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.

Grand houses of this era were highly decorated with decorative mouldings. In this modern era it’s possible for middle class suburban residences to exude elegance and grandeur with the addition of lightweight, decorative mouldings. The Finishing Touch are the experts when it comes to quality decorative mouldings. So much easier to transport and attach, the new, modern decorative mouldings have opened up the possibilities for decorative finishes to new builds.

 

Art Deco Style Burnham Beeches

Art Deco Burnham Beeches

Located adjacent to Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne is the well known 22.5 hectare property, Burnham Beeches. This magnificent Art Deco mansion, known as the Norris building, was designed by Harry Norris and built in 1933 for the Nicholas family.

A rare, elaborate example of its type in Australia, it is comparable with works in Britain and the United States The vast three storey house is built in reinforced concrete and surrounded by significant gardens containing a mix of indigenous and exotic plantings designed by Hugh Linaker.

Art Deco Norris Bldg 3

The original concept, with substantial outbuildings, was a self-sustaining estate. Architect Harry Norris was a prominent Melbourne Architect at the time who designed many iconic buildings. The property is classified by the National Trust and is Heritage listed.

By 1965 a large proportion of the landscaped gardens became too difficult to maintain, so the lake along with 32 acres of garden was donated to the Shire of Sherbrooke (now the Yarra Ranges Shire Council) and named the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, open to the public. Three acres at the front of the property became a miniature village in the early 1970s and has since been transferred to Parks Victoria.

Celebrity chef Shannon Bennett and developer Adam Garrison now own the property and have applied to redevelop the estate, hoping to bring it back to its original purpose and to become a tourist attraction. The proposed removal of about 13 beech trees at the entrance met with local protests and have recently been saved, with approval being given for the development of the site but not the removal of the trees. Plans include the restoration of the Norris building to become a six-star hotel and the addition of a microbrewery, shop and new restaurant inside the existing Piggery Cafe.

Art deco Norris bldg

The decorative mouldings that create a handsome and sleek finish to the art deco style in the Norris building were originally made of concrete. These days the Finishing Touch can supply art deco decorative mouldings in a lightweight material that is easy to transport and install, making it a very viable option for a modern build, capturing the elegance of the art deco period.

Friday 13th Haunted Houses

Studley Park House Camden NSW

It’s Friday 13th. To get your spook on we are looking at some famous haunted houses. Studley Park House in Camden, was originally built by grazier William Payne in 1889. Although considered haunted, it is a beautiful building, featuring many admirable decorative mouldings. The death of two children has earned the house its haunted reputation. The residence became a boarding college and in 1909 a 14-year-old student, Ray Blackstone, drowned in a dam near the residence. His body is believed to have been kept at the cellar until it was buried. The building was sold soon after and reverted back to a residence. The son of acclaimed business man Arthur Adolphus Gregory died at the house in 1939 from appendicitis and his body was kept in the theatrette.

Spooky disturbances at the house include a hangman’s noose found dangling from a steeple roof by builders renovating in 2010, unexplained lights, sightings of a lady who stands at the window and a photograph of a ghostly young boy in the basement taken by ghost hunters.

Closer to home in Bundoora, on the outskirts of Melbourne, is the old Larundel Mental Asylum, famous in its day for incarcerating a great number of Melburnians suffering mental illness. Closed in 2001, it has been an abandoned building, off limits to the public but has built a reputation for being haunted. This attractive building was one of Melbourne’s three “magnificent asylums for the insane” built in the 1930s and 40s.

Larundal Mental Asylum

Now covered in graffiti the building, since its closure, has been a hangout for ghost hunters, graffiti artists and squatters. There have been reports of loud banging, children’s laughter, crying, and an eerie music box. Serial killer Peter Dupas was treated here, adding to the mystique of the building. Only a few original buildings of the vast complex remain and are soon to be reconstructed into apartments, completing the residential development already constructed on the grounds, which includes a shopping centre.

 

Grand Buildings of Melbourne

The Grand Dame of Australia, the city of Melbourne has an elegant, sophisticated aura , due in part to its classic buildings, which are a fascinating mix of architectural styles. Many of these buildings have significant historical value and it’s fortunate for the city that they withstood the wholesale destruction of so many iconic buildings during the modernisation period in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s when the State Government set about a major renewal of inner Melbourne

The Athenaeum Theatre was at times under threat as was the beautiful Capitol Theatre across the road in Collins Street. The Athenaeum Theatre is Melbourne’s oldest cultural institution and began life as Melbourne’s first Mechanics Institute, established in 1839, where the Melbourne City Council met until 1852.

Princess Theatre, Melbourne.

Princess Theatre, Melbourne.

The flamboyantly designed Princess Theatre situated in Spring Street was first opened in 1857 and again remodelled in 1886. In recent times it was under threat, but thankfully for Melburnians it was instead revamped, and is still a working theatre. These iconic buildings are wonderful examples of architecture and exhibit the brilliant use ofdecorative mouldings to further decorate and define a building.

When it comes to grandeur the two cathedrals in Melbourne are stunning. St Patrick’s, the Roman Catholic Cathedral was built in stages from 1858 right through until 1940 and is a fine example of Gothic Revival Architecture

St. Patricks Cathedral, Melbourne

St. Patricks Cathedral, Melbourne

whilst St Paul’s Cathedral, the Church of England Cathedral,

St. Pauls Cathedral, Melbourne.

St. Pauls Cathedral, Melbourne.

was constructed between 1880 and 1931 in a Neo-Gothic style. Studying the decorative features of these beautiful buildings is truly inspiring.

The Melbourne Town Hall, situated on the corner of Swanston and Collins Streets, was ready to be used by the City Council for meetings in 1852 and was completed in 1870. This classically designed building is constructed from a mix of bluestone and Tasmanian freestone; it features a clock tower and fine masonry.

As Melbourne grew it developed its character through the construction of grand buildings in the ornate Victorian era style. At 673 Bourke St Melbourne stands what is known as ‘Donkey Wheel House’, a superb example of High Victorian Venetian Gothic Architecture.

Donkey Wheel House, Melbourne.

Donkey Wheel House, Melbourne.

This building was purpose built in 1891 for the Melbourne Tramways and Omnibus Company.

The Old Treasury Building, located in Spring Street, was originally constructed between 1858 and 1862 to hold the gold bullion discovered in the 1850s Gold Rush and was designed by 19 year old Architect J.J.Clarke.

Old Treasury Building, Melbourne

Old Treasury Building, Melbourne

Regarded as one of the finest 19th century buildings in Australia this grand palazzo style building is now open to the public both as a museum and as the Victorian Marriage Registry, a fitting setting to solemnise a marriage.