwelling, called the Boyd Dower House. By then the local quarry in Bacchus Marsh had closed down and Dr Baker started quarrying sandstone on site. He tells a story that he and his family and friends would busily quarry the stone by hand and cart it up the huge hill towards the Dower House ready for the builders to turn up on Monday.

Boydbaker house lounge

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Banyule is an architecturally significant building as one of Victoria’s earliest grand residences and also for its sophistication and style. Colonial Architect John Gill designed the home and it is the only remaining known rendition of the Elizabethan style designed by him.

The home was built in 1846 for a Mr John Hawdon, an Englishman who drove cattle overland from New South Wales to the Port Phillip District in 1836. He selected property in Heidelberg, a rural retreat for the landed gentry and very popular during the 1940s, that had splendid views of the Yarra River. Architect John Gill designed the property to be constructed in an Elizabethan style with french gables, crenellated oriel, pepper pot pinnacles and chimney groups and it had a part-shingled roof. The original roof was replaced with slate entirely by 1867.

Further additions were added to the property in a sympathetic style in 1908, designed by Architects Klingender & Alsop. A two storey wing was added to the south east and the kitchen block was linked to the house on the north side. Later on, in 1922, repair work was carried out. The house was altered by Yuncken Freeman Architects in 1975 for use by the National Gallery of Victoria.They removed internal walls and doors, added a chimney and filled in fireplaces.

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