European settlement on the peninsula now known as Castlecrag was by
fishermen and boat builders/repairers who could access the location by
water. Part of Sunnyside Estate on the north of the peninsula was the
site of Australia's first licensed radio broadcasting station, 2FC (for
its owners, Farmer & Company) claimed to have the most powerful
public radio transmitter in the world at this time. It commenced
transmission on 5 December 1923. The transmitter was dismantled in
1929. By 1920 the remainder of the estate had been subdivided into 61
lots and the War Service Home Department was constructing 40 cottages
there for returned soldiers.
The suburb of
Castlecrag incorporates Australia's most significant and complete urban
landscape designs and buildings by the architect Walter Burley Griffin.The GSDA land purchase from the Association of North Sydney Debenture
Holders in 1920 included 92 acres in the peninsula on the south side of
Edinburgh Road, which Griffin named the Castlecrag Estate as the
prominent rock in what is now Tower Reserve reminded him of the 'Castle
Rock' on which Edinburgh Castle stands. Griffin sub-divided the estate
in early 1921 and construction commenced of two demonstration houses
owned by the company. They were completed for the first auction sale of
Castlecrag Estate lots on 26 November 1921. Four dwellings funded by
GSDA shareholders in The Parapet were completed by the end of 1922.
The early houses were constructed of sandstone quarried from the roads, but from 1924 several houses were constructed using knitlockroofing and wall tiles. These concrete blocks had been developed by
Griffin in Canberra with assistance from David Jenkins and Malcolm
Moore and were patented in 1917. The machines to make the bricks were
designed by Moore and a simple factory was established in Castlecrag to
manufacture the knitlock tiles.
and Marion Griffin moved permanently to Castlecrag in the autumn of
1925 and the following year they purchased two additional portions to
the east of the Castlecrag Estate. Named The Haven Estate, this land
was developed as an extension of the existing sub-division. In both the
Castlecrag and The Haven Estates, the foreshore land was designated as
bushland reserves. The Griffins' vision for Castlecrag was of a
community quite different from a typical Sydney suburb. The design of
the roads and allotments responded to the rocky landscape with the
winding roads following the contours of the landforms. Communal areas
were linked together with a network of walkways and reserves to provide
open spaces, retain views and achieve maximum amenity for all
residents. Equally important was respect for the native Australian
landscape which the Griffins had come to understand and admire.
In summary, they set out to demonstrate in Castlecrag that architecture and landscape should be integrated so that '...each
individual can feel that the whole of the landscape is his. No fences,
no boundaries, no red roofs to spoil the Australian landscape; these
are some of the features that will distinguish Castlecrag.'
vision was not widely shared by Sydney home buyers and land sales
languished, while only 15 of the many buildings that Griffin designed
for the suburb were constructed. Road construction in the rocky terrain
proved expensive and as economic conditions worsened during the decade
the GSDA found itself in a difficult financial position. Nevertheless,
the Griffins sought to protect the foreshore land from development by
ensuring that many kilometres of Middle Harbour natural bushland
foreshore was protected from building.
post-war housing boom finally saw rapid residential development in the
suburb. While many of the buildings lacked sympathy with the Griffins'
concept, a number of outstanding buildings to designs by leading modern
Australian architects were also built, including examples by Griffin's
partner Eric Nicholls, Hugh Buhrich, Peter Muller, Bill Lucas, Harold Smith, Harry Seidler and Alex Popov.
The opening day of The Quadrangle Shopping
Village on 15 August 1978.
WDHS Archives, donated by Harry Fox.
Castlecrag village shopping centre dates from 1924 when four shops and
a residence were constructed to Walter Griffin's design. The shops,
which housed the suburb's first baker, mercer, greengrocer and butcher,
have now been incorporated into the much larger Griffin Centre.
Shops on the north side of Edinburgh Road are located on the site of
the former 2FC radio station transmitter, which was reserved for
commercial purposes in 1928-29. All the lots were sold by 1938, but the
first shops were not completed until 1941-42 and the last were opened
Proposals for a large shopping
complex on the south side of Edinburgh Road generated community
opposition regarding its scale and style at the entrance to the suburb.
The plans were referred to the Local Government Appeals Tribunal, which
required a significant reduction in scale and The Quadrangle Shopping
Village was formally opened by the Mayor of Willoughby, Alderman Noel Reidy,
on 15 August 1978. In recent years the shopping village has become a
popular food and wine venue, with a range of restaurants and sidewalk
Click here for Castlecrag map
Griffin's 1932 plan of the Castlecrag and Haven
Estates. Constructed buildings are shown in black
and those designed but not completed are hatched.
Courtesy Walter Burley Griffin Society Inc.
Click here for larger view Griffin's
GRIFFIN CONSERVATION AREA
Castlecrag and Haven Estates are outstanding early examples of
subdivision which respected the landscape character of an area, created
community environments and provided shared views. The Griffin
Conservation Area encompasses these two estates to the extent that
Griffin developed his road system (The Bulwark and The Scarp) in the
The estates are a larger more
complete demonstration of principles the Griffins had developed in the
United States and during their first seven years in Australia. These
innovative principles involved subdivision, contoured roads embedded in
the sandstone topography and engineering processes that were aimed at
conserving the sandstone terrain, stream systems, indigenous bushland
and harbour foreshore, and provided extensive reserves and walkways
through the estates that created an integrated open space network.
estates embody the sense of community and social connection from the
Griffins, the first investors and the Griffins' friends sought a
community with a strong sense of connection to the place. Long
established community facilities include the Haven Amphitheatre, the
Community Centre, the Griffin shops, tennis courts, reserves and
walkways. The estates are unique in their application of small lots in
a spectacular harbour setting with public vistas and filtered views
providing the suburban ideal, though subordinated to the landscape.
Castlecrag has 35 heritage listed items within its boundaries relating to early European settlement in the area, the works of Walter Burley Griffin and his partner Eric Milton Nicholls and examples of outstanding designs by modern Australian architects.
| One of the Hudson Homes waterfront cottages
on the northern escarpment waterfront
in the 1960s. WDHS collection
prefabricated weatherboard Hudson Homes in the Federation style were
erected on the Yachtville Estate in 1904, being located on the
foreshore of the Northern Escarpment below Edinburgh Road. An
ex-fisherman's cottage and a stone cottage were added c1911. Known as
the waterfront cottages, these buildings are listed as heritage items
on Willoughby Council's LEP and by the National Trust. The two Hudson
Homes have been leased by council to tenants prepared to restore them
under heritage standards and to install agreed effluent disposal
The bronze bust of Walter Burley Griffin
by Judit Englert-Shead with the original
Griffin-designed shops in the background.
RF McKillop photo.
Griffin Centre shops:
four original shops designed by Griffin and erected in 1924 have been
incorporated into the Griffin Centre located at the corner of Edinburgh
Road and The Postern in the Castlecrag shopping village. They have been
reconfigured for new functions and two replica shops have been added to
the east, but the ovens of the original bakery till exist in the
Castlecrag Cellars under the street level shops. A bronze bust of WB
Griffin by sculptor Judit Englert-Shead and donated to the Castlecrag
Community by the Newell Shead family was unveiled by mayor Pat Reilly
in October 1997. It is located in the garden beside the footpath and
serves as a starting point for guided tours of the Griffin Conservation
The GSDA No. 1 Dwelling photographed
in the 1950s. WDHS collection
GSDA demonstration houses:
two Griffin-designed stone houses built by the GSDA at 136 and 140
Edinburgh Road in 1921 serve as a 'gateway' to the remainder of the
Griffin estates. The GSDA No. 1 house served as a drawing office in the
1920s, while the No. 2 house was a residence for company officials.
These dwellings established the essential components of the Griffin
houses in Castlecrag, namely a single storey geometric form with a flat
roof (No 1) or the roof hidden by a parapet, a large living room with a
stone fireplace that was orientated towards the view, a small kitchen
at the front of the house and subsidiary living spaces. Griffin
designed a house for the intermediate block at 138 Edinburgh Road, but
it was never completed. After the GSDA disposed of the houses, the
owners purchased this block in the 1950s and sub-divided it between
them. The Historic Houses Trust purchased the No. 1 house in 1993 and
restored it, but to cover its costs, a small town house was constructed
on the eastern boundary and the land for 140 was subdivided prior to
the sale of the two residences.
The living room of the GSDA No. 2 house in 2008.
RF McKillop photo
Johnson House, 4 The Parapet:
is one of the demonstration houses financed by a GSDA shareholder, Sir
William Elliot Johnson, MHR and Speaker of the House of
Representatives. The design uses a 40ft (12.23m) square constructed of
local sandstone with prominent corner piers. The house is orientated
towards the harbour view with a bank of French windows leading to a
portico and dramatic rounded windows set within radiating voussoirs on
either side. The garage, constructed in 1965, was designed by Eric
Nicholls. The present owners have restored many of the original
features since 2006.
| The Grant House from the street in 2007.
RF McKillop photo
Grant House, 8 The Parapet:
by the GSDA shareholder and Melbourne theatre producer and manager,
Julius Grant, this stone house is best known as the Griffins' residence
from 1925 to 1936. It was the centre of community activities during
this period. Various owners have made additions to the house over the
years, but the removal of earlier changes at the front by the present
owners has reclaimed much of its charm.
| PG Mercer House
RF McKillop photo
PG MERCER HOUSE, 10 The Parapet:
Eric Nichollsdesigned this two-storey house in 1940 his distinctive sandstone and
pillar style for a private client. Although lacking the subtlety of the
adjoining Griffin-designed houses, this residence contributes to the
outstanding streetscape of this locality and is heritage listed on
Willoughby Council's local environmental plan (LEP).
| The Moon House with the Nicholls additions
of the first floor, entry and garage.
RF McKillop photo
Moon House, 12 The Parapet:
for the Melbourne businessman and GSDA shareholder Chin Wah Moon, this
stone house was designed as a single-storey dwelling by Griffin and
constructed in 1922. Eric Nicholls purchased the house in the 1930s and
the family lived there for some years. Nicholls added the garage,
stairwell and landscaping works, including the distinctive entry gate
with its stone piers, in the 1940s and the second storey in 1950-52.
The house retains its configuration of rooms and most of its features. The
Moon House was assessed by the heritage architects Clive Lucas,
Stapleton & Partners to be an outstanding example of Eric Nicholls'
architecture, and is one of four of his buildings rated as being of
The eastern facade of the restored Cheong
House in 2008.
Photo courtesy Robin Phelan
Cheong House, 14 The Parapet:
stone house was financed by the Reverend Cheok Hong Cheong, a leader of
the Chinese community in Australia and GSDA shareholder. It is a small
dwelling with an almost identical exterior to the King O'Malley house
(see Castlecrag Private Hospital), but with a different orientation.
This house was home to the German Jewish refugee Friedel Souhami for 56
years until her death on 12 October 1996 and remained in its original
condition, except for a garage and laundry addition constructed in the
late 1940s and early 1950s, the latter designed by Hugh Buhrich.
New owners undertook extensive renovations in the early 2000s guided by
heritage architect Scott Robertson and this work won Willoughby
Council's 2008 Heritage Award in the restoration category, the
Australian Institute of Architects Heritage Architecture Award in 2008
in both the NSW Chapter and the national award in this category. The
subsequent renovation of the Buhrich studio was highly commended by the
judges for the 2010 Willoughby City Heritage Awards.
The Griffin Memorial Fountain by the
sculptor Bim Hilder on completion in 1965.
Harry Fox photo, WDHS collection
Griffin Memorial Fountain:
Designed by Castlecrag sculpture Bim Hilder,
this-fountain was erected on the traffic island at the intersection of
Edinburgh Road and The Sortie Port to provide a prominent entry feature
to the Griffin Estates. The plaque is inscribed 'in recognition of the
life and work of Walter Burley Griffin'. It was officially opened by
mayor Laurie McGinty on 23
October 1965 as a major feature of the celebrations of the Centenary of
Willoughby Municipality. The Castlecrag Progress Association arranged
public inspections of Griffin houses to raise funds for the fountain.
It is listed on Willoughby Council's heritage register and is regarded
as one of Hilder's two finest public art works.
The Griffin Memorial Fountain at night in March 2006
following partial restoration by Willoughby City Council.
RF McKillop photo
Cabarisha in the late 1930s. The additions had
obliterated any remnants of the King O'Malley House.
WDHS collection photo
O'Malley House/Cabarisha Hospital, 152 Edinburgh Road:
house built for the prominent and colourful Federal politician and GSDA
shareholder King O'Malley was the fifth of the Griffin-designed
constructed in 1923. It was of similar design to the Cheong House, but
with a different orientation. It was leased to Edgar Herbertwho lived there with his family from early 1924 until 1927. O'Malley
was a regular visitor during this period. Dr Edward Rivett purchased
the house in 1927 and converted to a private hospital.
In 1933 Rivett engaged Griffin to design extensions to provide for a 20-bed hospital, which he called Cabarisha after a legendary American Indian healer. In 1933 Eric Nicholls prepared the design for his first Castlecrag building, the Cabarisha Hospital
nurses' quarters at 6 The Battlement. Nicholls designed further
additions to the hospital building in 1940 and there have been several
additions and remodelling since then. Now the Castlecrag Private
Hospital, the complex is operated by the Ramsay Health Care Group.
The Felstead House from the south-east
in the 1960s. Max Dupain photo
courtesy Walter Burley Griffin Society.
Felstead House, 156 Edinburgh Road:
residence constructed in Griffin's patent knitlock bricks in 1924 for
Theophilus Pyrie Felstead, a Melbourne-based businessman who traded
extensively in the east, was the first private commission in
Castlecrag. Constructed in pavilion form around a courtyard with
pitched roof and wide eaves, the house has a different character from
other Griffin houses in the suburb, resembling Griffin's earlier
'Prarie houses'. The central atrium provides access to all rooms which
are larger than in other Griffin houses, while the knitlock walls have
an umber-coloured sand finish.
The Felsteads occupied the house
until 1929, when it was bought by Edward Beeby, the son of the
prominent NSW judge and former politician, Sir George Beeby. A
solicitor, Edward had represented Walter in his legal conflicts with
Melbourne-based GSDA shareholders during 1926 and in the 1928 Rivett
court case. He had been drawn to Castlecrag by the Griffins' ideas and
the family, Edward, Ruby and their four children, became engaged with
the Castlecrag community. Edward, however, abandoned his wife and
family shortly afterwards, so Sir George stepped in to support his
daughterin-law and grandchildren. Edward retained title to the property
until September 1941, when it was transferred to his mother, Lady
Mrs Joyce Harrison, wife of architect and planner
Peter Harrison, purchased the house in 1952. During their occupancy,
the Harrisons took immense interest in the house and the work of the
Griffins. When Peter was appointed Director and First Assistant
Commissioner of the National Capital Development Authority in 1959 the
family moved to Canberra and the Felstead House was sold.
View of the Felstead House from Edinburgh Road, October 2011. RF McKillop photo.
The Guy House photographed in 1965
by Max Dupain before the second storey was added.
The living room with its columns and French doors
is on the left with the second bedroom on the right.
Photo courtesy Walter Burley Griffin Society
Guy House, 23 The Bastion:
small stone house, constructed in 1926, was designed by Griffin for
Robert Guy, a freelance commercial artist, and his wife Elizabeth. The
house is noted for its floor plan of interlocking squares symmetrically
arranged about a diagonal axis. The main square is the living room,
which is defined by columns with French doors between, while the
free-standing fireplace divides it from the second bedroom. It is
regarded as an outstanding example of Griffin's planning, siting and
design. A second storey addition was constructed in the late 1960s.
View of Camelot from the street, June 2003.
RF McKillop photo
Camelot viewed from the east in 2012 with the
pool replacing the former 'play viewing area'
and the new residential annex in the background.
RF McKillop photo
View of the living room at 3 The Bastion.
RF McKillop photo
Pangloss/Camelot, 3 The Bastion
Regarded by many as Eric Nicholls' finest building, this outstanding
residential building was designed in 1938 for Guido Baracchi, one of
Castlecrag's most colourful identities. Baracchi had been an admirer
and client of Griffin in Melbourne and he moved to Sydney in January
1937 with his partner, the Australian playwright and author Betty Roland.
Griffin was in India at this time (he died there on 11 February 1937),
so Nicholls was managing the GSDA and upholding the Griffins' vision
for the estate. Nicholls took the couple on a guided tour of the
Castlecrag estate and in January they purchased a block of sloping land
with a superb view, and they moved into the Creswick House nearby in April 1937.
For the Baracchi house, Nicholls successfully executed an unusual plan
on a steeply sloping escarpment, providing a central sandstone Martello
tower that was clearly intended to be used for live theatrical
performances. This evidently adopted a core feature from Griffin's
unbuilt project home for JS Symington in The Rampart, a single-storey
circular house with a central fireplace. For daily living, the turret
provided a stunning living room with a focal sandstone fireplace to the
southwest, while an entry foyer and bedroom wing was located on the
southern side and a kitchen, dining room and garage formed the northern
were delays when the builder was bankrupted during construction and it
was not until August 1939 that the couple was able to move into the
house. Betty Roland wrote:
Eric Nicholls had
excelled himself. He had designed much more impressive buildings, huge
office blocks and houses only millionaires could afford. Ours was small
and elegant, a jewel of a house built of honey-coloured stone and even
now, when Castlecrag has been discovered by the millionaires, it is
Betty later wrote:
large circular room that was the hub of the house had been planned so
that it could be converted into a stage by the simple expedient of
pushing back the folding doors that opened onto the wide verandah with
its cantilevered roof and the terraces lawn beyond. Good weather was,
of course, imperative, as the audience sat outside and gazed upwards at
the performance taking place on stages one [the living room] and two
[the turret roof].3
Baracchi and Roland named their house Pangloss, after the character of this name in Voltaire's Candide. The Hobbs family, which purchased the house in 1950, renamed the residence Camelot.
present owners, who purchased the house in 1974, have a deep respect
for its design and social history. They have added a compact
residential wing and a swimming pool located on the former forecourt
lawn. There has been considerable expenditure on maintaining its
features and the house is immaculately presented.
Camelotis listed by the National Trust (NSW) and on Willoughby City's LEP as
being of local heritage significance. It was assessed by the heritage
architects Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners in 2004 as an
outstanding example of Eric Nicholls' architecture and it is one of
four Nicholls buildings in the LGA rated as being of State
significance. The National Trust 'Classification Report' states:
formerly Pangloss, is a very fine example of one of a series of
Castlecrag houses designed by the eminent Australian born and trained
architect Eric Nicholls that continue the original design intention,
and restricted palette of materials of the Griffin's [sic] utopian
vision. The Castle theme of the initial Demonstration houses ... is
continued by Nicholls with this design, reflecting his lifetime
involvement with the design of the suburb. ...
atypical in suburbia generally, an unconventional and artistic
lifestyle was typical of the bohemian occupants of Castlecrag. The
layout of the Pangloss, particularly the small kitchen, study
and large living area intended for theatricals, provides physical
evidence of the Castlecrag resident's [sic] unconventional lifestyle,
their literary pursuits and the active social life that existed in the
suburb before World War II."4
Acknowledgement: I am grateful to Bob and Jenny Wright for their assistance in documenting this tribute to Pangloss / Camelot. References:
|| National Trust of Australia (NSW), 'Classification Report, Camelot formerly Pangoss, Castlecrag', August 2004, p 5.
||Roland, Betty, The Eye of the Beholder. Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1984, p 154.
||Betty Roland, 'Where's Pearl Harbour', in Castlecrag, Castlecrag Infants School Club, 1972, p 52.
||National Trust of Australia (NSW), 'Classification Report', as above, pp 1-2.
Mower House, 12 The Rampart:
in 1926 on rocky and steep terrain, this was the first knitlock house
with a flat roof, a feature that led to significant problems with
leaks. The small rectangular house was orientated to gain advantage of
the view and straddled the rocky ledge. The setting enabled easy access
to the roof via a small 'bridge'. There have been numerous alterations
and additions to the house over the years and little of the original
structure is visible from the street.
Creswick House, 4 The Barbette:
This small knitlockhouse constructed in 1926 was the first of three Griffin-designed
houses sited on top of the ridge in The Barbette with setbacks
staggered to allow views past each other to Middle Harbour. The present
owners have constructed a new residence below the ridge, leaving the
Griffin house, which retains its original form, free from new rooms and
services. It is accordingly one of the most intact of the Griffin
houses, retaining its original door and windows, and most of the
original joinery. Its view from the street has, however, been severely
restricted by vegetation.
Wilson House, 2 The Barbette:
in 1929 for Roy and Beryl Wilson, this linear stone house is one of the
most intriguing of Griffin's Castlecrag houses. It features a
sequential presentation of spaces with a central hall opening to an
octagonal living room at the southern end with a massive stone
fireplace. This room was often used for community concerts and play
readings. A small self-contained dwelling designed by architect Clive
Buhrich was subsequently constructed beyond the house at a lower level.
Frank and Anice Duncan entertain in the
garden of their house circa 1940.
WDHS collection photo
Duncan House, 8 The Barbette:
in 1934 for Frank and Anice Duncan, this was the last Griffin house
constructed in Castlecrag and completed the trio of his houses on the
ridge top of The Barbette. A minimalist house of just 7 metres square,
it combined knitlock and stone construction and achieved a
wonderful demonstration of the Griffins philosophy of living in harmony
with nature. Set at the rear of the allotment, French doors were used
to integrate the house with its surroundings. Anice Duncan developed
the garden predominantly with indigenous plants and a new bedroom
designed by Eva Buhrich was added
in 1943. New owners erected a substantial addition in front of the
original house in the 1990s, blocking it from the public vista.
| Cappy and Margo Deans stand in the open section
of the sleep-out of their house at
170 Edinburgh Road, circa 1946.
Courtesy Margo Watson
EA Deans House, 170 Edinburgh Road:
Nicholls designed this house for Edgar Deans in 1937. Deans had
purchased a steeply sloping block of land for his family home and the
GSDA was keen for a 'demonstration house' that would show prospective
purchasers of land in its sub-division the type of residence that could
be erected on such land. The sandstone and brick building presents a
single storey at street level (comprising the living rooms), while the
bedrooms were downstairs and out of sight from the street. Another
flight of stairs at the rear led down to the laundry below.1
there was an open verandah at the front, but this was enclosed by the
Deans family, as was the open sleep-out off the bedrooms below.
Extensive modifications have subsequently been made to the street level
The house is
heritage-listed on the Willoughby Local Environment Plan. While
regarded as a good example of the work or Eric Nicholls, unsympathetic
additions over the years have reduced its value as an example of the
||Margo Watson (nee Deans), interview at Castlecrag, 3 October 2012.
Architecture of Eric M Nicholls in the Willoughby City Council Area'.
Monograph by Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners, 2004, pp 34-36.
A view of the EA Deans House at
170 Edinburgh Road showing its relationship with the
rugged topography, circa 1950.
Phil Ward photo, courtesy Margo Watson
The Griffin house, 8 Rockley Street:
Designed by the modernist architect Alex Popov- The Griffinhouse won the 1990 Robin Boyd Award, the highest national architecture
prize for residential work. The judges as described it: 'a reverent
tribute to Griffin ... but a beautiful and liveable building, which
responds to the needs of the client and the constraints of the site'.
The house comprises three pavilions (living, dining and sleeping)
constructed of deeply contorted brickwork and connected by a columned
corridor around a pool and terraces. The Griffin legacy is referenced
by areas of sandstone walls as part of the facade.
The Fishwick House and garden showing
the eastern balanced picture window.
RF McKillop photo.
Fishwick House, 15 The Citadel:
stone house is the grandest and most celebrated of the Griffin
Castlecrag residences, having been constructed for a wealthy client
(Thomas Fishwick, the representative of John Fowler & Company in
Australia) in 1929. Entry is through a narrow passage between the
garage and the kitchen courtyard, opening into a columned room that
receives light through a 'window' in the fireplace chimney. The
fireplace divides the living room, which features a balanced picture
window that offers grand views to Middle Harbour and The Spit. The
dining room on the south side had a fish pond inserted in the ceiling.
The first floor contains bedrooms, bathrooms and sun decks over ground
floor rooms. Nisson Leonard-Kanevsky, the managing director of the
Reverberatory Incinerator & Engineering Company, and his family
lived here from 1931 to 1937 when he was supervising the construction
of the company's municipal incinerators, including the Willoughby
Municipal Incinerator. The house is one of the most intact of the
Griffin-houses and the present owners have restored the interior
finishes to their original glory.
The entry to the Fishwick House viewed
from the street. RF McKillop photo
The Moriarty House photographed in October 2011.
The additions are on the right. RF McKillop photo
Moriarty House, 215 Edinburgh Road:
by Eric Nicholls for Stan Moriarty in 1940 and built in 1942, this
house is regarded as an outstanding example of his architecture. It
embraces the then contemporary vogue for smooth rendered surfaces and
curvilinear lines, combining elements of Moderne with Nicholls'
anthroposophical influences to create a distinctive style. Additions
made during renovations in the 1990s are in a different style to
distinguish them from the original work. The Moriarty House was
assessed by the heritage architects Clive Lucas, Stapleton &
Partners to be an outstanding example of Eric Nicholls' architecture,
being one of four Nicholls buildings rated as being of State
The Audette House photographed from
Edinburgh Road in 2005. RF McKillop photo
Audette House, 265-267 Edinburgh Road:
Designed by Peter Muller in 1953 for Robert Audette, this landmark
house is regarded as one of finest works by modern post-war Australian
architects. There are Frank Lloyd Wright influences, particularly in
the strong horizontal forms and exposed timber frames, but the organic
style was also influenced by a visit to Japan. Other features are the
flatroofs with splayed timber fascias and the snooted brickwork with
oozing mortar between the bricks to add texture. Additions and
alterations have been made over the years, but Council has required an
endorsement by Muller for these changes.
Buhrich House, 375 Edinburgh Road:
by noted architect Peter Muller as "the finest modernist house in
Australia", this house is nested under a cliff edge beside Middle
Harbour at the eastern point of the Castlecrag peninsula. It was
designed by the German Jewish architect Hugh Buhrichin the mid-1960s. Hugh and his architect wife Eva had arrived in
Australia as Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in 1939 and this house
was largely self-built between 1968 and 1972 as their own home. Its
most distinctive features are the copper-clad sinusoidal south-facing
roof and floating concrete wall panel. Fitting snugly into its rocky
bushland water-side setting, the late 20th century structuralist style
house has become a classic cult object "more celebrated abroad than at
1. Elizabeth Farrelly, www.sydneyarchitecture.com/NOR/NOR11.htm
Griffin Reserves and Walkways:
A key feature of the Griffin Conservation Area is the network of
walkways and reserves behind the residences. Griffin's plan for the
model suburb involved 20 per cent of the land at Castlecrag being set
aside for parkland, considerably more than that required by the local
council at the time. The reserves, some for active recreational use,
buy most for passive, were linked together by a network of walkways,
providing the community with ample space for recreation and bushwalking
while retaining the bushland setting. In 1940, Marion Griffin gifted
the open space of the reserves and walkways, including four kilometres
of foreshore land, to Willoughby Municipal Council under a Deed of
During World War II and the
following decades much of the reserve and walkway system fell into
disrepair and there was considerable encroachment onto public land by
residents. In 1997, Willoughby City Council commissioned consultants to
prepare a Plan of Management for the Griffin reserves and walkways. It
concluded that the open space management system of Castlecrag is
significant in Australia and other countries as an innovative
demonstration of the protection of the natural landscape character and
the provision of open space in a garden suburb. It set out management
principles for the overall system and provided action plans for each
reserve, while a Griffin Reserves Advisory Group was established to
facility community inputs into the management of the reserves.
Cortile Reserve -
the shops was originally conceived as an active recreational area and
this function continues, with tennis courts and a childrens' playground
being located there. Its management plan has recently been revised and
extensive plantings have been undertaken in accordance with this.
Casement Reserve -
and the walkways that link The Barbette to The Redoubt and walkways to
the shops have received attention from a local bush care group over an
extended period. The remnants of Kunzea ambigua in this
reserve have been rejuvenated by controlled burning. A new walkway has
been established that enables walkers to explore the attractive
Turrent Reserve -
on to The Rampart and is also reached by an outstanding Griffin walkway
running from The Postern to The Parapet. This offers excellent views
over neighbouring gardens and the escarpment to Northbridge and Middle
Harbour. The reserve features uniquely linked sandstone escarpment and
rock platforms that offer vistas over Northbridge.
Particular attention has been given by Council contractors to restoring the linked -
Embrasure and Gargoyle Reserves -
Edinburgh Road and The Bulwark. Here the vegetation had become
overgrown and access was restricted by encroachments. Access is now
available via rebuilt stone stairways and the walkway links though to
the Oriel Reserve. This reserve formed a pivotal function in the
Griffin open space system connecting five pedestrian access ways and
linking lineal reserves beneath a major sandstone escarpment complex.
The path from The Citadel to The Bastian via Oriel Reserve provides
pedestrian access to the Haven Amphitheatre.
A Doric temple erected at the Haven Valley
Scenic Theatre for a Greek tragedy
in the mid-1930s.
Photo courtesy Walter Burley Griffin Society
The Play Marion's Gift by Lindy Batterham
was performed at The Haven Amphitheatre
on 14 November 1993 to celebrate
60th Anniversary of Marion Mahony Griffin
giving the Title Deeds of the amphitheatre
and the Castle Haven Reserve foreshore
to Willoughby Council as public land.
RF McKillop photo
THE HAVEN AMPHITHEATRE
Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin the beauty of Sydney Harbour
provided the inspiration for the model garden suburbs they set out to
develop in 1920. Backed by Melbourne businessmen, politicians and
personal associates, the Griffins formed the Greater Sydney Development
Association (GSDA) in 1920 as their vehicle for realising the new
dream. Within a few months the GSDA had purchased 263 hectares of land
on three Middle Harbour peninsulas that were to become the suburbs of
Castlecrag, Middle Cove and Castle Cove.
had limited involvement in architectural matters during their
Castlecrag years, instead pouring her energy into the making of
community life at Castlecrag. She was the driving force behind the
establishment of the Haven Valley Scenic Theatre, an open-air theatre
developed in a natural glen beside the waters of Middle Harbour. Bim
Hilder led the team of local volunteers who constructed the theatre
using local sandstone to form the tiered seats. Marion was involved in
production, set and costume design for more than 12 plays at the
theatre between 1930 and 1936.
ceased during the war years and the site became overgrown and strewn
with debris. When the community of Castlecrag came together to
celebrate its Griffin Heritage as part of Sydney's American
Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, it took on the task of restoring the
As its contribution to that event, the
community chose to clear and resurrect the amphitheatre site with a new
stage and changing facilities designed by local architect Robert
Sheldon. It reopened as The Haven Amphitheatre for the Castlecrag
Heritage Festival in April 1976 with a three week season of Oscar
Wilde's Salome directed by Howard Rubie.
that very successful reopening, the amphitheatre has presented many
theatrical and musical events including performances by stars of the
Australian Opera, the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, jazz concerts,
poetry readings, plays, community events, the occasional wedding,
arties and pantomimes and the now legendary Carols on Christmas Eve.
Click here for more information on forthcoming events: www.thehaven.biz/