Exploring Modern Architecture

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The Australian Architecture Association is launching an exciting new event called 'Exploring Modern Architecture'. On Sunday 31 July, tour three outstanding houses in Castlecrag that illustrate how ideas about modernity and what constitutes good house design evolved over the twentieth century and into the twenty first. Spanning a period of approximately seven decades, the three homes are innovative examples of their time. You'll be led on a tour of interiors and exteriors by historical experts as well as some of the original architects. At the end of the tour you are also invited to enjoy a light repast, be entertained by a panel discussion and discuss your own opinions on what is good design. 

Australian Architecture Association launching a new event to encourage the growing interest in good house design

On Sunday July 31st this year, the Australian Architecture Association is introducing a new type of event intended to deepen the understanding of modern architecture amongst people who have a broad interest in design.  It is structured to answer three sets of questions:

  1. What are the essential elements of good residential architecture?
  2. What can be learned by looking at outstanding houses from the recent past?  What distinguishes an enduring design element from a faddish add-on?
  3. What can be learnt from careful consideration of outstanding buildings which would benefit non-architects in making judgements about design?

During the afternoon, participants will be guided through three outstanding houses from different eras, each considered “highly innovative” when built.  Immediately afterwards, they will gather for a panel discussion which will aim to reveal insights on the nature of good modern architecture and its evolution which have arisen from the earlier house tours.  Citing and discussing specific examples will help generate forward-looking, broadly applicable ideas and concepts.

Three ‘highly innovative’ houses from three different times

Participants will visit three exemplary architect designed houses situated close to each other in Castlecrag but built decades apart:

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  • Walter Burley Griffin’s 1929 Fishwick house.  His prominent and celebrated Castlecrag showpiece experts consider to be at the forefront of Australia’s most important early 20th century houses.  Crammed with design ideas considered radically new at the time, but now commonplace.

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  • Andre Porebski’s 1973 Maley house.  An elegantly-designed building with carefully sculpted spaces drawing on the principles of International Modernism.  A raised circular “pod” forms a striking, elevated dining area within its cube-like structure.  Harmony with and respect for its Griffin neighbour was a primary architectural constraint.

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  • Stanic Harding’s 2001 Newton house.  A stunning multi-levelled structure with a complex linkage of interior and exterior spaces ultimately focusing on its beautiful harbour and bushland views.  A four metre high glass wall complements its otherwise robust white interior.

Stop Press.  Another launch event at the same gathering:  fishwickhouse.org

Also celebrated at the Fishwick house will be the launch of its own website.  A product of many years’ research, indications are that this will be the first not-for-profit site for a privately owned and occupied residence.  Designed to fill evident gaps in knowledge of this extraordinary, complex building, the site includes over 150 images from 19 professional and specialist photographers, cinematographers and artists, including Max Dupain.  Evidencing Griffin’s brilliance, ingenuity and creativity, it provides details of the house’s history, prominence, significance and architectural qualities and documents some forty of his radically new design elements.

Panellists and discussion

The early evening panel discussion will be at the Fishwick house - highly appropriate because this was a frequent meeting and socialising place for members of early Castlecrag community groups, including the Griffins.  An informal, social atmosphere will encourage broad participation.

Panel members will be:

  • Tone Wheeler.  President of the AAA.  Commentator, advisor, critic and lecturer.  In 1996 founded Environa Studio, one of Australia’s leading sustainable architecture practices, which produces highly innovative, yet practical and liveable structures underpinned by strong design concepts - often experimental.
  • Andre Porebski.  Founding partner of Porebski Architects was at the very beginning of his five decade career when he gained the Maley commission.  The practice remains tightly-focussed and its success has been attributed to its sharp, disciplined architectural thinking.
  • Andy Harding.  Founding partner of Stanic Harding & Associates, winner of over 20 architectural awards including the 2001 RAIA housing award for the Newton house.  Famed for their highly detailed approach to architecture forming simple compositions with strong expression.
  • Tim Ross. Comedian, writer, broadcaster and TV presenter. His live show Man About the House is performed exclusively in Architecturally significant houses. In August 2016 his two part documentary on the evolution of the Australian suburbs, Streets of Your Town, premieres on ABC TV. Tim lives in a 1959 house designed by Bill Baker.
  • Anne Watson. Formerly curator of architecture and design at the Powerhouse Museum. Curated numerous exhibitions including the Griffins, Marc Newson and the Sydney Opera House.  Editor of “Beyond Architecture” on the Griffins' work in America, Australia and India, “Building a Masterpiece” on the Opera House.  


Time: 2.30pm - 6.30pm
Date: Sunday 31 July 2016
Location: Castlecrag
Note: Meeting Point and addresses for the houses will be emailed out to tour participants in the days immediately preceding the tour.
Tickets: $90 (Public) / $80 (AAA Member)

As numbers are limited, book early so you don't miss out on this unique event exploring three privately owned modern residences.

Click here to secure your place on the tour.

  • Article: Annette Dearing & Vanessa Couzens
  • Image 1 & 2: Fishwick House designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin (Photographer Alasdair McGregor)
  • Image 2 & 3: Maley House designed by Andre Porebski (Photographer Michael Nicholson)
  • Image 4 & 5: Newton House designed by Stanic Harding (Photographer Andy Harding)