Mihaly Slocombe: Farmer House

Hildebrand House by Kevin Borland, 1977

What is it?

A project for which we have recently completed sketch design, photos of whose model can be viewed on our website, here.

Farmer House is a renovation to Hildebrand House by the late Kevin Borland in 1977. It is located near the top of Oliver’s Hill in Frankston South, overlooking Port Phillip Bay to the northwest. Built back in the glory days when town planning regulations did not prohibit overlooking, the existing house has a first floor balcony with magnificent views of the bay framed by the roof- and treetops of its neighbours. Our clients, who purchased the house from its original owners, have asked us to reinvigorate its interiors and provide an additional living area and bedroom to accommodate their young family. They are passionate about the house’s character and wish to respect it without pandering to it.

As discussed in a previous post, here, it is our intention to navigate the delicate operation of intervening in this excellent example of Borland’s “romantic functionalism” in as sensitive and intelligent way as possible.

What have we learnt?

Though monographs dedicated to Kevin Borland are not easy to come by, thanks to our clients we were able to track down one publication that has provided us with significant insight into his work: Architecture from the Heart by Doug Evans is an excellent exploration of his life, values, philosophy and opus.

Through it, we have learnt that Borland played an important role in developing an identity for residential architecture in Melbourne in the 1970s, an identity that, together with his lifelong commitment to teaching, influenced an entire generation of young architects. His mature domestic style successfully combined “absolute structural rationality with materials and detailing of great warmth and informality”. Our experience of Hildebrand House attests to this observation: while the entire house aligns to the orthogonal and diagonal axes of a strict 5 x 5m grid, the spaces are loose, revealing playful nooks from the unexpected junctions of walls rotated at 45° from one another.

These junctions, often resolved in the chamfer ubiquitous to the period, provided the departure point for our own intervention. Stepping beyond a rectilinear building form cut only in plan, we exploded the chamfer into three dimensions and across the lines of the existing and new building footprints.

Farmer House sketch design model by Mihaly Slocombe, 2012

Our design smoothes out the plan somewhat, simplifying the arrangement of rooms without losing the joy that resides within the existing house’s leftover triangular spaces. Enhancing the already-strong connection to the property’s enchanting gardens, each living and sleeping space gains its own unique relationship to the land. Most importantly, we preserve and extend the “irregular, even precarious presentation of form in the building’s exterior that arises from a logical combination of spatial needs, identity of spaces inside and the specific demands of structure”.

Without doubt, this will prove to be a project that truly comes to life only via the execution of its details. However, we are already excited by the possibilities suggested by the house and our sketch design. Unlike any of our other domestic renovation work, the existing condition of Farmer House already possesses its own unique voice, a voice we have taken great pains in protecting and nurturing.

Through the mechanism of considered interpretation, we hope our design eschews both dumb mimicry and ignorant demolition in favour of that precious, elusive balance between past histories and new ones.

4 thoughts on “Mihaly Slocombe: Farmer House

Add yours

  1. Wrote the book on Borland with Conrad Hamann. Could never find an address for Hildebrand house so along with a few others it didn’t rate a mention in the book. Enjoyed looking at pics online of your alterations to this house, the former Hildebrand house in Frankston South (Chamfer House?). As it happens it seems you have been engaged to make the alterations to our former home at 106 Ramsden Street Clifton Hill wher construction is now well underway. Looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

    1. No way, what an incredibly small world Doug! We’re pretty excited by the project on Ramsden, fingers crossed you like it!

      I should say that your (and Conrad’s) monograph on Borland was very influential on our design work for Chamfer House. Thank you for the inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: