Alistair at Secret Design Studio: Posted on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 2:36 PM
So how long does it take to demolish a mid-century modern home?
My story starts back in the 1960’s when the hilly land in my area was being developed from an orange orchard to an exciting new housing estate. Previously the area had been considered too hilly for residential development, but with large blocks not being available in areas that had been subdivided before the war, and some clever marketing it was time to develop the orange orchard.
It was an exciting time for families building new homes, and my first family purchased this generous block to build me. It was a time of optimisim and experimentation, and for the first time an Australian family could build an economical home that had an architectural flair that could be traced back to Harry Seidler’s Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga, and even further back to the Bauhaus heritage.
But in the 1960’s my mid-century modern style was much more acceptable than when the Rose Seidler House was built in the early 1950’s, to middle Australia, and in fact a lot of my neighbours were very similar with their open planning, large windows, good visual connection with the garden, skillion style roof and weatherboard construction.
My first family didn’t have a lot of money, so buying a block and building a house was a big investment. To save money they purchased my block on the low side of the street, and the land dropped further away to the rear fence, giving me elevated views to the south west. Then they built me, a low slung, modest 3-bedroom home with a single living area facing north at the front to the front garden, and a compact northern front terrace.
I can’t really pinpoint the start of my decline. It may have happened with my second last family. The kids had grown up and left, the parents were semi-retired, and my beautiful garden continued to grow unchecked. As a result shrubs and trees grew hard up against my weatherboard planking, which didn’t allow it to dry out properly, and wood rot started in my timber window frames and weatherboard planking. The thick shrubbery looked great, but hid my damp problems to potential purchasers.
My retired owners sold me to move to a smaller no- maintenance unit, and my new family moved in expectant with twins. They worked hard on me, stripping away years of neglected garden, repairing, replacing and repainting, while bringing up their young family.
Soon my new family were no longer little. With the twins born and then another two babies, all close to each other in age, and for the first time in my 60 odd years I was the home for six people, and my modest size was beginning to be felt.
Then one day the temporary wire fences appeared next door. The temporary wire fences are always dreaded by us homes as they signify that a home is about to be demolished. My fibro clad neighbour had seen better days, and while spacious inside, was considered the worst house in the street.
11:15am (after morning smoko)
Sure enough the bulldozers moved in, and before you could say “mid-century modern”, my old neighbour was in the back of a semi-trailer and off to land fill. My new neighbour is a smart brick home, with a glazed terracotta tiled roof and much larger than the previous home, with a long stretch of brickwork built up to the boundary, and as high as could be built. Suddenly all of my east facing rooms, which had enjoyed pleasant morning sunshine to my bedrooms were suddenly in a permanent state of gloom. In a modest house with four toddlers the last thing that my family wanted was gloomy bedrooms.
At this stage my owners decided to spruce me up and put me on the market for my next new family. Sadly no new family wanted me.
I was a little bit unfashionable with my 1980’s renovated kitchen and bathroom. I didn’t have a theatre room, or a double garage, or lots of bathrooms, but I had managed to shelter many families over sixty years. And then my last family moved out.
In the final weeks my electricity, water and gas supply were disconnected. Then the fateful day arrived when my own temporary wire fence was erected, just like my old neighbour had a few years ago. My concerns were temporarily relieved when a small truck arrived with men in white jumpsuits. There wasn’t going to be a demolition today, but an asbestos removal. They worked through the morning and by lunchtime their truck left with my asbestos garage roof and a few asbestos eave linings removed. But ominously the temporary wire safety fence remained.
Today my quiet suburban street of sixty-odd years was woken by the hydraulic lift of a low loader carrying a demolition excavator. With a roar of its engines the demolition excavator trundled off the low loader like a giant yellow dinosaur on tank tracks, and I was very fearful.
So how long does it take to demolish a low slung, unfashionable, mid century modern house that has been home to numerous children and families over the past sixty years?
One hour and two minutes (including a break).