S. R. SALTER house – some thoughts


Some thoughts on small dwellings

I am also currently working on the design for a small house in Castlemaine and it has made me think of the influence Walter Burley Griffin, and the Salter House in particular (see plan above), has had on my design thinking.

I had a school friend in my early teens who lived in this house and I spent a lot of after school time here. I still remember hearing Billy Thorpe andthe Aztecs Live at Sunbury for the first time in the front lounge room. It must have been 1972.

The house was perched at the top of a steep block with the front living room pushing out, like the bow of a ship on a wave, over the deep front bush garden below. It was designed in 1923 out the Knitlock wall system Griffin had developed. The centre of the plan was a small garden courtyard that, at the time I knew it, was covered with fly wire and contained a jungle of plants very much as the original plan shows.

My friend’s parents were psychiatrists and the knowledge of this gave the house an even greater level of difference that still intrigues me today.

The first Knitlock house was built by Griffin and his partner Marion Mahony for themselves in Heidelberg in Victoria. It was called ‘Pholiota’ and was 6.4 metres square (see plan above).It comprised little compartments or nooks around a central open space, there were no doors only curtains. As the council would not grant it a permit as a house it was passed as a dolls house.

The Salter house took this original plan, enlarged the nooks into rooms and inserted a garden into the centre of the internal space. It makes me think of ‘Silent Running‘ the Sci Fi movie about a space ship comprising a greenhouse of the earths only remaining plant life. Ironically for my story that movie came out in 1972.

The Salter house does not have and internal courtyard as a ‘lifestyle’ element in the house. It is not a place to hang out in. It captures nature, or does it protect nature? Or display it, Is it like a giant display case? Or is like a lung for the house?