Architectural model, Ockens House, balsa wood / metal / plastic / paper, designed by Glenn Murcutt, Australia, 1977-78
The Ockens house was built at Cromer at Sydney's northern beaches, close to where Glenn Murcutt lived after his family moved to Sydney following the Japanese invasion of New Guinea in 1942. The sloping site has views over Narrabeen Lakes but is part of a suburban street of houses.
To some extent this design is a reposte to occasional criticism of the non-urban (or non-suburban) location and character of much of Murcutt's work. Due to the proximity of other houses and local building regulations, the house is opaque on two sides, its brick envelope broken by a two-level glazed entrance and loggia facing the road. Internally the house has sleeping and living spaces on either side of a central top-lit atrium and a lushly-planted courtyard. Skylights also contribute light to the split-level interior, an open space which belies the hermetic external appearance of the house.
Charles Pickett, Curator, Design and Built Environment.
Designed by Glenn Murcutt
Made by Glenn Murcutt
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 whille building houses for his family and others at 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 proclaimed 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.