Category Archives: Heidelberg

Exhibition: A Brush with Heidelberg

Here I am, writing about other people’s exhibitions and I don’t think I’ve mentioned the exhibition I’m most closely involved with- A Brush with Heidelberg, at the Heidelberg Historical Society closing on Sunday 27 November 2016.


As you would know if you live in Melbourne, Heidelberg has a long connection with artists.  Most famously, the ‘Heidelberg School’ of Australian Impressionists (Roberts, McCubbin, Streeton, Withers etc)  stayed in Eaglemont during the 1890s and painted ‘en plein air’ in Heidelberg and the surrounding districts.  Then, there’s Heide, named for Heidelberg, across the river where John and Sunday Reed attracted modernist painters like Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester.

But other artists- some well known, others less so- have been attracted to Heidelberg, painting the river and its surroundings and also the quaint village of Heidelberg which somehow retained some of its earlier charm.

This exhibition has reproductions and original paintings of Heidelberg scenes, juxtaposed where possible with photographs of the same vista today.  If you know Heidelberg at all, you’ll see familiar buildings and landscapes, and perhaps learn about the history of the building or the painter.

The exhibition, located at the old courthouse in Jika Street (opposite Heidelberg Gardens) is open on Sundays between 2.00 and 5.00 p.m. Entry is $5.00. The exhibition is on for only a few weeks more, closing at the end of November on Sunday November 27.

And we were delighted to receive a commendation for our exhibition at the 2017 Victorian Community History Awards.


A Call to Peace- Heidelberg Chorale Society


I went to a beautiful concert last night by the Heidelberg Chorale Society.  It was the world premiere of a piece called ‘When the Bugle Calls’ written by Australian composer Nicholas Buc to a libretto by one of the chorale members, Leigh Hay.  It commemorates two battles: the July 1916 battle at Pozieres, and the battle only fifty years later at Long Tan.  The motifs of the bugle, the army chaplain and the nurse combine the two battles, and the spine-tingling final movement asks:

They fought for home and country, not for an empty fame

Ask of your hearts, which shall we do- rejoice or mourn for them?

It’s a strange feeling, knowing that you’re hearing something performed in public for the first time.  It’s a beautiful piece- and you can hear it again at the Melbourne Recital Centre next Saturday 20th August, along with Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. They sang a couple of pieces from that last night, too, and I realized that I had heard fragments of it before.  It should be a lovely concert and you can find out more about it here.

There’s an associated photographic exhibition at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar school this week until Thursday 18th in their Hillsley Centre, Noel Street Ivanhoe. Called Cameras at War, it features an exhibition from Bendigo RSL of  WWI images taken by the local Grinton brothers, which were discovered in a biscuit tin in a farm shed ninety years later. These photographs are supplemented by images from Long Tan, including some of the Little Pattie and Col Joye concert that was held that very day (I hadn’t realized that), and photographs from Heidelberg Historical Society showing the military presence on homefront Heidelberg during WWI.  It’s on between 15-18 August inclusive between 10.00 and 3.oo.

Banyule Homestead: Fit for an Ex-PM

We’re about to be invited inside Banyule Homestead for Shaun Micallef’s new 6-part series The Ex-PM, starting on ABC1 on 14 October (tonight). And a thoroughly appropriate setting, I should imagine!

My website on Banyule Homestead still floats around in the ether. Why not pop over and have a look?  It’s at

‘A Camera on Gallipoli & Recollections’ Hatch Gallery until 30 May 2015

Hatch Gallery, 14 Ivanhoe Pde Ivanhoe Tues-Sat 10.00 a.m -5.00 p.m, until 30 May 2015. Free entry

An inordinate number of your taxpayer dollars have been directed towards the commemoration of Gallipoli and there have been many enticements to community groups to participate at a local level in the centenary. Banyule City Council put up its hand and its display will be open until 30 May- so only a couple more weeks to view it.


The HATCH Gallery is a fairly new venture located in a small hall behind the iconic Heidelberg Town Hall in (perversely) Ivanhoe. It is on two levels, as is this exhibition. The ground floor features a travelling exhibition mounted through the Australian War Memorial of the photographs of Sir Charles Ryan, while upstairs is a more localized display of artefacts and stories of local men who enlisted.

Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan (1853-1926) was a scion of many early Port Phillip pioneers.  His father was Charles Ryan, who along with Peter Snodgrass were part of the ‘Gallant Five’ who helped  capture the Plenty Valley Bushrangers. His maternal grandfather was Joseph Cotton; his uncle, Albert Le Soeuf was the pioneer director of Melbourne Zoo and his sister was the artist Mrs Ellis Rowan.  After starting medicine at the University of Melbourne, he finally qualified through the University of Edinburgh.  While touring Europe and undertaking postgraduate qualifications, he saw an advertisement for medical officers to work for the Turkish government. He  worked in a medical capacity with the Turkish armies in the Turko-Serbian war of 1876 and the Russo-Turkish campaign of 1877-78. He would have only been quite young, and this serves as a reminder to us that the Balkans and Ottoman regions were heavily contested long before World War I.  On return to Australia he was appointed an honorary surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital where, among other patients, he had the care of Ned Kelly to ensure that he faced trial after the Glenrowan siege.  When WWI broke out, he volunteered for the position of Assistant Director of the AIF Medical Service, aged sixty. He took with him his camera and the black and white images in this display are the result.

Perhaps because of his administrative and hence logistic role, many of these photographs show the supplies stacked along the small beach at Anzac Cove. It hadn’t particularly occurred to me that the task of supplying the troops continued during the months that the troops were there. He took photographs of the men in the trenches and swimming at Anzac Cove- it was certainly no Bondi Beach. In many of the photographs, men were sleeping in the trenches in broad daylight. This reminded me of the comment that Peter Cundall made at the ANZAC Eve commemoration I attended that soldiers often slept because of both physical and emotional exhaustion. One of the photographs depicts Lt Col Robert ‘Dad’ Owen, who had fought in the Sudan in 1885 with the NSW contingent and now led the 3rd Battalion at Gallipoli. His son fought in the same battalion and died in Belgium in 1917.

On 24 May 1915 after particularly heavy fighting, the corpses were piling up, rapidly putrifying in the sun. A truce was called and, against orders, Ryan took him camera with him to photograph the bodies. There is a story that he was challenged by Turkish officers who saw his Turkish medals from his youth, but they were mollified and then intrigued when Ryan conversed with them in Turkish (I assume), regaling them with stories of the war that their fathers and grandfathers had fought.


Source: Australian War Memorial site

These truce photographs are disturbing a hundred years later, and would have been even more so at the time, had they become public. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve often seen so many photographs of dead bodies and there is certainly none of the nationalistic ra-ra that makes me uncomfortable about much Anzac commemoration.  You can read historian Frank Bongiorno’s speech in opening this travelling exhibition in Canberra in 2014 here.

Upstairs there is a small theaterette that has a rolling, silent loop of photographic images of the war (although I must confess to feeling somewhat sated by the display downstairs). Another room contains artefacts donated by local families whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought during the war with biographical panels alongside.

This is a well-laid out exhibition that combines the national with the very local. It hasn’t really received a great deal of publicity, and given that it closes soon, you’ll need to visit soon to catch it.

Stopping to smell the roses

From my study window, I can see everyone who walks along our street [cue maniacal laughter].  The room has an L-shaped window, so I can watch walkers as they pass several houses either side of me.  Unfortunately for my thesis writing, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time looking out the window.

I’ve just seen a young man walking past the house across the road.  It has a white picket fence, behind which is a beautiful array of old, multicoloured roses.


He stopped, put his bag down, and smelled the roses.  Then he picked up his bag and kept going.

Somehow I don’t think that anyone will ever stop to enjoy a pebble garden with cordylines.

Vale Jim Keays

Vale Jim Keays. You signed your name on my left wrist about forty years ago, and for weeks and weeks afterwards I kept it there, with the occasional touch-up to keep it legible. I don’t remember ever washing it off- perhaps the summer spelled the end of it, or perhaps it began to look so over-written that it lacked authenticity. When I heard of your death last week, I realized that though the signature has faded, my affection for you hasn’t.


Left -Right: Glenn Wheatley, Jim Keays, Colin Burgess, Doug Ford

You burst into my life at the Banyule High School social, held at Scots Church Hall in Burgundy Street in 1969. Looking back, it must have been the junior social because Scots Church Hall was a small, rather unprepossessing hall where I had bumbled my way through calisthenics two years previously, and it couldn’t possibly have accommodated a school social for a school nearing 1000 students. Nor do I remember the presence of those impossibly cool 4th, 5th and 6th formers who drifted through the corridors so confidently who, had they been there,  would have dominated any whole-school social event.

In your autobiography “His Master’s Voice” you described the mad rush on Friday and Saturday nights between locations at town halls and venues all over Melbourne in a manic round-robin with other bands of the day: Zoot, Town Criers, Axiom etc.. This mid-week gig wasn’t like that: you were the only act on stage and you stayed all night. You’d just released ‘5:10 Man’. And there I was, probably too shy and inhibited to dance, pressed up against the stage watching you gyrate in your skin-tight black leather outfits. In your book, you explained that you saved a fortune by not having your clothes ripped off every night. All I can think of now is that those leathers must have absolutely reeked. It was probably my first exposure to raw adult male sexuality, flaunted so provocatively.


And so began my Tuesday night ritual, walking around to the St James Rd shops to pick up Go Set to find out where your songs were on the charts and what you were up to this week. The St James Rd shops at that time boasted two milk-bars (the ‘top’ milk-bar and the ‘bottom’ milk-bar), a wool shop, a two-aisle grocers, a butcher, a hairdresser and a fruit shop. [Today, beyond a massage centre and a closed reptile shop, it’s all just small offices.] I received 25c pocket money a week, with which I could buy Go Set for 20c and twenty Tarzan jubes at four a cent. I’d walk home slowly, reading Go-Set as I went, with its very wonky printing, manic layout and its columns by Lily Brett and Molly Meldrum. Apparently, a friend tells me, I was enraged enough to write to Molly to take him to task for attacking you- something I have no memory of at all. Occasionally there would be a colour poster, and it would join the other pictures of you that I had sticky-taped onto the inside of my wardrobe door because I wasn’t allowed to sticky-tape pictures to the wall lest I damage the pink paint.

You’d appear on television, all decked out in your leathers, miming away to your own songs on Up-Tight and Happening 70, shambolic four-hour shows on a Saturday morning that became a much-missed feature once I got a Saturday-morning job at a hardware store.

I joined the Masters Apprentices fan-club and each afternoon arrived home from school hoping that there would be a newsletter. There rarely was, although when one finally did arrive, it was a bulky, typewritten, black-and-white roneo-d and stapled production that gave much pleasure. At one stage ‘Denise, Di and Mrs G.’ put on a function at their house in the eastern suburbs somewhere (Bayswater maybe?) and what seemed like hundreds of girls crammed into their small house, spilling out into the backyard with a fibro garage. Some time later there was another function, this time at Croydon Park, and this time I achieved my dearest wish- you kissed me (along with hundreds of other clamouring fans).


I bought your 45s as soon as they were released and eagerly awaited your L.P. Masterpiece – the first full-price  ($5.95) L.P I ever purchased (having been lured until then by the K-Tel Happening Hits compilations). But I must admit that a little bit of the magic must have been fading by now. I can remember listening to the track ‘Titanic’, with the unforgettable chorus

Ti-tan- IC! Ti-tan- IC! Ti-tan- IC!

The unsinkable sank.

The sound of bubbles being blown into a glass of the water as the song faded out was a whimsical touch that even then struck me as rather ridiculous.

Then you went to England, and although Go-Set continued to report on you, you sailed out of my life. But I still always followed your career, and was delighted to re-encounter you at Melbourne Zoo as part of Cotton, Keays and Morris, and again right in my own home territory at Sills Bend, just down the street from that Scots Church gig some forty years earlier. By now you were one of the elder statesmen of the 1970s rock scene, and performing in combination with Darryl Cotton (now also deceased) and Russell Morris (who just keeps getting better and better), I think that I was more appreciative of your talent than I ever was at the time.  You’ve been ill for a number of years, but still rocking on, almost right to the end.  You recently described your music as ‘garage punk’ and I look back at myself in wonder that I could ever have enjoyed such a genre.

So, thank you Jim Keays. My fourteen-year-old self adored you; my fifty-something self admires you,  and we both regret your passing.



Off to the Anzac Day footy

It’s a beautiful, 20 degree late autumn Anzac Day, so off to the footy we go….

No, not that confected, corporate spectacle at the MCG- we’re off to the REAL footy down at Warringal Park with the Heidelberg Tigers playing the Northcote Park Cougars.


Real footy. Where ‘the boys’ are all called Johnno and Jacko.  Where the numbers on the backs of jumpers go up to 71.  Where the cars still front-park around the oval and horns are tooted when a goal is kicked.  Where a bloke does his hammy and has to hobble off the field alone clutching the back of his leg, sit on the sidelines for a minute or two, then limp off to sit on the bench without a single trainer or physio [are any such people even attending?] in sight.


Real footy.  Where at half time and three quarter time everyone streams onto the ground to have a bit of kick-to-kick or to crowd around to hear what the coach has to say.  Where the little league kids form a line and clap the team back onto the ground after half-time, before they go up to get a sausage and a drink, “only after yer tell Mum and Dad where y’are!”  Where the winning tickets for the slab of beer and the meat tray are displayed on the scoreboard, and the winner can pick them up at the bar. Where kids ride their bikes around the outside of the oval, where dogs are tethered on leads attached to the fence, where you can get a snag in bread for $2.50 and a VB that doesn’t come in a plastic cup.

You remember, real footy.   Go Tiges!!

How my Daddy saved the Birthday Beacon

It’s Australia Day today.  I’ve blogged about Australia Day before,  here and here and here and here. I think I’ve said all that I can think of to say about Australia Day, especially as I feel rather ambivalent about the whole thing. So today, I’ll take a different but related tack about Australian patriotism and its expression.


Some weeks ago I attended a seminar called ‘Fire Stories’ presented by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of the Emotions, held at the University of Melbourne.  I intended blogging about it but found myself caught yet again between the desire to take time to reflect before putting fingers to keyboard, and the inexorable march of days rendering the whole post irrelevant and undermining my confidence that, after such a long time,  I could render the presentation or  my responses faithfully.  So it remained a blog post unwritten.

I particularly enjoyed Associate Professor Alan Krell’s presentation on beacons where he juxtaposed the grand beacons of antiquity, the splendid imagery of the Beacons in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the more prosaic beacons of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, before moving on to Turner’s little known painting The Beacon Light [1840]. From his abstract:


Functioning variously as guidance, warning and inspiration, the Beacon Fire may also be turned to ill use.  Embodying fire’s paradoxical character, the beacon fire lends itself to multiple representations in text and image, the subject of this paper.  From the lingering evocations of the Greek tragedian, Aeschylus, describing the progress of the beacon fires that carried news of the fall of Troy, to the thrilling spectacle provided by the film director Peter Jackson, who describes another type of ‘progress’ in his Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [2003], the beacon fire flares triumphantly.  These grand scenarios are countered by the prosaically patriotic lighting of over 4000 beacons (around the globe) to celebrate the British Queen’s 60 years on the throne [2012].

We were sitting watching the final scene of Broadchurch on television some months back- if you saw it, you’ll remember where the town assembled on the beach to light the first of a string of beacons around the bay to mark their support for Danny Latimer’s family.

Broadchurch Beacon

“What was that beacon I helped with again?” asked Dad.  Beacon? What beacon? we said.  It was up at La Trobe University (my university, very close by) during the 1980s, he said.  A real schemozzle, apparently.  We had no idea what he was talking about.  Off to Google we went, as you do- and there it was, Australia’s very own “prosaically patriotic” Bicentennial Beacon Project.

According to the IPA review (I can’t believe that I’m quoting this source), the Bicentennial Birthday Beacons project arose from “concern at the direction the Bicentennial was taking”.

When the Australian Bicentennial Authority first published its national program of projects and events, it was a product of modern special interest politics.  It had a special program on multiculturalism to satisfy the ethnic lobby; another to satisfy the feminists; another for the trade unions; another for the Aborigines; a program for youth and a program for the handicapped and so on.  It emphasized the diversity of Australians without a balancing emphasis on the overarching unity and identity of the nation. (Ken Baker p. 48)

As the ‘Bicentenary Battles’ chapter in Stuart Macintyre and Anna Clark’s book The History Wars points out, Ken Baker’s rather snide and waspish comments above reflect a concern that he had expressed as early as 1985 that the bicentenary was turning into an apology rather than a celebration.

And so, headed by Claudio Velez from La Trobe University, the birthday beacon project was born, comprising 550 official sites around Australia on the night of 18-19th June 1988, with an estimated two million Australians taking part.  None of this special interest stuff: this was something that ‘ordinary Australians’ could embrace and be part of.  La Trobe University, as the administrative heart of the whole project, was to have its own beacon.

So, what was my daddy’s involvement?  Dad was Lumley’s Loaders, Lumley’s Constructions and Lumley’s Farm Machinery with a sizeable collection of low loaders, caterpillars, graders etc. based at Thornbury, just a few kilometres away from La Trobe University.  He can’t recall just how he became involved- he remembers it as a phone-call (the extracts below notwithstanding)- because the Glen College site is not visible from public roads, and he was unlikely to see it just driving past.  But what he does remember was that it was an “absolute schemozzle”  in the pouring rain and that if he hadn’t brought along his heavy artillery, there was no way that the La Trobe beacon would have eventuated, let alone flared.

I’ll let Shaun Patrick Kenaelly in Australia’s Birthday Beacons: The Story of June 18-19th 1988 tell the story.   He puts it down to “Beacon luck…the kind of luck which found Mr John Lumley of Lumley Loaders in Thornbury, driving by in the afternoon.” (p.25)  He quotes from Dr Richard Luke, the President of Glenn College:

There was a special incentive to build a beacon at La Trobe University, as Glenn College had been ‘home’ for “Birthday Beacons” since the beginning of the concept itself grew out of meetings held in the College.  Initially it was thought that students of the College might prepare a simple beacons, and a talk by the Executive Officer, Wayne Jackson, on 13 April, provided further impetus.  Then followed involvement of community groups, notably 1st and 3rd Rosanna Scouts and Rosanna Primary School, and the goals became more ambitious! Decision to provide entertainment meant that sponsorship became necessary and this was provided by local firms and Councils.

Weeks prior to the event, under the watchful eyes of the University’s Landscape Manager, material for the bonfire was delivered to the site by employees of Preston City Council.  No attempt was made to arrange the rather unsightly heaps into a bonfire until the actual day and the experience of a nearby group whose bonfire was prematurely lit TWICE vindicated this approach…

Anxious attention to weather forecasts for days before the event was a waste of time! The day itself dawned clear and full of promise that the forecast of a fine evening would be borne out.  How misplaced was such optimism.  As a small band of people struggled with increasing weariness and legs which were beginning to object to climbing ladders (“…what, not again…!”), the clouds began to gather and the clock began to go even faster.  Then [a] miracle occurred! A stranger who had been driving past and had stopped to help, quietly asked whether some heavier equipment would be of use.  An unambiguous ‘yes’ from the builders was followed a little later, by the arrival of a low loader and Drott.  Our ‘welcome stranger’ turned out to be a local earthmoving contractor! For the  next couple of hours the unsightly pile got smaller, the bonfire got larger and our ‘saviour’ got wetter and wetter! As the rain got heavier and the ground got softer under foot, the organizers (along with many others in Victoria!) wondered whether anyone would brave the elements to see whether liberal applications of diesel would enable a bonfire to be lit in the pouring rain!

By dusk the weather had cleared a little and the CFA brigades from Diamond Creek, Eltham and Epping were able to stage a most impressive torchlight procession.  The large marquee, which was to have been the focus of bush-dancing was full of people trying to stay warm(ish) and dry.  The unlit bonfire was surrounded by a large number of more adventurous people interested to see whether the torches borne by the shivering runners could, in the hands of two Mayors and the University’s Vice-Chancellor, find the ‘priming’ hidden under a mountain of sodden vegetation! The deep laid plans of the organizers…! Where were those air vents so cunningly constructed according to…instructions? Answer…buried under the material moved by the Drott!

Well after a few minutes (which seemed much longer to at least this organizer!) and repeated use of the flame-thrower, the fire ‘took’.  The remainder of the evening was greatly enjoyed by the estimated 2000 people in attendance… The last pole did not fall until the small hours of the morning (by which time there was a cloudless, star-filled sky!) and the fire was still burning days later.  (p. 25)

The local newspaper, the Heidelberger talked it up: (you can click to enlarge)


A quote:

Australia will be a ball of fire this Saturday night- but Heidelberg families need not worry.  Local people will light a fire of their own at La Trobe University as part of the bicentennial birthday beacon project.  Australia will be embraced by the longest chain of beacons in world history, with the first being lighted by the Governor General Sir Ninian Stephen at Botany Bay. The national project, which is based at La Trobe, is the brain child of university sociology professor Claudio Veliz. It has been designed to give communities around Australia their own slice of the 200th birthday celebrations…

Communities around Australia will light their own beacons at staggered times, effectively starting a ball of fire around the country.  Heidelberg’s beacon will be lit promptly at 5.45 at La Trobe University between carparks three and six.  Attractions on the free evening will include a torchlight procession, fireworks and a bush band.

Another article in the Heidelberger of 15 June noted that Rosanna Primary School children were selling commemorative programs for $3.00.  The beacon would be lit by three torches to be handed to the mayors of Heidelberg (Cr. Hec Davis) and Preston (Cr. Gary Jungwirth), and the Vice Chancellor of La Trobe University Professor John Scott.

The Heidelberger of the following week (22nd June) carried the rather anti-climactic news of the evening- with no pictures.  More than 2000 had braved the cold, wet and windy weather, it reported.  Costs were just covered by sponsorship, and some money was made from food sales.  To add insult to injury, thieves stole a $500 chainsaw, owned by the university.

But Dad had his fifteen minutes of anonymous fame:

Mr Braddy paid tribute to an anonymous man who had turned up with a front end loader to help build the beacon after seeing the organizers were having trouble.

Trouble? A schemozzle, in Dad’s words.  It puzzles me, actually, why I didn’t attend this.  Did Dad even tell me about it at the time? I had a 4 year old and 2 year old who would have enjoyed it but perhaps the weather was just too daunting.  In fact, I remember nothing about it at all, and it would have slipped from family memory completely had the sight of the Broadchurch beacons not triggered Dad’s recollection.


We were going through old pictures and I found this one. Here it is!  On the right you can see the ‘Celebration of a Nation’ van, with the marquee beside it. On the left you can see the bare bones of the beacon, with all the tree branches around it.  And sure enough, it’s sunny then but those high clouds are a bit of worry.  And yes, given that the beacon was about to be lit that night, there was quite a bit of work to be done!


Photographer: John Lumley

Walter and Marion Griffin in Heidelberg

As you probably know, 2013 is being celebrated as the centenary of Canberra.  These celebrations have included a retrospective look at the vision of  a new capital, for a new nation,  that was produced in the designs of American architect Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin.    But the Griffins’ influence extended further than just Canberra.  Central Melbourne and surrounding suburbs and Heidelberg/Eaglemont in particular,  bear traces of the Griffins’ influence in buildings, homes, industrial constructions and subdivisions that they designed. Heidelberg Historical Society has an exhibition until November 24 that addresses the other designs of the Griffins in Sydney, Melbourne and even India

There are four Griffin houses in Heidelberg and Eaglemont and over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to go into all of them.  The Murray Griffin House was on the market a few years ago and I saw through it then, and Lippincott House was open some time ago.  Earlier this year Pholiota in Glenard Drive and the Skipper House in Outlook Drive were  also open.  What a privilege to see inside.

Pholiota and another Griffin House, Lippincott house are side-by-side in Glenard Drive.  Lippincott is a striking house with a very steep roof and characteristic ‘Griffin-esque’ windows.  The house has a lot of dark wood in it and it feels very snug.  Yet the abundance of windows offsets the darkness and brings the garden into the house.  (Click to enlarge any of the pictures)

Pholiota is not visible from the street because a 1940s red brick house has engulfed it completely. It’s difficult to photograph because it’s not visible at all from the front and  it’s hard to get enough distance from it in the backyard.  It is an unusually pinky-red colour with, again, those Griffin windows.

You need to walk through the 1940s house to get to Pholiota.  It’s almost a bit like Anne Frank’s Secret Annexe- a house within a house.

The Griffins themselves lived in this house and they were very fond of it- in fact, Marion described it as “the cheapest and most perfect house ever built”.   Where we today design a house to suit our lifestyle, I think that anyone living in Pholiota  today would find that the house would dominate their lifestyle completely.  On the other hand, only someone willing to fall under the spell of the house would live there.  The house itself is a simple square.  There are not rooms as such: instead there are alcoves.  Click on this link  to  a picture of the room in use as the Griffins intended it here it’s the Walter Burley Griffin site- well worth a look!

This drawing shows the original design of the house:


The middle of the house is now dominated by a large table and this really is the beating heart of the house.  The kitchen is rather rudimentary.  This would be a rather demanding house to live in, but I should imagine that it would give much pleasure.  It would change you.

The Skipper House is some distance from the two other houses.  What a beautiful, light house this is! It’s amazing to think that it was designed in 1927. I think that this is my favourite.

What is often overlooked is the Griffins’ work in landscape. Griffin designed both the Mount Eagle and Glenard estates with shared communal parkland space. The parks have a rather anomalous status and are not public but not entirely private either.  Some are very well cared for, while others are barely more than car parks which I guess reflects the diversity of attitudes towards landscape and space generally.  But the whole concept of communal open space, shared with neighbours, yet with a sense of ownership and responsibility reflects a philosophical attitude towards ‘how we should live’ that flows through many of their residential designs.

And remember- Heidelberg Historical Society’s exhibition is on until 24th November.

‘Against the Forces’ Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin Exhibition in Heidelberg

This year has been the centenary of the commencement of building Canberra. Part of that celebration has been the recognition of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin as the designers of a vision of a city that was only partially realized.

Most of the attention has been focussed on Canberra, but central Melbourne  and suburbs and in particular Heidelberg and Eaglemont,  have a strong Griffin connection as well.  Heidelberg Historical Society are marking this through their exhibition ‘Against the Forces: Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin’.


I’m really proud that we have been able to mount this exhibition- it really is good.  Being located in Heidelberg, it has a focus on the nearby Griffin houses  (of which I’m aware of four- two in Glenard Drive, one in Outlook Drive and another in Darebin Street) and the subdivisions in Eaglemont that he designed but it’s much broader than that.

The exhibition traces the connection of the Griffins with American architects, most particularly Frank Lloyd Wright and their designs for theatres, public buildings, commercial industrial buildings -most particularly incinerators!- and  residential building in Melbourne, Sydney and even India.  You can read more about the Griffins’ building projects here.

The display depicts buildings but it also addresses the question of the Griffins’ ideas about the relationship between design and the big questions of environment, national identity and lifestyle choice.  There’s a lot of reading and thinking involved in the exhibition- it’s not the sort of exhibition that you can dash through in 5 minutes.

Which makes the $5.00 entry fee a small price indeed for a fascinating Sunday afternoon’s viewing!  The exhibition is open between 2.00 and 5.00 each Sunday until 24th November.  And if you come on the third Sunday in the month you may even glimpse a Resident Judge!

Heidelberg Historical Society is located in the beautiful old court house in Jika Street (the extension of Burgundy Street for locals).