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In 1960, Robi Boyd ( the author of the Australian Ugliness (Penguin)) described his perception of building in Australia thus:
"Isolated is the operative word.
Absurdly proud, alone in a vacuum, each new Australian building sets out to create an isolated, competitive grain of beauty, like a rose carried on the wind, unconnected with the living bush, like a hank of seaweed drifting in the tide of fashion."
Despite its vintage, the observation still seems pertinent. It describes an environment where money and prestige hold sway, often determining what is built and what is not. While many architects strive for something other in their domestic work, buildings erected as monuments to their creativity or celebrating the clients' social and financial status can still be found.
This recently completed Tooralk house, designed by Melbourne practice BKIK Architects (Tim Black, Julian Kosloff and Simon Knott), engages in broader experimentations with site, context and a history of Australian Modernism. To begin my review with the Boyd quote is thus doubly relevant; the clients, a semi-retired couple wanting to spend the rest of their life in it, have a particular relationship to Boyd's canonical book. One of the clients' grandfathers was the original publisher of this book so their bookshelves hold first editions.
The relationship with Boyd goes beyond just the familial, This house, with its white wrapped orthogonal form, its generous relationship to the outdoors and open-plan living, recalls homes characteristic of the Australian Modernist architecture of the 1950s and '60s. Also in Toonalk, Boyd's Richardson House is a particular reference along with (Roy) Grounds House and Flats as well as Harry Seidler's Rose Seidler House in Sydney, In fact, the BKK project is sited only minutes from both the Boyd and the Ground houses.
Located on a gentle rise overlooking Tooralk and South Yarra, the building is submerged in a suburban setting of tress, terracotta roofs and quiet streets - the city only just visible on the horizon. Along with an interest in Modernist architecture, the architects at BKK brought their fascination with surface as well as what they call the ~wrap' to this project. Their design uses the entire block so the action of the wrap thus encompasses the complete site. The result is a careful relationship between site and architecture, with both inside and out choreographed into a synthesised whole.
Wrap House Image Gallery
click image below for more information.