The Peter Muller: In “Architecture and Arts and the

The history of Australian architecture can trace its
beginnings in external cultural influences and its reaction and interaction
with local cultures.  Geographical,
social, political and economic considerations have affected its development. Many
foreign influences and philosophies of the true nature of regionalism will be
found in both Robin Boyd and Peter Muller’s architecture. Their architecture parallel
and respond to contemporary movements in Australia.

Collective influence:

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Since the 1960s the Sydney School hypothesis has been
diluted by an inclusive ‘regionalist’ philosophy that seeks to “…foster
connectedness to … place and … be a response to the needs of local life,
not in spite of global concerns and possibilities, but in order to take better
advantage of them. … It should open up possibilities for understanding where
and with whom one lives. It should encourage awareness of local climate and the
changing of seasons.”(1)

In 1960s various well-known Australian architectural philosophers
have been discussing an important question. What is regional architecture in
Australia? Often referred to as the Sydney school, it is a “distinct style” responding
to the Sydney topography and established a method of design that was quickly
adopted by Peter Muller, Robin Boyd and many other architects.

Boyd was Victorian associates and key figures in the
RVIA/The Age Small Homes Service. Boyd writes in his The Puzzle of Australia- “a strong regional branch developed … in
Sydney where there was a sufficient number of younger architects with enough in
common to constitute a school” (2).

The Sydney School was also inspected by Professor Stanislaus
Fung of the University of New South Wales architecture faculty. Fung considered
the Sydney School as no more than a notion and arguing- ” Is the Sydney School
a certain group of architects united by principles; is there a series of
buildings that could be said to represent the expression of these principles;
and finally, Fung asks, is there a Sydney School style illustrating consistent
architectural qualities?”(3)

Peter Muller:

In “Architecture and Arts and the Mediation of American
Architecture in Post-war Australia” states that Kenneth McDonald, editor of the
Australian magazine Architecture and Arts, received a letter from Frank Lloyd
Wright where Wright wrote-

Architecture is for Australia so why not Australia for Organic Architecture?”(4) 

In “Peter Muller: the complete works” Jacqueline C. states that
in 1952 Sydney and Australian building needed a direction towards an
appropriate regional architecture.(5) Peter Muller played a vital role in the
establishment of an indigenous Sydney and Australian architecture. Peter Muller’s
Architecture is genuinely devoted to the ideal of an environmental harmony and strongly
encourages domestic architecture and a powerful Australian taste.

Muller houses represent a new proportion in scale which is
low line and fits directly into Australian surroundings. Peter Muller’s very
early work, the Audette House in Castlecrag, demonstrates a strong three
dimensional concept with its sweeping horizontals and inter-penetrating volumes
which, at the time, was a new phenomenon. Muller intended for the house to be
built in sandstone but economic restraints demanded a substitute. Muller
invented a distinctive style of brickwork known as “snotted brickwork” that is
a technique of squeezing out the cement mortar along the horizontal alignments
of the bricks to distract from the material and provide texture. (6) Muller
used untreated Australian hardwood, copper, timber and stone to merge the building
with the surrounding flora. (7)

After the Audette house, Peter gained confidence and start
developing his designs. Peter Muller was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, and many
of Wright’s principles of design were applied to local condition, which worked.
In 1950s Muller’s architecture broke away from typical boxy plans housing as
Muller started creating houses without walls and partitions with free flowing
floor plans and flexible and spacious interiors that also incorporated elements
from nature.(8)

Muller House in Whale Beach is an example of that. A
rectangular shape organised on opposing axes and a main spine the living space
extends over the rocky sandstone formation supported by grey brick piers. That
spine intersected by a crosswise axis of open galleries and a third axis at one
end of the open galleries that houses the bedrooms. Muller took the concept of
the structural notion for the roofs from a magazine article on Jack Helmer’s own
house in Marin County, California.(9) Later Muller modified this design and
created twin roofs with a separation of glass in the living area. Muller’s
regional sensitivities required a new response and he followed the cues
supplied by the site.

To Peter Muller, site specific architecture solutions and
respect for the environment are the main design philosophies; simple themes and
natural materials, ambiguous relationships between the interior and exterior,
axial designs that spread out into the landscape are parts of the distinctive
style.(10) Peter Muller architecture is spontaneous which is an innovative
response to a site. For instance, Richardson house, Palm Beach, Sydney is one
of Muller’s creations whose concept centred around an extensive consideration
of the site. The house is sited at the edge of a cliff face, 7 meters below
from the road and 15 meters above the water. 
A circular geometry and a composition of three horizontal wings displays
that Muller is influenced by Asian doctrines. The symbolism of geometry and
organic relationships of the buildings are very strong in their sites. The Richardson
House building was crafted by using technology and it was completed
successfully with its uniqueness.(11) In Australian domestic architecture, that
house was the first significant exploration of circular geometry.

“An example of Muller’s intuitive design response to site
and building design can be seen in the rationale for his choice of circular
geometry as the primary motif for the Richardson house.”(12)

In all Muller’s work it is very clear that he has always
been introducing a critical regionalism, which also represents a national style
of modern domestic architecture.


Robin Boyd:  

‘Most Australian children grow up on lots of steak, sugar,
and depressing deformities of nature and architecture.'(13)

 Robin Boyd wrote
these words in 1960 in his ground-breaking book The Australian Ugliness. Robin Boyd’s
approach to Australian architecture was dynamic. He is recognised as a leading
proponent of modern architecture in Melbourne in the 1950s and ’60s, adapting
the rational design of the International Style to the Australian environment
and climate.(14)  Robin Boyd’s
architecture directions have a little notion of what the new architecture might
be or how to break away from the old styles. He creates cost-effective,
high-quality, functional buildings that can be accessible to all through
effective design, simple materials and prefabrication. These methods are the
philosophy that can be found in his practice.(15)

Boyd’s iconic Walsh Street House, designed for his family,
is highly site responsive and effectively blends the interior of the house with
the landscape. They are the entire one thing within this urban shell which
shows a strong international influence over the regional. One such inspiration
is US based architect Frank Lloyd Wright whose buildings use heavy timber work
and very deep eaves, but relies on the expression of the form, especially
though the roof. Boyd was very much in touch with the work of the “Sydney
School” therefore many of his houses employed elements that Boyd had developed
throughout his career, such as courtyard based designs.(16)

The Walsh Street House is overwhelmingly open, with two
separate pavilions built around a central courtyard. The main pavilion includes
the formal entertaining areas, kitchen, master bedroom and family living
spaces, while the smaller second pavilion was designed for the couple’s young
children to ensure privacy and peace for Boyd and his wife Patricia when
working from home or entertaining guests. This design demonstrates Boyd’s use
of open space, walls of glass and raw materials such as timber that shows strong
modernist design principles in his work. To the forefront is the truthfulness
to materials and the sensitivity to the environment and lifestyle. The draped
outdoor roof cables running between the two pavilions provide shade for the
outdoor living courtyard. Downstairs living areas have exposed beams and
brickwork, thus demonstrating Boyd’s commitment to truth of materials.(17)

Similarly, Robin Boyd’s Baker House, located in long forest
between Bacchus Marsh and Melton has been called one of the most important post
war Australian residential buildings by Melbourne University’s Professor of
Architecture Mr Phillip Goad. With the unusual curved walls, rough-hewn
interior, use of local stone , thatched ceilings, window walls, indoor-outdoor
living spaces and unique symmetry of design all those elements are made the
Boyd Baker House a modern architectural gem. The house aims to work in harmony
with nature, proposing plenty of natural light and views into the surrounding
bush.(18) Extraordinarily forward-thinking for the 60s, there are rainwater
tanks incorporated into the property’s 12 cylinder-shaped columns. The
influence of Louis Kahn is evident in the floor plan, where Boyd creates a
sense of formality in the layout through the use of a perfect square.


It is clear that the high modernism had found widespread
hold in Australia after World War II. (19)

 “The narrative of
architectural history is not only embraced but represents the trace of
architectural representation of truth though history.”(20)

Peter Muller and Boyd’s works exhibit the timeless
understanding that the value of architecture lies in its ability to support the
life of the occupants and sympathise with the surrounding environment. All of
their work represents regionalism and a national style of modern domestic