Modernism – Time to Protect Midcentury Modernism with Heritage Listing.

Many people seem to have a skewed view of what Heritage actually means. For a start it doesn’t just refer to architecture. But here that is our primary concern and interest. We live in an evolving city and society. Buildings perceived to be of Heritage significance are often grand mansions with the Italianate or greco embellishments of the mid to late 19th Century.

Where it became really interesting was in the mid 20th Century when Architects like Robyn Boyd and Harry Siedler started to visualise a different type of build for the Australian climate, its landscape and population density. Modernism was to define the future direction of residential architecture from the 1950s and ‘60s onwards.

What is Modernism?

Modernism is a more socially informed way of building spaces and items for living according to need and function. It could be best deemed as a cluster of design ideals, beginning at the start of the Twentieth Century, which stemmed from an aversion to the ornate excesses of the recent Victorian style, and a reaction to industrialisation.

It is generally recognised that Modernist design formally established in Europe in 1919, with the opening of the Bauhaus School of Design in Germany. The school incorporated the combination of arts and craft disciplines and innovators such as Walter Gropius, Mies Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Frank Lloyd Wright, an American of this time, who derived much of his inspiration from the open living spaces of Japanese homes, also held huge influence on the following century of architects.


The philosophies and practice of these people and many others, evolved, traveled and in post WW2 became the defining philosophy for many architects and designers, thus this era is loosely dubbed Mid-Century.

Many extraordinary examples of public and domestic Mid-Century Architecture can be seen worldwide, Australia is no exception. Touched by freshness of the Modernist ethos, combined with the post-war boom time economy, suburbs, cities and costal regions became the location of many ‘Modern’ structures and interior design.

Examples of Australian domestic Modernism vary from the heritage listed houses of Harry Seidler and Robin Boyd, to classic 1960s pastel pre-fab tract housing – still sighted in the tea tree scrub of coastal towns to this day.


Modernist public buildings range from university faculties to suburban pools to the premier architectural icon of Australia – The Sydney Opera House.


Attributes that denote Modernist Mid-Century homes and design may be:

  • Use of the natural elements to regulate temperature, air-flow and efficiency of the home’s energy use eg: Solar Passive Design.
  • Flat or single angled rooflines.
  • Floor to ceiling windows.
  • Clean lines and open plan spaces.
  • Specific attention paid to the site pre-construction and the building’s placement within the block eg: The front of the house does not have to face the street.
  • Split-levels and sunken living areas.
  • Uninterrupted Indoor/outdoor areas.
  • Lack of decorative and ornate styling such as ceiling roses, iron lacework etc.
  • The use of new materials and technology from the era eg: laminate, stainless steel, large scale glass panes, plastics, concrete and also natural and textural surfaces of interest such as wood paneling, slate, shag carpets, woven curtains.

In Modernist furniture simple shapes, functionality, mass production, geometric forms, new textile design and the use of ‘modern’ materials such as stainless steel, are at the forefront.


As definitions and design theory within the 20th Century are endlessly debated, we’ll be inclusive and encompassing of all variations which may be titled Mid-century. From the pastel kitsch of 1950s domesticity, to the stark concrete monsters of Brutalist Architecture, the aim is to appreciate and discuss all.


The desire to preserve this unique awakening of Australian architecture has been somewhat of a ‘slowburn’.

The activism became much more urgent in August last year when a number of iconic residences in Beaumaris, Caulfield, Studley Park and the Mornington Peninsula came under real threat of demolition and in two notable cases the properties were demolished.

The matter was canvassed widely in the Fairfax press at the time.

Online advocates fight to save Melbourne’s modernist masterpieces

Architecture enthusiasts are banding together against the wrecker’s ball.

When the Burgess house’s eagle-nest eyrie lit up at night, neighbours dubbed the building “Muckle Flugga”, after the Scottish lighthouse. With its flat roof, cantilevered balconies, extensive interior wood panelling and large fireplace, this 1957 Chancellor and Patrick designed home in bayside Beaumaris is a beacon of mid-century modernity.

Along with Studley Park and the Mornington Peninsula, Beaumaris is one of the “‘epicentres of mid-century modernity”, says Simon Reeves, architectural historian and director of Built Heritage. In the excitement of the post-war housing boom, young couples wanting to start families took to the new subdivisions of Studley Park and Beaumaris. The consequence of this development was a rich trove of mid-century modernist buildings.


“While there are some excellent pockets of mid-century housing in Toorak and South Yarra, Studley Park and Beaumaris have that historic cohesion,” Reeves says. “Like Palm Springs in California, it has a similar time frame and cohesion.”

Ironically, their modest simplicity has been one of the factors undermining the preservation of modernist buildings, says Rohan Storey, a heritage consultant who worked for National Trust for 20 years. “While the community accepts Victorian [era architecture as historically significant], the whole community doesn’t yet accept modernism as heritage. Some people still think they’re ugly, plain or ordinary. It’s a function of the types of houses they are and not enough time [having] elapsed.”


Over the past 15 years in Beaumaris, homes by well-known modernist architects such as Robin Boyd, Neil Clerehan and Roy Grounds have succumbed to demolition. But a sea change is occurring. Time is one factor. Mid-century modernism is sufficiently old enough, people are more interested and the internet and social media have raised awareness and celebrated these buildings for their clean lines, elegant detailing and simple indoor-outdoor living.

A new generation of mid-century fans – many of them designers – are coveting the area, according to interior designer Fiona Austin, founder of the website Beaumaris Modern. Other websites, such as Modernist Australia, post real-estate listings as mid-century homes come on the market. Increasingly, such sites and social media groups have become politically activist as well. Nothing galvanises a group more than seeing cherished houses succumb to the wrecking ball.

In Sydney, the Sirius building was saved largely through a campaign by the Save our Sirius website. In July, Modernist Australia raised awareness that emigre architect Anatol Kagan’s Lind house in Caulfield North was to be replaced by eight townhouses. The City of Glen Eira obtained an interim reprieve, and Planning Minister Richard Wynne this week granted an interim protection order.

“There’s no doubt that the advocacy by groups such as Modernist Australia influenced [Glen Eira] Council to show leadership on this issue,” says Felicity Watson, advocacy manager for National Trust of Australia (Victoria). “The rise of online interest groups is a great thing for heritage advocacy.”


Building on this grassroots advocacy, the trust aims to lobby local and state government to invest in heritage assessments and planning scheme amendments specifically targeting significant post-war places.

“We are currently working with a group of experts to develop a Suburban Modern campaign, to be launched in the coming months,” Watson says.

While councils are obliged to regularly do heritage reviews, post-war buildings rarely cross the radar. “The City of Glen Eira has not listed a single place built after 1940,” Storey says. “Unfortunately Beaumaris, in particular, is under siege by developers and from people who want to build McMansions.”

Prospective buyers have to compete with developers’ deep pockets eager to maximise typically large sites. But for how long? “Heritage saves the property forever and doesn’t rely on a good owner to save it until they sell it and it might be under threat again,” Storey says.

It’s in this spirit of raising awareness that Beaumaris Modern was launched.

“If Peter McIntyre’s house in Pasadena Avenue with its curved roof got knocked down there’s not another, it’s experimental,” Austin says. “Once it’s gone it’s gone. That’s the crux as to why they should be saved.”

Historic awareness travels upstream also. Having “ground-up” online resources can uncover new information contributing to the incremental knowledge of architectural and social history.

“There are no obscure architects,” says Reeves, whose website posts a “dictionary of unsung architects”. “These are just individuals whose work hasn’t been researched or written about. No one had heard of Kagan 10 years ago. It’s not that everything they ever designed is notable or worth heritage listing. It’s about putting them in context.”


Alas, the home in Beaumaris, designed by Architects Chancellor and Patrick in 1962, located at Mariemont Avenue, has been demolished.

‘Significant’ Chancellor and Patrick Bayside house demolished


A house in the Melbourne suburb of Beaumaris, designed by architects Chancellor and Patrick in 1962, has been demolished. The demolition took place on Monday 13 August, after a demolition permit was granted by the local council City of Bayside.

The house in Mariemont Avenue was included in a 2008 heritage study of inter- and post-war heritage in the Bayside area commissioned by the council and carried out by Heritage Alliance.

The house is listed as part of a collection of houses on Mariemont Avenue, which is home to eleven houses designed architects including John Baird, Kurt Popper and Brian O’Connor in addition to the now-demolished home by Chancellor and Patrick, which was identified as one of five “significant” houses.


“Although the work of these and other architects is well-represented in Beaumaris,” said the report, “there are very few instances where these houses survive in cohesive rows or in such close proximity.”

The house itself, the report goes on to say, “although slightly altered by overpainting, is an otherwise interesting example of the work of this important post-war firm.”

The house was sold in May 2017 for $2,315,000, according to

Fiona Austin, president of the Beaumaris Modern heritage preservation group, said that the fact that the only heritage citation available for the house was a decade old – and only evaluated the house in the context of the street – stymied attempts to secure intervention from Heritage Victoria.

She told ArchitectureAU that in the future the group would consider attempts to “bypass” the council by commissioning its own heritage studies of threatened properties.

The group is now turning its attention to a house on Beach Road, designed by Arthur Russell of Demaine, Russell, Trundle, Armstrong and Orton.

In April, after just a month, the council discontinued an independent heritage study of Beaumaris and Black Rock, one of Australia’s most dense collections of residential mid-century modernist architecture. The study would have identified properties for possible heritage listing.

The council instead adopted an opt-in system whereby the owners of the relevant properties will be able to self-nominate their properties for heritage controls.

Beaumaris is home to a proportionally large number of houses by some of Melbourne’s most significant modernist architects and practices, including Anatol Kagan, Yuncken Freeman and Chancellor and Patrick.

Rex Patrick of Chancellor and Patrick, lived in a house of his own design in nearby Cheltenham before moving to Beaumaris later in life.


More fortunately, Lind House in North Caulfield has been saved from the wreckers hammer and is now listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.


Located at 450 Dandenong Road, the Heritage Council determined that it is of cultural heritage significance to the State of Victoria and should be included on the Register.

The property’s features include motifs associated with European Modernism, such as a broad-eaved butterfly roof, window walls, feature stone cladding and articulation as an ‘upside down house’ with principal living areas at the upper level, creating the effect of an elevated volume.

The new state heritage controls now replace the local heritage controls which Council received in March 2018.

Glen Eira Mayor Cr Tony Athanasopoulos said in August 2017 Council lodged a nomination with the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria to include Lind House on the Victorian Heritage Register.

“The Executive Director recommended that Lind House was not of Victorian State heritage significance and that Council consider the property for local heritage protection only,” he said.

“Council objected to this recommendation which then escalated the matter to a Heritage Council hearing.”

Cr Tony Athanasopoulos said a hearing was held on 8 March into these submissions where Council argued that the intactness of the property and significance of the architect ─ Anatol Kagan ─ justified Lind House cultural heritage significance and should be included.

“The Committee disagreed with the Executive Director’s recommendation and agreed with Council’s arguments,” he said.

The Committee stated:

  • that it was persuaded by Glen Eira’s submissions in relation to the unique European design elements of the place, and its ability to demonstrate “first-hand” Modernist residential architecture;
  • that the intactness of the exterior elements are notable to a high degree; and
  • that the property is a fine and highly intact example of post-war Modernist residential architecture.

Mr Kagan was renowned for his contribution to mid-century modernist architecture in Melbourne during the post-war period. Council is embarking on an extensive program to review and update the heritage protection in Glen Eira. A Major Heritage Review of Glen Eira will commence in June to undertake a municipal-wide heritage review to identify gaps and protect significant heritage properties currently not identified within the Glen Eira Planning Scheme.


For the cynics, it’s good to be aware that these homes were designed for living in and not to be museum pieces. Large, open and expansive, it allowed for a style and comfort unknown in Australia prior to their construction.

Developers are attracted to these properties as they usually sit upon very large blocks in superb locations. The property demolished recently in Beaumaris had sold in May 2017 for $2,315,000. Consider that depending upon the redevelopment proposed the developer is aiming to triple or quadruple this initial investment.

The Victorian Heritage Register is in fact your passport to our history, our culture and dare we say it – our future. In this case Glen Eira Council were pro-active and saved a beautiful building from destruction. Yet in Beaumaris, Bayside Council is simply not supportive of preserving this valuable heritage.

As is demonstrated in both cases, it is only with citizen action that the case for Heritage preservation can effectively be put. The choice is yours. Stand by and watch – or get involved.

Heritage – it belongs to all of us.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings. For further information on Balance Architecture’s services or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please click here or call 0418 341 443.

Melbourne – The Live Music Capital of Australia. Festival Hall Heritage Listed and the Iconic Espy Re-opens.

Back in the 1970s, Melbourne enjoyed a thoroughly expansive live music scene, with pubs around Melbourne’s inner city such as the Station in Prahran, Martinis in Carlton and the Espy in St Kilda (the Esplanade) being flagship venues for a myriad of popular bands – every week.


Mick Jagger at Kooyong, 1973

Add to this the International Touring Groups – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and many others commencing back in 1964 and continuing right through until the 1980s and 1990s. Where did you go to see them? Mostly Festival Hall in Dudley St West Melbourne, a grungy old ‘House of Stoush’ built for boxing matches many years ago.

Previous blogs on Festival Hall

Power Without Glory – Festival Hall to be Demolished



Heritage Listing – Is it always what it seems?


The Heritage Council of Victoria has now ruled that the building be listed as a place of ‘cultural heritage significance’ to Victoria.

This really is an intriguing battle. To be blunt, externally the building is not attractive. Internally it requires substantial upgrades to match the acoustics and staging available at more modern venues such as the former Hisense Arena, now known as Melbourne Arena, Marvel Stadium and others.

From an architectural perspective both the existing building and the proposed replacement apartment complex leave a lot to be desired. There is a lot of water to pass under this bridge yet. Here is a report from the ABC today.

Melbourne’s Festival Hall granted permanent heritage protection, despite development plans


An artist’s impression of the proposed redevelopment at Festival Hall.

Melbourne’s Festival Hall has received Victorian heritage listing, putting a major obstacle in the path of efforts by its owners to have the 63-year-old building partially demolished.

The owners of the iconic venue — which hosted The Beatles’ Melbourne concert in 1964 — revealed in January they were planning to sell the site to developers due to concerns over its ongoing financial viability.

A planning application was lodged by the owners with the City of Melbourne to demolish most of the original building, and build two 16-storey apartment buildings on the site.

But in May, Heritage Victoria recommended the building be added to the heritage register in recognition of its social and cultural significance to Melbourne.


Fans line up for tickets to The Beatles’ 1964 concert at Festival Hall

In a decision last week, Heritage Council Victoria ruled that the building should be listed on the register as a place of “cultural heritage significance” to Victoria.

“Festival Hall was a principal live music venue in Victoria from the 1950s until the 1980s and hosted some of the most important national and international musicians of that era,” the background to the decision said.

Six key features of the interior of the building were identified as “intrinsic to its cultural heritage values”, including the timber floor, its tiered seating and “highly intact original amenity areas”.

The site was originally home to the West Melbourne Stadium, constructed in 1913, but after a fire in 1955, the building was reconstructed and renamed Festival Hall.

The venue hosted boxing and gymnastic events during the 1956 Olympics, as well as world-class bouts featuring the likes of Lionel Rose.


Panic! at the Disco perform inside Festival Hall in 2017.

Since then, it has hosted international music acts such as Frank Sinatra and Fleetwood Mac, and more recently the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ed Sheeran and Lorde.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the heritage listing did not stop redevelopment, but did restrict it.

“Important elements of Festival Hall will have to be retained, including the facade, the box offices, the tiered seating, and the developer will need to work with the Heritage Council to ensure that any future development of the site respects the rich heritage of Festival Hall,” Mr Wynne said.

“It means that it can be redeveloped, but it has to respect the heritage of what is one of the most iconic buildings in Melbourne.”


The exterior of Festival Hall in West Melbourne.

Co-owner warns venue cannot continue

One of the owners of Festival Hall, planning barrister Chris Wren QC, said the venue will no longer be able to host concerts.

“It’s not going to be able to continue to operate, it’s probably going to become a warehouse or something like that in due course,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

He said the Victorian Government has poured money into upgrading other inner-city venues.

“It’s difficult because of the fact that the State Government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars building competition for us — and then to expect us to continue to operate as a private enterprise is unrealistic,” Mr Wren said.

“If they want it to continue then perhaps they should buy it at the highest, best price, and we’d be happy to sell it to them.”

He said his existing proposal to develop the Festival Hall site had tried to recognise its historical significance.

“The proposal we’ve put together is obviously a proposal that [takes] into account … what our view of the heritage value of the building is, and we’ve kept elements of it in there that we think appropriately recognise people’s memories,” he said.

“Whether the Heritage Council ultimately agrees with that will be a matter that will have to be adjudicated on, I suppose, if we can’t resolve it amicably.”


Moving along, it’s simply fantastic that the famous Esplanade Hotel has been fully renovated and restored and is opening for business this Friday.


The ‘Espy’ as it was known for over 50 years was the place to go to enjoy live music. Back in 2015 there were real concerns that the pub would simply disappear and along with it, the many memories. But fortunately the new owners had other ideas. This wasn’t to be another Greyhound Hotel or London Hotel fiasco. This team really meant to restore the grand old seaside venue to its former glory.


Rooms like the Gershwin Room remain untouched other than simply being restored to its original pristine condition.

Reborn Espy rejuvenates St Kilda’s image as home of city’s nightlife

“Southside is back,” enthused Doug Maskiell, one of the Espy’s new owners, days out from its reopening.

St Kilda has long been dogged with claims that some of its charm has faded, including that it’s lost its title as the home of Melbourne’s live music scene to the city’s north.

The closing of its iconic Esplanade Hotel three years ago, although always only temporary, seemed to seal its fate.


The Esplanade Hotel has reopened after a redevelopment that’s taken three years.

But it appears the long wait has been more than worth it, with its extensive restoration – including three live music stages, 12 bars and two restaurants – sure to help revive St Kilda’s status as a top nightlife destination.

“The Gerswhin Room is the MCG of music for a lot of people, it’s really hallowed turf,” Mr Maskiell said.

“To not have one of the best band rooms and best music and arts hotels in Melbourne operating has been a real shame.

“To have new life in it, to have it up and about and up on its toes, I think it is symbolic of a really bright future in the area.”


Live music is returning to the Espy.

Mr Maskiell is one of five partners at hospitality group Sand Hill Road, which bought the Espy 18 months ago.

The attention to detail the team have brought to the beloved hotel is breathtaking.

Built to hold 1700 people, their vision was for it to house a diverse range of entertainment venues – from the “wear what you like” old public bar to a new lift-serviced high-end cocktail bar – while remaining interconnected.

Lined with 1980s Espy band posters, the public bar has retained its grungy feel and is aimed to provide a place for up-and-coming bands to cut their teeth.


The reopened Esplanade Hotel’s old public bar will be “wear what you want”.

A glass retractable ceiling in the main bar’s foyer shows off the hotel’s original 1878 building, which sits behind a facade built in the 1920s.

Mr Maskiell said the group retained the historic parts of the hotel, while replicating any that weren’t so that it kept the same old-world feel.

“Anything that was original we kept or restored and we’re really showing off and celebrating,” he said.

Not to be stuck in the past, the hotel features a podcast studio open to the public to book and a brand new kitchen and casual restaurant where the car park once stood.


The rejuvenated Espy Kitchen has a casual restaurant.

But it’s when you make your way up the main bar’s grand stairs that the hotel really enters new territory.

The previously derelict levels now include Cantonese restaurant Mya Tiger, headed by former Longrain head chef Sarah Chan, and three cocktail bars.

You’ll need to get past a concierge on the ground floor to score a key that gets you to the more exclusive of the cocktail bars.

Bar The Ghost of Alfred Felton, on the top floor, is inspired by a resident from the turn of the last century who is credited with kick-starting Melbourne’s art scene when he bequeathed his fortune to the National Gallery.

It features a 100-year-old bar and is adorned with art and antiques scoured from around the world to make it look like his old rooms.


The central staircase leads to new territory at the Espy.

The hotel’s former owners, nightclub operators Paul Adamo and Vince Sofo, passed on this message as they celebrated the sale: “As much as you’ve bought the Esplanade Hotel, you’ll never own it.”

“And not a truer word has ever been spoken,” Mr Maskiell said on Monday.

“This venue has meant so much to so many people, who have a true connection with it, I’m just lucky to be part of it.”

The Espy reopens on Friday.


So the Espy opens just in time for a long hot summer. Cool beers overlooking Port Phillip Bay, a light meal and the very best in musical entertainment.


Melbourne – It just gets better.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings. For further information on Balance Architecture’s services or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please click here or call 0418 341 443.

Boyd Baker House – Architectural Folly or Vision for the Future?


Australia is a massive landmass. The truth is we occupy very little of it. What happens when you put a visionary English Mathematician, somewhat eccentric, together with an Architect acclaimed by many as Australia’s most important mid century architect (of the 20th Century) Robyn Boyd. Dr Michael Baker, the mathematician, demanded very particular mathematical and geometric rules. He and Boyd were both 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.


Dr Baker had made a very simple observation. With the then population of Australia being 12 million people and the Continent had an area determined to be three million square miles, then the land mass to be attributed to each person would be a quarter of a square mile. By constructing a perpendicular bi-sector between Pt Cook and Melbourne University (his places of employment), he measured his maximum commuting distance and travelled out. Long Forest near Bacchus Marsh was the first ‘bit of bush’ he came to.


The bush was wild and untouched with the only stand of ‘Bulmally’ located south of the Great Dividing Range. The topsoil was barely 1/2 an inch of alkaline soils. As such it was worthless for agriculture and had remained untouched.


Baker paid $4000 for it around 1964-65 after viewing an advertisement in the Age Newspaper.


Dr Baker was somewhat before his time in that he demanded an Architect to provide the plan for his new house. It was on the recommendation of a colleague, Alex Craig, that Baker selected Boyd. Craig had indicated that in his opinion Boyd was the right choice when building in or near Melbourne.


Robyn Boyd, along with Harry Seidler, stood (still does) as one of the foremost proponents of the ‘International Modern Movement’ in Australian Architecture. He wrote the book ‘The Australian Ugliness’ (1960), a critique on Australian Architecture, focusing particularly on Australian Suburbia and its lack of a uniform architectural goal. He was a member of the illustrious Boyd artistic dynasty in Australia, the younger son of painter Penleigh Boyd and first cousin of the renowned Australian painter Arthur Boyd.


Boyd Baker House was constructed in 1966.

Originally the house was designed to be built of concrete and have plastered ceilings.  This was changed with locally quarried Bacchus Marsh stone used for the internal and external walls, polished concrete floors and a thatched ceiling. The polished concrete was given a jade tinge by the addition of copper sulphate in its mix.

Originally the Bakers wanted a large English garden but after enjoying the bush for a while decided that they would resist the temptation of pulling down the local scrubland and would limit their English style garden to the internal courtyard.

Michael Baker says “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.” The trees obstructing the views were never cleared.


Robin Boyd describes the house in his book living in Australia as follows:-
As well as the usual accommodation for the family the,house was to contain a schoolroom where the children could be taught at home.  No public services were available when the building started, although electricity came soon after.  Rainwater had to be caught and stored and it seemed necessary to supplement the thin shade from the profuse of gums.  A strong brown slate that split into thick chunks was available locally.  Somehow it was like designing a building for Robinson Crusoe.  This would be the only manmade thing to disturb the calm of the bush.  So despite the romantic materials, a classical closed formality seemed called for in the form of the structure.  The roof became a low pyramid, 27.5 metres square over symmetrically curved stone walls linked by straight window walls.  The tanks became stone cylinders supporting the edge of the roof.  Service rooms and children’s sleeping cubicles formed an inner ring around the court.

Dr Baker has said that “For Robin Boyd it was not just another project.  He treated it as a masterpiece”.

In 1968 Rosemary and Michael Baker decided that they needed an additional house.  Their family had grown to 5 children and all of them were being home schooled.  The respective inlaws would come months at a time from England to stay with them at the Boyd Baker House.  They therefore commissioned Robin Boyd to build another house, now called the Boyd Dower House.


This was commissioned in 1967 and completed in 1968.  By then the local quarry in Bacchus Marsh had closed down.  Dr Baker as resourceful a Geologist as he was a mathematician and Botanist, Poet, Artist, Musician and everything else known to mankind, had started quarrying some sandstone on site.  He found a quarry and he and his family quarried the stone by hand themselves for the Boyd Dower House.

Dr Baker 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.  By this time he used a local builder who was a stonemason.

The house is a piece of art as is the Boyd Baker House.

Changes and Developments

Eventually the only change made to the Boyd Dower House was that the original kitchen was moved to a carport area and the kitchen became a bar area.  Once again a water tank was included on the site.
Michael and Rosemary Baker were prolific readers.  The library area in the Boyd Baker House was insufficient.  The original library was moved to the bedroom next to the kitchen.

Still Dr Baker ran out of space for his books. So he proceeded to commission the design of a library.  He contacted Sir Roy Grounds.  Sir Roy Grounds is famous for design in the National Gallery of Victoria in St. Kilda Road. In coming into the Boyd Baker House Sir Roy asked Michael Baker “what mistakes did Robin make” Dr Baker simply replied “none” .

The library has visions and geometrical images of his NGV in St. Kilda Road.  Once again Dr Baker, family and friends quarried the local stone themselves for the construction.  No electricity was supplied to the library.


During the 1980’s Dr Baker became very concerned about the Urban Sprawl.  He was worried about the reduction of the wilderness and a number of ranch style homes with tidied landscape increasing in the area.  He was also concerned about the poor co-ordination between State Government Departments and thought how magnificent it would be if a national park could be established for the recreation of millions of people who lived in the Western suburbs otherwise the western suburbs would just catch up with and devour Long Forest.  Accordingly, he donated approximately 200 acres to the State Government to start what is now known as the Long Forest Conservation Reserve.

By 2006 Michael Baker had remarried and the only visible changes to the house he made upon remarrying were that he replaced the main bedroom with a library, removed the scullery converting it into a kitchen and converted the kitchen into a dining area.  His children had all grown up by 2006 ranging in age from 47 down to 18 years of age. Finally, he wanted to relocate to inner Melbourne and now lives in Fitzroy.  Some of his children live in England and some live in Melbourne.



Is this property an Architectural Folly? Possibly. Or perhaps it is a design for the future, a perfect melding of the Australian landscape with wonderful, serviceable and liveable buildings with purpose designed spaces and rooms.


The first sight of the property reveals a mortared stone exterior shaded by eucalypts and ringed with what look like mini Martello towers; these are, in fact, cleverly disguised rain tanks to harvest the home’s water supply. Honeyeaters and magpies serenade from the treetops.

Unlike other landmark Australian homes that are privately owned or museums, Boyd Baker House is a holiday rental where guests can indulge their Architectural Digest fantasies. Peter and Mary Mitrakas bought the 14ha property from Baker in late 2006, had it heritage listed shortly afterwards and then furnished its austere spaces with 1960s design statements, such as Eames rosewood lounge chairs and an original Featherstone sofa.


Mary also brought a decorator’s touch to the process; each of the three bedrooms’ colour themes is dictated by a signature piece of furniture. There’s an orange Arne Jacobsen swan chair, for example, the geometric white-on-black of a Ronnie Tjampitjinpa painting and a Hans Wegner sofa. Peter installed retro luxuries, including original Bang & Olufsen turntables (BYO vinyl), and added contemporary amusements such as DVD players and disc collections in the bedrooms.



And here is the most interesting aspect of the property. You can stay there! It’s not cheap – $2300 for 3 nights, but what a delightful opportunity to enjoy the magnificent, eccentric, yet practical vision of two visionaries – Robyn Boyd and Dr Michael Baker.

The property was sold to Melbourne lawyer Mr Peter Mitrakas in 2006. Since then he has opened the doors to over 15,000 visitors including film crews and interest groups.


The Mitrakases’ art collection – a mix of indigenous and contemporary works – brightens walls throughout the home. The smaller Boyd Dower House was built 200m away to accommodate visiting relatives. It sleeps another four adults. In 1977, a Roy Grounds-designed library completed this trinity of bush originals. Those looking for adventure can go horseriding, hiking or wine-tasting, but there is much to be said for staying put. In the evenings, light the fires, cook up a storm and dine with friends at the Hans Wegner table and Danish wishbone chairs. A thoroughly modernist house party.


The property was Heritage listed 6 months after it was purchased by Peter Mitrakas.


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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

“It was pure Folly!” Architectural Follies.

In Architectural terms a ‘folly’ is a building primarily constructed for its decorative effect, but through its appearance it gives credence to having some other perhaps higher or more important purpose. It will slip past the range of ‘garden ornaments’ often associated with such ‘follies’, or buildings so classified, and be recognised for what it is in its own right.

In Britain ‘Follies’ have been popularised by their rather unique and often quaint or bizarre appearances. We thought this week we’d take a look at a few more interesting and notable examples of the genre located there (Britain) and then perhaps consider some of our local notable efforts over the next few weeks.

Our first location is a rather different property located within an ‘acre of woodland’ in Stourhead Wiltshire.


The building is a dwelling known as ‘The Convent’ and it enjoys a Grade 1 Heritage Listing (UK). This ranking is reserved for buildings of exceptional interest. Architect Christopher Bowerbank restored the 18th century home in the 1980s with an award winning renovation.

Nestled in woodlands in one of the most famous estates in the country, an enchanting folly has gone on the market for £850,000.

With a deep thatched roof, turreted chimney stacks, Gothic arched windows and its own natural spring, the Grade I listed building is the epitome of a fairytale cottage.

The 18th century home, called The Convent, sits on the top of a hill overlooking the Wiltshire estate of Stourhead with the nearest neighbour more than two miles away.

Set within an acre of land, the two-bedroom home is entirely off-grid so owner Mike Gibson installed a system of solar panels and a generator to power it as well as a satellite for internet and television.


Fairytale folly: The Convent, a Grade I listed home set within an acre of woodland in Stourhead, Wiltshire, has gone on the market for £850,000


Gothic architecture: Boasting Gothic arched windows and domed ceilings, the 18th century building is the epitome of a fairytale cottage

Water supply comes from a nearby natural spring and a wheel pumps this into a holding tank which fills the garden pond when full.

The Convent was built in 1760 by Henry ‘The Magnificent’ Hoare, an English banker who inherited Stourhead from his father and turned it into a ‘masterpiece’ of garden design.

It was originally used as a pavilion to stop at during horse riding trips or carriage rides around the 2,600-acre estate before being turned into accommodation for gamekeepers and gardeners.

By the mid 20th century it had fallen into disrepair but celebrated architect Christopher Bowerbank, who used to escort Marianne Faithfull to parties, restored the building to its former glory in the late Eighties.


Privacy: The charming thatched property is the ideal bolthole for those seeking seclusion – the nearest neighbour is over two miles away

He planted the entire garden with thousands of bottles, which only two very large lorry loads managed to clear.

The extraordinary drawing room ceiling, built with pebbles from Chesil beach pressed into horsehair plaster, was also restored.

The renovation was such a success that they won an English Heritage prize in 1990 for the best restoration of a historic house.

By the time Mike Gibson and his late wife Lula bought The Convent in 2005 it had slipped back into dereliction but the pair embarked on a ‘labour of love’ to once again renovate the historic property.

Lula tragically died in 2012 from a brain tumour and now Mike has decided to sell up and move to another property nearby.


Wooden beams: The Convent boasts two bedrooms, a sitting room, dining room, kitchen, study, one bathroom and a dressing room that could be used as a third bedroom


Charming: The two-bedroom home is entirely off-grid so owner Mike Gibson installed a system of solar panels and a generator to power it as well as a satellite for internet and television

Mr Gibson said: ‘When my late wife Lula and I first saw it 10 years ago it immediately became a ‘have to have’, and so started an amazing adventure that was to define 10 years of our lives.

‘When we came upon The Convent it was in a very dilapidated, sad and unloved state.

‘The roof needed repair and re-thatching, the water supply needed to be re-established and the garden needed a major rescue effort. It really was a labour of love for us.

‘Lula was very keen on the garden – it’s beautiful and well established with a lot of plants from the Stourhead estate.

‘We have satellite broadband because there’s no landline. It operates like any normal house but it’s totally self sufficient.

‘Water comes from a spring and it’s managed by a beautiful system with a water wheel that runs all day every day.’


Aerial view: When Mr Gibson and his late wife Lula bought The Convent in 2005 it had slipped back into dereliction but the pair embarked on a ‘labour of love’ to once again renovate the historic property


Unusual garden: Mr Bowerbank planted the entire garden with thousands of bottles, which only two very large lorry loads managed to clear


Spacious garden: The Convent has a summer house with its own terrace set within the acre grounds in Wiltshire

The Convent boasts two bedrooms, a sitting room, dining room, kitchen, study, one bathroom and a dressing room that could be used as a third bedroom.

It also has a summer house with its own terrace set within the acre grounds.

The Convent, which gets its name from ecclesiastic style, was on the market in 2015 with estate agents Savills for £850,000.

It is being sold leasehold, with the National Trust lease running out in 2131 – but this can be renewed on application.

Mr Gibson said: ‘The Convent is a truly stunning house and I’ve been very lucky to have lived here but now it’s time for someone else to enjoy the magic.

‘To my mind this is one of the most romantic houses in England and the 10 years I have spent here have enriched my spirit and helped me through sad times and provided the happiest times – it is like the end of a love affair.’

Charlie Stone, from Savills, added: ‘The Convent is pretty quirky but rather wonderful property nestled in a stunning woodland setting.

‘It’s got a very romantic and charming feel about it. It is Grade I listed so it’s clearly deemed to be of great architectural importance.

‘You don’t get much more quintessentially English than The Convent.’


The Broadway Tower in Worcestershire stands 20 metres in height and is all of 312 metres above sea level.

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The ‘Faux’ Saxon Tower was the brainchild of well known 18th Century landscape architect Capability Brown (real name – Lancelot Brown). it was designed by James Wyatt in 1794 in the form of a castle, upon which beacons were lit on special occasions.


Broadway Tower with its beacon lit

The good ‘Lady Coventry’ of the times sponsored the building of the tower. On a whim she wondered whether a beacon upon the hill where the castle was located could be seen from her house in Worcester – 22 miles (35km) away. As fortune would have it the beacon could indeed be seen!


Over the years, the tower was home to the printing press of Sir Thomas Phillipps, and served as a country retreat for artists including William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones who rented it together in the 1880s. William Morris was so inspired by Broadway Tower and other ancient buildings that he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877. Near the tower is a memorial to the crew of an A.W.38 Whitley bomber that crashed there during a training mission in June 1943. In the late 1950s, Broadway Tower monitored nuclear fallout in England; an underground Royal Observer Corps bunker was built 50 yards from the Tower. Manned continuously from 1961 and designated as a master post, the bunker was one of the last such Cold War bunkers constructed and, although officially stood down in 1991, the bunker is now one of the few remaining fully equipped facilities in England.



Next we visit ‘Triangular Lodge’, a very old folly built between 1593 and 1597 by Sir Thomas Tresham.


It is located near Rushton, Northamptonshire, England and constructed from alternating bands of dark and light limestone.

aerial photograph of Rushton Triangular Lodge Northamptonshire

RushtonTriangleSymbolsTresham was a Roman Catholic and was imprisoned for a total of fifteen years in the late 16th century for refusing to become a Protestant. On his release in 1593, he designed the Lodge as a protestation of his faith. His belief in the Holy Trinity is represented everywhere in the Lodge by the number three: it has three walls 33 feet long, each with three triangular windows and surmounted by three gargoyles. The building has three floors, upon a basement, and a triangular chimney. Three Latin texts, each 33 letters long, run around the building on each facade.



Finally life is not complete without a pineapple. We present the ‘Dunmore Pineapple’ located in Dunmore Park near Airth in Stirlingshire Scotland. Considered by many to be the most bizarre building in Scotland.


Dunmore Park is the ancestral home of the Earls of Dunmore and within the grounds are two large walled gardens used to shelter the plants from the harsh climate and allowing for the cultivation of more tropical plants such as pineapples.


The building at Dunmore, used originally as a garden hothouse and summerhouse, had its iconic giant pineapple added as something of an afterthought. The original Palladian-style lower story was built around 1761, and did not acquire the enormous fruit hat – which housed a modest pavilion inside – until 1777 after Lord Dunmore’s return from the Colony of Virginia. Returning sailors of the time often placed a pineapple, the exotic proof of distant travels, on a gatepost to announce their return from abroad. This, then, is Dunmore’s announcement. The architect is unknown.


Architectural follies yes, but all have stood the test of time. No doubt right here in Victoria there are such oddities, extravagances and visual delights ready for restoration and renovation.

At Balance we would be more than pleased to assist in such works that preserve and demonstrate respect and understanding of our past and our cultural assets.

Heritage, it’s worth preserving. Even the follies.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

It’s Spring Racing and the NEW Flemington Grandstand is now open.

For most people, the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne means that about 3pm on the first Tuesday of November, the Television is focussed on 22 horses racing over 2 miles in 2 minutes. Win, lose or draw, that’s it. But for over 60,000 members of the VRC, it’s just part of the extravagance that is the Spring Racing Carnival at Flemington. And now it has a new home, a new flagship – the Flemington members new Grandstand.

This is no ordinary building. Like a giant layer cake, the Grandstand houses viewing platforms, seating restaurants and bars, the likes of which have never been seen before in Australia.

Designed by leading architect and interior design practice Bates Smart, the 5 level Club stand was completed on schedule by builders Multiplex.


Illustration of the original Flemington Grandstand

Flemington has a long and interesting history. The first grandstand was built on the course in 1865. This structure is the 10th such Grandstand constructed over the last 150 years.


Former members grandstand, now demolished

The Grandstand features ‘petal projections’ along the perimeter of the stand on each floor. This has been achieved using 90 pre-cast panels each weighing up to 30 tonnes.

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Bates Smart-designed $128M Flemington Racecourse stand complete


Bates Smart director of Interior Design Jeff Copolov says the Club Stand celebrates the rich history and character of Flemington Racecourse with sweeping 360-degree views of the Mounting Yard, Race Track, Members Lawn, Parade Ring, Betting Ring and Winning Post.

VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott added that the Club was delighted to reach this significant milestone ahead of its hallmark events in the spring racing season.

Some of the design highlights of the Club Stand include ‘petal’ projections along the perimeter of the stand on each floor constructed using 90 precast panels, each weighing up to 30 tonnes; external walkway on the first floor wrapping around the Club Stand and connected to the existing Members Grandstand and Parade Ring; a new north-south corridor at the heart of the stand linking the Betting Ring with the Members Lawn and Mounting Yard; and the Roof Garden on Level Four offering landscaped open and enclosed spaces beneath canopies.


For further information on the Flemington Racecourse, its history, its development and the Grandstand project, please refer here to our blog of June 23rd, 2017.


Over 100,000 people have attended each day of the carnival at Flemington over the years. Here are the figures. Over the last few years with construction occurring, the crowd numbers have been lower, but with the new facility, this year the numbers are likely to be much higher.

Here are the figures since 2004.

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No doubt there will be critics of the ‘Sport of kings’ but for the most part, the Carnival is immensely popular. The horses involved are pampered animals – lavished attention with no expense spared.




RVL Victoria and Racing NSW have introduced major programs to ensure horses enjoy retirement from the track. Many become dressage or showjumping competitors whilst other simply become riding hacks. No jumps racing occurs at Flemington.Whatever your opinions, the race that stops a nation will be run again this year at 3pm on Tuesday the 6th of November. Good luck if you’re in a sweep or having a flutter. Meanwhile enjoy the slideshow and pictures of the new Grandstand – it’s not called a ‘Grand’ stand for nothing.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.