If I could be anywhere this coming week it would be Palm Springs for Modernism week and the Palm Springs Art Fair. Palm Springs is of course a modernism enthusiasts’ delight, with its plentiful single and split level homes, all shifting planes and open plan layouts, with big glass sections and cantilevered floors.
Instead, I’m rediscovering the work of one of my favourite proponents of the style, the Melbourne architect and writer Robin Boyd. His work and in particular his writing were hugely influential on me growing up in the suburbs of Melbourne. His two key tomes – Australia’s Home and The Australian Ugliness – defined for me everything that was wrong with suburban living.
One of his best known works is Walsh Street house designed by Boyd for his family in 1957. It now houses the Robin Boyd Foundation and remains in its original condition.
Furnished with pieces designed by Boyd’s contemporaries – Grant Featherston and Clement Meadmore (whom I once met, and visited his home in NY) amongst others – it demonstrates the design principles championed in his books, utilising an introspective layout, with the main house and a separate children’s pavilion facing inwards toward a central courtyard. (This was in direct contrast to the usual model of building a suburban house in the middle of the block).
The finishes are bold and intense – deep, saturated colours and dark-painted brickwork walls; rich red woodwork, glimmering mosaic and even copper (how very contemporary…). Floor-to-ceiling plate glass, soaring ceilings and clerestory windows ensure light and nature are ever present.
An (almost) fitting substitute for a trip to Palm Springs…
Walsh Street House via Photographs, Eve Wilson