Do you have a house that you've aspired to? As a child, did you ever play with the idea that you would live in a tumbling castle on a hill side with a grand stair case, or a blinding white modern house of concrete and glass - a Neutra inspired house that sparkles on a precipice overlooking an eternal city of lights? If your childhood world was suburban Canberra, the unexceptional brick venereal of sprawling suburbs ‐ then the Barbie House of Dreams was my fantasy!
However thankfully, tastes do change. I grew up and studied architecture. To me, an ever expanding, service poor, suburban algae bloom is not aspirational. I now want to live in a tree lined street, walking and bike riding distance to the city - bird song to wake me in the morning, the smell of fresh croissants and sweet faced puppy dogs tumbling into laps, in a home filled with light, a terrace garden and Bach playing softly in the background.
My dream home has slowly been refined by time and yes tainted by architectural expectation and I admit, no less fantasy. But this home does exist - I've seen it, I've driven past it many a time. I've taken friends visiting Canberra, past it and shared with them how and why I should be living there.
Do I not deserve the very humble dream of living in one of the terrace houses by Roy Grounds that are on Tasmania Circle in Forrest, Canberra? With one of the terraces recently on the market, I finally had the opportunity to view inside and I jumped at it.
The suburb of Forrest to begin with, is a blue ribbon address. There are some big houses here- big expensive brick, concrete brick, tiled, beautifully manicured lawns and gardens with circular driveways and flag pole kind of houses. These homes are on sweeping streets that are wide and lined with mature trees and lots of open parkland, this suburb after all, is one of the inner city, older suburbs that follows the original Griffins' plan. Forrest is the Hermes of Canberra - established, conservative and classy. You rub shoulders with dignitaries, diplomats, old money, new money - ah hell all money!
I may covet architecture because of it's cultural, environmental and technology driven innovation, but let's not forget that aspiration can be material too. Oh yes, and don't forget that the Forrest Terrace Houses have also been given 'official' status, as they are on the register of the AIA list of Nationally Significant Twentieth Century Residential Architecture.
Ah Corbusier, ahem Grounds, ye modern, architectural master of material and technology - teaching us lesser beings how to live. This is true. The terrace houses are a very good example of compact efficient planning. They are constructed in simple industrial materials, concrete block walls and concrete slab floors (in slab heating even, an original feature!).
However, these are not cold stark spaces. Timber finishes feature throughout giving the interior spaces a warm natural feel. All storage was built in, also finished in timber. Did I mention the straw lining to the raked timber raftered ceiling? Who would have imagined that! The double height, glazed opening to the private north facing courtyard, fills the living/dining area with light. You can imagine how beautiful it is, cool and green dappled, from the massive trees outside.
The Roy Grounds development has one bed-sit, a separate courtyard residence and five terraces. A single terrace house has two bedrooms and a bathroom on a mezzanine level, stacked above the kitchen, study and entry below.
The terrace I had the privilege to view (thank you Ray White Canberra), had had some interior modification to the original, a curved extension to the mezzanine gallery on the north was added. Ordinarily such an abomination to the simplicity and clarity of the straight clean lines of modernity is abhorred, yet this still works. It is a testimony to the affect of maintaining the same timber finishes and how clearly the advantage of double height volume and light has on the space, it still feels big!
Yes yes, there is history in this development, architectural significance**, example of a time, an era, international regionalism blah blah blah, but I want to live here like many others do because despite being over 50 years old, I can see the timeless beauty of light filled, simple spaces. This is why I have faith in what good architecture can give us. It may not be my home (yet!) but it is how I want to live.
www.canberrahouse.com is very informative and gives lots of insight to modern residential architecture in Canberra.
www.domain.com.au - Sales web page of the house shows multiple internal images
By our new Canberra correspondent: Soovius
Photos by Vanessa Couzens