5 Melbourne architecture icons you have to see

The post war era in residential architecture brought about a creative freedom not seen in local architecture before. From the 1950's through to the late 1970's some of our most iconic architecture was born. It is an era of architecture that until recently time forgot & one that has played a major role in the work I produce. 

Most of you would know the National Gallery Of Victoria, the Melbourne Olympic Swimming Pool, the Bromby Street Building at Melbourne Grammar or even the old Hayman Island Resort built for Reg Ansett, Heck some of you might have even been to these places, but did you know that the architects that created these iconic structures are also responsible for creating some of our most inspiring yet relatively unknown residential structures? No? Well you do now because today we focus on 5 homes that to me are architecturally iconic. 

1. Purcell House (Guilford Bell - 1962)

The Purcell House was designed by Guilford Bell in 1962 in East Ivanhoe, Bell not only designed the house but also the layout & hardscape areas of the gardens. The home is a single storey design that echoes a modernist influence with a distinct H-Shaped layout, sleeping & living zones are separated by the kitchen and service areas with a central courtyard zone off the sleeping & living areas, there is also a rear courtyard off the sleeping zones. The windows throughout are full height and align to open the view through the home, architecturally it is finished with simple features and finishes with internal block walls exposed and mountain ash timber clad ceilings. Adding to the iconic status of this home are the built in & free standing furniture pieces also designed by Bell.

2. Butterfly House (River House) (Peter McIntyre - 1955.

Image By Michael Wee

The river house or as it is affectionately known (Butterfly House) was designed & built by owner/architect Peter McIntyre. It is in essence two triangular frames with 4.2m cantilevers sitting atop a river bank that harks back to the Melbourne Olympic Swimming Pool which Peter McIntyre designed (in conjunction with others), that design in itself is what enabled him to fund the build of the butterfly house. 

With a central spiral staircase carrying you upwards the small family home with its A-Framed construction allowed generous decks to each wing & sits suspended above the ground over looking the Yarra River. The home was originally finished in vibrant colours to echo the post war excitement with large expanses of glass creating a bright open airy home. McIntyre did admit however, that there were failings in the original design with relation to the glazing & insulative  issues it caused. These have over time been resolved through design refinement and to this day is a beacon of light from the post war era that is as iconic to Melbourne as the Skipping Girl.

3. Seccull House (Guilford Bell - 1972)

Another masterpiece of mid century architecture that has had an impact on my theories of design is the Seccull House in Brighton designed by Guilford Bell. Bell implemented many aspects of architecture and design in the Seccull House that today are missing from modern architecture. By using a series of courtyards stepping back from the main facade the layout works off a central offset axis with all views outwards falling into a private courtyard. Finishes of crisp white render and black steel columns with his iconic full height uninterrupted glazed windows allow the home to open up to the outside. Once again as with the Purcell House the Seccull House separates the main living and sleeping areas and is considered Bells most impressive and influential residential work.

4. Grounds House (Roy Grounds - 1954)

Image By Michael Wee

From the architect who brought us the National Gallery of Victoria comes the Grounds House, a modest family home that when viewed from the outside looks like an impenetrable fortress yet this seemingly simple building upon entering opens up with the feeling of an oriental home. High set windows form a fortress from the outside with a roof that seems to float above it, the look some suggest was the inspiration for the NGV design. As you enter the home it opens up into a circular central courtyard bathed in light through a wall of glass, some 32 full height panels of glass allowing all areas, both public & private views into the courtyard and an abundance of natural light. The home itself is a continuos internal space that flows from zone to zone with light natural timber finishes throughout. A masterpiece of iconic proportions. 

5. Grutzner House (John Mockridge - 1957)

Image By Alison Alexander

Ever heard of Mockridge, Stahle & Mitchell? No? Well now you have & you'll be glad of that because they produced some of the most stunning pieces of residential & commercial mid century architecture Melbourne has to offer. The Grutzner House, designed by John Mockridge is stunningly simple in execution and architecturally impressive, it echoes everything that is mid century architecture & puts most modern home designers to shame with its layout and liveability.

Built on a modest budget by a young married couple & working with limited post war material availability the design follows the post & beam construction method clad externally with vertical timber & retaining walls of Castlemaine stone. Located in bayside Melbourne the home was positioned so as to take in views of Port Phillip Bay with rooms located to take advantage of the views. Designed around a central block containing the bathroom the sleeping areas spread along the south whilst the living areas are to the north, with the kitchen sitting behind the bathroom block commanding views into the rear yard and beyond. A stunning home that exemplifies all that is mid century architecture. 

As you can see the homes that inspire me to create the homes I now create are from that post war or mid century era, an era where architecture was about cost effective design and liveability over grand halls and theatre rooms. To me these homes are some of our greatest architectural icons & inspire not only me but those who are exposed to them on a daily basis.