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Meet AAA Vice President Ben Gerstel

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ME, CASTLECRAG AND THE AAA
By Ben Gerstel

As an architect and resident of Castlecrag, I feel I am very lucky. This luck is three fold for the following reasons, I live in the suburb, I am an architect and I am surrounded by domestic architecture which I love.

To give an example of the wealth of domestic architecture in Castlecrag, we have Burley Griffin and Eric Nicholls houses, houses by Harry Seidler, Philip Cox, Allen Jack and Cottier, Peter Muller, Bill Lucas, Bruce Rickard, Alex Popov, Virginia Kerridge, Hugh Buhrich, Theodore Fry, Hugo Stossel, Arthur Baldwinson, Neville Gruzman, Robert McClurcan, Gordon M Jenkins and Engelen and Moore to name a few. Castlecrag is soon to have new houses by Marsh Cashman Kooloos and Koichi Tadaka.

There are lots of other architect designed houses but these have to be researched at Willoughby City Council.

I grew up in Castlecove, so I have not moved very far from home. As a child, I loved this suburb for all the red textured brick 1960’s houses with massing at obtuse angles. These houses had wild designed balustrades and garage doors. . Little did I realise that these houses may not of been designed by an architect!

I am sure with these houses and my Lego blocks (not in kit form) were my inspiration to become an architect, but let’s not mention receiving a book on Frank Lloyd Wright at the age of 13

When I started my practice, I introduced myself to the local real estate agents with the view that when people buy a house in the suburb, may want a local architect, me! This happened. These are clients who I would never had otherwise.

I also joined Archicentre, an organisation (no longer in NSW, pity) that connected registered architects with people looking for an architect in their area. One of my first projects was to renovate one of these Castlecove 1960’s houses. It was an experience. I loved it but also very challenging being at the beginning of my solo career.

Unfortunately Castlecove is being gentrified like lots of other Sydney suburbs. Houses are being knocked down, renovated or replaced with project homes. We have lost these wonderful time pieces of architectural domestic history. Unfortunately this happened to my family home.

Another source of learning about the houses in Castlecrag is I write a column for a local periodical called The Crag, which is produced by the Castlecrag Progress Association. There are four issues a year and I started writing in 2010. I was asked to write about one house located in Castlecrag for each issue. This has allowed my into some fantastic houses which I would never of seen otherwise.

Through my walks in the suburb for the association (AAA Castlecrag Walks 1 and 2), these have also opened some doors again to houses which I never would of seen either and this makes these walks special for the attendees.

As a local resident, I get to know a lot of the residents who live here and from them, I hear what is happening in the suburb. Which houses are being demolished and who is the architect. This is how I keep my finger on the pulse.

Since becoming an architect, I have learnt of all the other wonderful architect designed houses in the surrounding suburbs of Middle Cove and Northbridge. From this knowledge I have developed these walks for the AAA.

JOIN ONE OF BEN GERSTEL'S TOURS

Want to experience a AAA Castlecrag Walk? Join the next tour in March.

TOUR DETAILS

Location: Quadrangle Shopping Village, 100 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag NSW 2068
Date: Saturday 9 March 2019
Time: 2.00pm - 4.00pm
Tickets: $30 (Public) / $25 (Concession) / Free (AAA
Members)

Numbers are limited. Click here - to secure your place on the tour.

  • Article: Ben Gerstel
  • Image: Ben Gerstel with tour group attendees on the Castlecrag Walk.
  • Photographer: Annette Dearing