The Boyd Baker House is a lovely example of modernism made with natural materials. Located in Melbourne, Australia, the house was built by the great Australian modernist architect Robin Boyd for the Baker family, who had relocated to Australia so that husband and father Dr Baker, could take up an academic job at Melbourne University.
Several aspects of the house contribute to its natural character. Firstly, there’s the Bacchus Marsh stone used for both the external and internal walls. Boyd had originally intended to use concrete but instead went with these lovely stone walls. These feature throughout the house and provide a lovely combination of difference and repetition.
Boyd had also originally intended to have the ceiling plastered. Again, he eventually went with the more distinctive natural option, employing a thatched ceiling. The ceiling is quite unlike anything we normally see in a modernist house, but it fits right in.
And while concrete was still used for the floor, it too is polished in a lovely, rich, earthy texture. Taken with the stone workings, the shell is already quite beautiful, but it is also filled with some rather nice, simple pieces of furniture, especially the several Danish modern cabinets that appear in the corners of the living area.
The Bakers clearly developed a rather deep sensitivity to the natural surroundings to match the character of the house. Having spent some time in Australia and becoming accustomed to the specific environment, they abandoned their plans to have a traditional English country garden, instead maintaining the pre-existing Australian bush land after realising it had to be maintained if the surrounding wildlife were going to be supported.
Indeed, in Dr Baker’s words, “The koalas, possums, bull ants species, many small birds and the wallabies all rely on the delicate, struggling foliage of the mally trees and their under story for survival.” It’s a noble approach that clearly lives on in the house itself.
Photo by Mark Haddawy