01/18/2018

Australian Modernism – Robin Boyd and My Grandparents’ ‘Peninsula I’ Home

By Doug Crisp

Recently I had the pleasure of participating in some architectural detective work, located on the other side of the globe in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia.

The Robin Boyd Foundation, which represents one of Australia’s greatest architects, was compiling an exhibition and map database of his work for display at their headquarters, the iconic Walsh Street, designed by Boyd himself.

Robin Boyd’s Walsh Street House, 1957.

I was lucky enough to experience one of Robin Boyd’s Modernist designs through formative years in my childhood. My grandparents had owned an original ‘Peninsula I’ home in the architecturally significant Melbourne suburb of Beaumaris.

Promotional poster for the ‘Peninsula I, II, III and IV’ home designs.

My father grew up in this house, and I spent many happy Sunday nights there experiencing the space over roast dinners. At that age I didn’t realize it, but as I have grown older I fully credit the time subconsciously observing Boyd’s subtle design gestures, with steering me in the direction of architecture as a career.

   

Covers of the Small Homes Service booklets.

These ‘kit’ homes were designed to be affordable, but with a considered design aesthetic, and were promoted in local newspapers through the Small Homes Service, founded in 1947 by Robin Boyd.

  

Chancellor & Patrick’s Iggulden House, 1958. Sketch and construction photo.

More recently the Melbourne newspaper ‘The Age’ ran some photos of the ‘Peninsula I, II, III and IV’ house designs, with an accompanying article on the efforts of Beaumaris Modern. This organization chronicles the work of various architects (Robin Boyd, Neil Clerehan, Peter McIntyre, David Godsell, Roy Grounds to name a few), in Beaumaris, and works to ensure these buildings are recognized for their priceless contribution to Australian architectural history.

David Godsell’s family home. (Check out the restoration article here).

My mother showed my father this article and he jumped at the main photo, not only was it the design he had grown up in, it was the exact house. The evidence was the FX Holden he had learned to drive in, parked out front (with license plates he remembered!).

My grandparents’ ‘Peninsula I’ house, designed by Robin Boyd, 1955.

I had such fond memories of this house and when I uploaded the photo to my Instagram page, a representative from the Robin Boyd Foundation saw it and inquired for further information. I was able to update the foundation on location and date information, and the project was added to their map and exhibition.

Bruce Barker’s Buchanan House, unknown.

I was happy to help these organizations add to their tireless work, and proud of my grandparents for purchasing such a beautiful home. Unfortunately, the house (and many like it) was demolished some years ago, but it changed the course of my life and still lingers in my memory today.

More Australian Modernism links:

https://www.instagram.com/modernister/ - Tim Ross’ Instagram page. Tim is a comedian and Modernism enthusiast. His Man About The House series is a stand up tour in famous Australian homes. Highly recommended. He often uploads Australian Modernism gold on this page.

https://www.instagram.com/beaumaris_modern/ - Beaumaris Modern’s Instagram page

http://modernistaustralia.com/ - Catalogues notable or interesting homes for sale in Australia

http://www.modernhouse.co/ - Catalogues award-winning, architecturally designed new and old homes for sale in Australia

http://openjournal.com.au/beaumaris-modern-a-walking-tour/ - Architectural walking tour of Beaumaris, if you ever find yourself in Melbourne!

https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=X3fUAgAAQBAJ&rdid=book-X3fUAgAAQBAJ&rdot=1&source=gbs_atb&pcampaignid=books_booksearch_atb

Amazing book chronicling residential design in Australia. Currently out of print, link is to the eBook.