Boyd’s Latchford house for sale

21 August, 2007

Flicking through the local rag, I found out that there is another Robin Boyd house for sale, in Balwyn North, his 1954 Latchford house. There are some alright photos there, although it is odd to read about a Boyd house described in real estate agent speak, they really do use a lot of random superlatives.

But having just driven through Balwyn North recently I was struck by the apparent contrast of housing then compared to housing now, I didn’t see any new buildings that look like they’ve been individually designed by an architect. The majority are mass built display homes, decorated boxes with hipped roofs and variations that indicate their style: doric columns means it is georgian, deep eaves means it is Frank Lloyd Wright. I actually saw one called the ‘Urbane’. I was tempted to scribble ‘sub’ in front of it.

But as witty as that pun may or may not be, I don’t have anything against the suburbs, hell I’ve lived in them for most of my life. But I wonder why it seems that domestic architecture in Melbourne in the 1950’s was seen as accessible and appropriate for the suburbs, whereas now it seems like everyone is building display homes? What happened?

In the 1950’s places like Balwyn and Ivanhoe would have been outer suburbs, the equivalent of Caroline Springs or Aurora perhaps. Places that now have practically no involvement by architects.

Perhaps I’m being a bit romantic or sentimental, but there seem to be a lot more good older houses than good new houses. I realise that a lot of the not so good older houses have been knocked down, fallen down or have been made over, but there seem to be enough not so good 1950’s houses around still to provide a reasonable comparison to the good ones. I wonder why architecture seemed accessible in the 1950’s and it doesn’t now? Are architects doing something wrong? Or are developers just doing something right?