Walter Burley Griffin Lodge | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Walter Burley Griffin Lodge

Item details

Name of item: Walter Burley Griffin Lodge
Other name/s: Burley Griffin Lodge; Stella James House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Location: Lat: -33.6414447257 Long: 151.3228747620
Primary address: 32 Plateau Road, Avalon, NSW 2107
Local govt. area: Pittwater
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT341 DP16902
LOT342 DP16902
LOT343 DP16902
LOT344 DP16902
LOT345 DP16902
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
32 Plateau RoadAvalonPittwater  Primary Address
5 Palmgrove RoadAvalonPittwater  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
National Trust of Australia (NSW)Community Group 

Statement of significance:

Probably the finest surviving example of a small house by Griffin. Brilliant example of planning, siting and 'organic' design generally. Bushland surrounds reveal original character of Newport / Avalon district. The social connection of Clare Stevenson and Stella James can be seen through the design layout of the house. These planning strategies are highlighted by the use of physical, social and environmental techniques used to highlight the natural environment.
Date significance updated: 27 Jul 00
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Walter Burley Griffin Lodge
Construction years: 1933-1934
Physical description: A holiday cottage constructed in 1934. The site is steeply sloping, featuring tall stands of eucalyptus and angophoras. The house clearly shows Griffins ideal of integrating house with site. The construction is of squared stone blocks, timber framing, with sloping roofs covered with bitumenised felt. Accommodation originally comprised a central living area, 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom, with a garage on a higher level. In the early 1960s architect Sydney Archer sympathetically extended the north - east corner to enlarge the sleeping accomodation. The living area is designed around a central stone chimney block, and three main rooms opening northwards onto a grassed terrace, through doors of characteristic Griffin design (triangular bracing elements). The sloping boarded ceilings create a 'church like' interior accented by circular reinforced concrete columns. The massive chimney block is the central focus of the design both inside and out. (National Trust Listing Burley Griffin Lodge, p 1-6)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is good.
Date condition updated:27 Jul 00
Modifications and dates: Prior to 1957 an outside toilet was constructed, attached to the west wall of the house and connected to a septic tank still exisits.

The original laundry was designed behind the lightweight wall separating the Laundry from the Garage.

In Archer's 1957 alterations, the washing machine was installed in the bathroom. The washing machine remains in the bathroom and there appears to be little trace of the former Laundry at the end of this Garage.

Some time between 1934 and 1957 a terrace was built to the north of the house. Griffin's blueprint shows no terrace and a difference between the floor level of the house and the natural ground approximately 1.5 meters.

In 1957 Archer designed a third bedroom to the north of bedroom 2 which was constructed partly on the fill of the terrace and partly suspended over the bridge of the terrace.

Archer's 1957 drawings show the window in the east wall of bedroom 2 and the south wall of Bedroom 1 to be existing windows. However the window in the south wall of Bedroom 1 appears to be a Griffin window and it was possibly relocated from the north wall of Bedroom 2 when the wall was partially demolished for the Ancher addition. The window in the east wall of Bedroom 1 is totally different to other windows in detail so it is possible that is could have been installed prior to 1957.

The addition of a free standing bench and another set of cupboards and bench. As late 1973 the house was connected to the town water supply in Plateau Rd and a double bowl model had replaced the original kitchen sink. ( Robertson and Hindmarsh Pty Ltd, 1993, Conservation Study of Burley Griffin Lodge, p 10 - 11)
Current use: Residence
Former use: Holiday house/ weekender, residence

History

Historical notes: Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937)
Walter Burley Griffin was born near Chicago and trained at Nathan Ricker's School of Architecture at the University of Illinios, graduating in 1899. From 1901-1906, he worked as an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright at Oak Park. Griffin started his own practice in 1906 and within a few years established his reputation as an architect of the Prairie School. In 1911, Griffin married Marion Mahony, who had graduated in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked as Wright's head designer (Jahn, 1997, p. 221).

Inspired by the designs by Frederick Law Olmsted (often called the founder of American landscape architecture) of New York's Central Park and his 'green necklace' of parks in Boston, landscape design was the career Walter Burley Griffin would have pursued had the opportunity offered. He had approached Chicago landscape gardener Ossian Cole Simonds for career advice before entering the University of Illinois in 1895. Apparently unsatisfied with the lack of relevant curriculum, Simonds urged him to pursue architecture and study landscape gardening on his own, as he himself had done. Griffin took what classes he could and, like Simonds and landscape gardener Jens Jensen, shared an approach to landscape design through architecture, an interest in civic design, urbanism and planning.

In 1902 there were only six 'landscape gardeners' (and no landscape architects) listed in the Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago (Chicago Directory, Chicago, 1902 pp 24, 35, 47). In 1912 only two landscape architects and 13 landscape gardeners were listed (ibid, 1912, pp.1552 & 1693).

Griffin's practice as a landscape architect was first featured in a public text in Wilhelm Miller's The Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening (1915), which included Griffin as an exponent (along with Jensen, Simonds and architect Frank Lloyd Wright) of his proposed American regional 'Prairie' style. Simonds, Griffin and Miller had all attended the first national meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 1913 in Chicago.

By 1914 Griffin and his architect wife Marion Mahony had moved to Australia after winning the 1912 international design competition for the Federal Capital, Canberra with a scheme based on its topography, a distinctly non-prairie valley landscape of undulating hills. (Stuart Read, in http://www.griffinsociety.org.au/lives and works/landscape_architecture cited 21 November 2008). This was a project they had worked on together (Jahn, 1997, p.221).

By 1919, there were problems with the Canberra project and Griffin resigned his position as Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction. He then formed the Greater Sydney Development Association to purchase 263 hectares in Middle Harbour, which became known as Castlecrag. He devoted the next fifteen years to developing and promoting the area, while maintaining an architectural practice (Jahn, 1997, p. 221)

Griffin believed dwellings should play a subordinate role in the scheme of nature. His houses were small and intimate. He aimed toward the most natural use of land and the selection of indigenous plants. He also developed an economical construction system of pre-cast interlocking structural tiles, which he called 'Knitlock', and used it widely, as well as stone, in the houses of Castlecrag. In the early 1930s, Griffin built incinerators for the destruction of household garbage in various cities and suburbs in the eastern states of Australia. They provided a canvas for experimentation with form and texture for the architect, but sadly few have survived (Jahn, 1997, p. 221).

Griffin's work took him to India in 1935 and he died there two years later of peritonitis (Jahn, 1997, p. 221).

Griffin's contribution to the development of the Wrightian / Prairie School style internationally has begun to receive attention from architectural historians in recent years. It is now increasingly acknowledged that Griffin contributed a number of fresh concepts to the Prairie School, most noticeably: his attention to vertical space (a development leading directly to the ubiquitous split-level style post-war houses); 'open plan' living and dining areas dominated by a large central fireplace; and the extensive domestic use of reinforced concrete. (Kirk, Andrew, 'Prairie School Connection', , cited 3rd December 2007)

Griffin is also internationally renowned for his work as a landscape architect, especially the innovative town planning design of Canberra and Castlecrag, Griffith and Leeton.

Griffin's design approaches to landscape and architecture informed one another. Landscape itself, for example, crucially served as a basis for architecture - a conviction first made explicit in the Canberra publicity, Griffin noting (in Chicago) that: '...a building should ideally be "the logical outgrowth of the environment in which [it is] located".' In Australia, he hoped to 'evolve an indigenous type, one similarly derived from and adapted to local climate, climate and topography.' In Australia the scale and number of his landscape commissions grew considerably, including a number of town plans. Griffin signed many of his drawings with the term 'landscape architect'. (Stuart Read, in http://www.griffinsociety.org.au/lives and works/landscape_architecture cited 21 November 2008).

The Stella James House / Walter Burley Griffin Lodge
In 1931 Clare Grant Stevenson joined Berlei Ltd as Training and Research Officer and stayed with the company until her retirement in 1960. In 1960 she was appointed a Member of Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to the community. In 1984 she and Honor Darling edited The WAAF Book and in 1988 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

Walter Burley Griffin Lodge is built on an allotment of land known as Lot 342 in deposited plan DP 16902. By October 1933 Griffin had designed a two bedroom stone cottage (weekender) for the Avalon site and it is assumed that it was completed on Lot 342 some time in 1934. Stella Florence James and Clare Stevenson utilised the property as a holiday retreat. Stevenson had captioned a 1938 photograph of the house by saying she spent many weekends there from when it was constructed in 1933. .

Lot 342 was purchased by Stella James and Rose Winter on 2nd January 1936 and Rose Winter's half share was transferred to Stella James in 1941. Lot 343 was purchased by Clare Stevenson in 1939. Clare Stevenson purchased Lot 346 from Sydney Ancher in 1946. Clare Stevenson in Lot 344 in 1953. The fact that Stella James did not own the land until 1936 poses questions as to her relationship with the owner of the land, James Welton of Kings Cross.

Stevenson and James formed a lifelong relationship, living together until James' death in 1974. James and Stevenson lived in a number of apartments in Potts Point over the years but spent as many weekends as possible at Avalon.
Stevenson wrote on the back of a copy of the November 1964 issue of the Trust Bulletin:
'This is the cottage where I spend hundred of weekends from when it was built (sic) 1933 to when I could no longer go when Stella was ill. Too steep to get the chair down' (Robertson and Hindmarsh Pty Ltd, 1993, Conservation Study Burley Griffin Lodge, p8,9).

In the early 1960s architect Sydney Archer sympathetically extended the north - east corner to enlarge the sleeping accomodation.

The property was donated to the Trust in 1964 at which time it consisted of 6 allotments: Lots 341, 342, 343,344, 345, and 346. Clare Grant Stevenson donated lots 341, 345 and possibly 346, Stella Florence James donated Lot 342 (including the house) and Stella James and Hilda Mary Lyons donated Lot 344.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes and gardens of domestic accommodation-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Significant tree(s) providing rural amenity or character-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes demonstrating styles in landscape design-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Changing land uses - from rural to suburban-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Developing suburbia-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creating landmark structures and places in regional settings-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Vernacular hamlets and settlements-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Rural orchards-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Building in response to natural landscape features.-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing landscapes in an exemplary style-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Interior design styles and periods - Modernist-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Landscaping - 20th c bush garden style-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - Interwar Modernist-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living in a rural homestead-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Valuing women's contributions-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living on the urban fringe-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Holidaying near the sea-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living in a new house-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Commemorating war losses-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin architects and landscape architects-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Walter Burley Griffin Lodge is significant as a rare intact example of a small Walter Burley Griffin house, built as a holiday weekender retaining the principle elements of its original setting. Secondly value as a fine example of the area post World War I and for which the area is still noted. Thirdly the house, as altered, is an example of 1950s fashion and the period's disregard for past architectural styles in its desire to remake the world after World War II. (Robertson and Hindmarsh Pty Ltd, 1993 : 14)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
On a steep site dense native vegetation, the house shows Griffin's ideal of visually integrating structure with site. The vegetation on the site is a rare remnant of the original endemic coastal open forest (of Spotted Gum, Grey Ironbark and Angophora). (Robertson and Hindmarsh Pty Ltd, 1993: 15)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The design symbolised the unity of composition created from the duality of the two bedrooms and perhaps symbolised the unity of Stella James and Clare Stevenson in their relationship, a unity composed of two distinct individuals. (Robertson and Hindmarsh Pty Ltd, 1993: p12)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Walter Burley Griffin Lodge represents an excellent example of architecture by Griffin and has the ability to reveal information about his design and integrating the built form into the landscape. (Robertson and Hindmarsh Pty Ltd, 1993)
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The house representes an example fot 1950s fashion and the period's dsiregard for past architectural styles in constructions after World War II.
Integrity/Intactness: Most of the original details remain, except for the roof which was apparently largely constructed in 1978 because of severe termite damage and the stone entry path which replaced the timber rounds stepping stones in 1982.

Ancher's addition of a third bedroom in 1957 has been described as sympathetic. The addition commissioned by the original owner is of significant testimony to the changing fashion of the 1950s when architects in Sydney were jettisoning the past in the name of post - war reconstruction and creating a new humanist world. (Robertson and Hindmarsh Pty Ltd, 1993: p 12)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Five recommendations were made these included that the structual integrity of the building should be ensured. The integrity of the building's water resistance ability should be ensured. The ongoing management of the place should be include the preparation of a maintenance plan for the future conservation of the cultural significance of the place. It was also acknowledged that the interiors of the house should be preserved and new lighting should match the original lighting. The kitchen should be restored to its original configuration and function as a Buffet Kitchen. ( Robertson and Hindmarsh, 1993:22)

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0151001 Mar 02 541452
Local Environmental Plan 199304 Feb 94   
National Trust of Australia register Stella James House    
Royal Australian Institute of Architects register  30 Mar 79   
Register of the National Estate 293821 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written?2014draft Conservation Management Plan
WrittenJahn, Graham1997Sydney Architecture
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)2001Stella James House - designed by Walter Burley Griffin
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)2000State Heritage Inventory form
WrittenRobertson & Hindmarsh Architects2000Specification of Conservation Works at Griffin Lodge, 32 Plateau Road, Avalon
WrittenRobertson and Hindmarsh1994Burley Griffin Lodge - Final report of the conservation of
WrittenSilink, Richard & Hayes, Gerry2014'Annual Review/Properties and Collections/The Year Ahead'
WrittenStuart Read, (inter alia), cited 21 November 20082006Landscape architecture View detail
WrittenThe National Trust of Australia1992Burley Griffin Lodge
WrittenThe National Trust of Australia (NSW)1984Restoration and renovation of Burley Griffin Lodge
WrittenWatson, Anne (ed.)2015Visionaries in Suburbia - Griffin Houses in the Sydney landscape

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5050068
File number: EF14/5185; H00/00220


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