This week we take a look at a modern building I have a personal connection with – The Freeman Yuncken Building on King St West Melbourne and the grand old Scottish folly located out on the beginning of what was known as the Keilor Plains – Overnewton Castle. Home to another pastoralist, it’s easy to see that if you wanted to make money in the mid Nineteenth Century your best bet was to raise and sell sheep and harvest the golden fleece.
As a younger Architect I worked for Yuncken Freeman out of their King St Offices (Number 407). Last year I was appalled to see a proposal to construct a hotel on top of this renowned modernist style office building. Designed originally in 1955, it was inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. It was described in a report commissioned by the City of Melbourne as being historically and aesthetically significant to West Melbourne and Victoria. VCAT rejected the application and the building remains. It is an example of early small scale international modern office designs and was seen as a prototype for the design and development of BHP House and the South Yarra Library. Yuncken Freeman was dissolved in the 1980s. It designed the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and created the masterplan for Latrobe University campus at Bundoora. It was also responsible for the well known Canberra Theatre Centre in the nation’s capital.
Such buildings may not be your personal taste but are in fact architecturally very significant as they demonstrate the adoption of new construction techniques allowing vistas previously unachievable. Bold and somewhat striking, at the time these constructions mapped the evolution of modern design.
In complete juxtaposition, there is the property known as Overnewton Castle located in Keilor on the edge of Melbourne. A Scotsman named William Taylor purchased 13,000 acres of rich agricultural land suitable for grazing just to the west of the Keilor township.
Initially Mr Taylor built an uncomplicated single storey bluestone homestead of 6 rooms with shuttered windows and wide verandahs in true colonial style. The building overlooked the Keilor Valley, a rich floodplain of the Maribyrnong River which to this day supports extensive market gardens. It had excellent views as far west as Mt Macedon.
In 1859 upon returning from a visit to his native Scotland, Taylor set about creating his ultimate dream – a baronial Scottish castle in miniature. A formal two storey wing was added to the original homestead as well as a basalt (bluestone) dairy and butcher shop and a very grand and quite large Billiard room.
Built in a Victorian ‘Tudor’ style, it is inspired by 16th Century Architecture from Scotland and England. Rough hewn and featured masonry, steep pitched roofs and the overhanging battlement corner turrets are straight from the Scottish baronial influence.
Candle Snuffer roofing features demonstrate a French provincial influence.
Stone was quarried on the estate and finished in a yellow gravel stucco rendering. A Keystone featuring the Taylor crest sits above the master bedroom window, with smaller keystones carrying other motifs above other adjacent windows.
Once completed the property featured 35 rooms – 7 bedrooms, the master bedroom featuring dressing room and ensuite, a schoolroom, library, drawing room, 2 functional kitchens, servant’s quarters – and the Billiard room (which now serves as a chapel for weddings).
Original features such as Victorian Tiling, clawfoot bathtubs and large functional wood ovens and stoves still remain. Out buildings are intact and still remain (if not functional) – stables, the dairy, machine shed, a coachhouse and shearing sheds.
When William Taylor died in 1903, the estate passed quickly to his son William Henry as William Snr’s wife had died only 6 months later aged 71. William Henry died in 1939 aged 81 followed by his wife in 1948. The estate remained with the Taylors until 1959 when the Carr family purchased it and established a reception centre on the lower floors choosing to live upstairs.
It was again sold in 1975 and purchased by Dr LJ Norton. He purchased it to provide a family home. An elegant and substantial dining room was added.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens and mature trees, Overnewton still operates as a reception centre – a hidden treasure from a bygone period.