The late Robin Boyd, champion of the international modernist movement in Australia, once described his philosophy of what it is for an architect to be his own client.
“In his own home all his philosophy of building must surely blossom. Here he is both playwright and actor, composer and executant. What manner of architect he is will be laid bare for all the world to see.”
In his new book, Architects’ Houses, Stephen Crafti unveils the results of what happens when an architect designs a home specifically for them. From inner-city warehouses to country cottages and penthouses by the bay, the book uncovers 20 homes of some of Australia’s most interesting and innovative architects and designers.
Courtesy of Murdoch Books
“A house says so much about a person,” says Crafti, who has been writing on the subject for over 20 years. “It’s not just about the architecture and the design, but it’s also about what’s inside. They are personal vessels, which tell us so much about how an architect thinks.”
The book features the works of many architectural heavyweights including Kerstin Thompson, Randall Marsh (Wood Marsh), McBride Charles Ryan and John Denton (Denton Corker Marshall). Although each house has their own aesthetic and function, they do share many underlining themes – they are experimental, carefully considered and entirely respectful of their site.
Many of the projects are still a work in progress. Drew Heath’s house in Sydney is continuously evolving. From the street, the house appears as a humble Victorian worker’s cottage, but turn the corner and the design is a radical departure. Although beautifully detailed, like many experimental homes not everything has been completed. The built-in timber cupboards in the bedrooms aren’t finished, and like a true inventor, Heath is always adding pieces of handmade furniture. Although it might not be everyone’s idea of a traditional family home, Heath eloquently describes it as a “a laboratory to explore ideas, and also a great place to live.”
In stark contrast, Sue Carr’s house in a leafy suburb in Melbourne is faultless. Originally designed by architect Harry Ernest in the 1960s, the house has been completely transformed into a contemporary residence. Respectful of its original architecture, the bones of the house are retained, but everything has been gutted inside. A central courtyard remains but most of the internal walls are removed, creating a sense of lightness and transparency. The house is minimally adorned so that the garden and changing light becomes the centerpiece.
Courtesy of Carr Design Group
“Many homes today are too formulaic,” says Crafti. “Driven by real estate, they all have the same predictable ideas and style. This book shows what an architect is able to create when they design something entirely for themselves. The homes are brave and they push boundaries.”
One of Crafti’s favourite homes in the book is Professor Phillip Goad’s house, which was originally designed by architect Eric Nicholls in 1931. Although Goad has slightly modified the property over the years, the house still retains its original pint-sized kitchen and one and only bathroom. Water stained walls and ceilings and worn surfaces give the house an aged beauty. The rich patina of the original architecture is contrasted to a contemporary freestanding glass pavilion in the back garden, which houses another bedroom and Goad’s office.
“Phillip Goad’s house has these dark, broody spaces that are really quite memorable,” says Crafti. “I love how it’s so honest. Everything has aged. It’s not pretentious, materials are exposed and surfaces are worn down.”
Courtesy of Murdoch Books
Each house in the book is elegantly shot by photographer Gorta Yuuki. Stephen says it was important to photograph the house as the architect had intended to leave it.
“We wanted the houses to be read as how people live in them,” says Crafti. “We didn’t want it to be stylised or look like a magazine shoot. We didn’t want people to be overly tidy or clean, we just wanted to keep the house as natural as possible.”
Whether you’re looking for a place to call home, choosing an architect or toying with the idea of a renovation, this book will challenge you to think differently about the process. Inspiring and innovative, it forces us to consider just what really is needed to make a house that ultimately you want to live in.
Architects’ Houses by Stephen Crafti
Murdoch Books; $79.99
Available at My Bookshop – 430 Toorak Road, Toorak; 513 Malvern Road, South Yarra
Words by Francesca Carter