Architectural model, Charles R. Cullen House, cork / plastic, designed by Glenn Murcutt, Australia, 1972-74
The Cullen House was built in 1974 at Balmain, a former industrial and workers' suburb now one of Sydney's most expensive and sought-after addresses due to its extensive Harbour frontages, Victorian housing stock and city proximity. As a result new buildings are routinely subject to extreme scrutiny from local authorities and neighbours, a fact which increased Murcutt's challenges in designing for a tight harbourside site.
The result is a reinterpretation of the Victorian terrace house, with living areas on the lower floor and bedrooms above. The house is relatively anonymous from the street and filled with light from a variety of sources. Another result is that the finished house varies in several details from the model.
Charles Pickett, Curator Design and Built Environment.
Designed by Glenn Murcutt
Made by Hugh Williams, architect
Glenn Murcutt (b.1936) was born in London but spent his young childhood in the Morobe district of New Guinea where his father managed a gold mine. His father Arthur Murcutt introduced Glenn to the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and to carpentry and building while building houses for himself and others on Sydney's northern beaches during the 1940s. From 1956 Murcutt studied architecture at the University of New South Wales and worked with several architects including Neville Gruzman. After graduating in 1961 Murcutt travelled for two years, returning in 1964 to work in the office of Ancher, Mortlock, Murray and Woolley.
In 1969 Murcutt established his own practice at Mosman, Sydney. Initially he struggled to find work, producing just three houses during the 1970s as well as numerous renovations and extensions. One of these was the Berowra Waters Inn where from 1976 Murcutt redesigned a 1930s teahouse for young chefs Tony and Gay Bilson; the result was a standout marriage of design and culinary art that confirmed the talents of Murcutt and the Bilsons.
This exploratory phase saw Murcutt establish a mastery of the Miesian style. His prolific second phase was more regional in nature. Using a mixture of pragmatism and lyricism, Murcutt creates simple houses that resemble open verandas. He is admired locally and internationally for creating an identifiably Australian idiom in domestic architecture. In addition Murcutt's domestic focus and small practice contrasts with the corporate character of contemporary architecture although it also restricts the scope and impact of his work. Regardless, Murcutt and his numerous admirers are content with his embodiment of the architect as craftsman and visionary.
Glenn Murcutt's work has won several Australian awards as well as the Alvar Alto Medal (1992) and the Pritzker Prize (2002).
Charles Pickett, Curator Design and built environment.
The Charles Cullen house was built at East Balmain, Sydney, in 1974. It was originally designed with a similar, neighbouring house however after objections from neighbours construction of the other house was delayed and its design was substantially altered by the owner. The Cullen house was purchased in 2001 by Rene Aalhuizen who commissioned Angelos Candalepas to design an addition to the house (with Glenn Murcutt's approval).