Statement of Significance
What is significant?
The Brett House including all of the residence (interior and exterior) and 1950s finishes, fixtures and fittings including the crazy-paved porch at the front door. The car port to the rear was added at a later date and is not significant.
How is it significant?
The Brett House is of architectural significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.
Why is it significant?
The Brett House is significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Brett House is architecturally significant as a notable example of a post-war Modernist residence. It is fine and intact and displays a range of characteristics that are typical of the class, including its compact size, restrained design, rectilinear form, connection to the outdoors and highlighting of timber joinery and brickwork in the interior. The Brett House is notable for its distinctive Modernist interpretation of the Georgian Revival home and demonstrates the skilful combination of both influences in the house's design. It was designed by Robin Boyd, one of Australia's most prominent and influential architects and architectural writers. It displays the skilful response of a renowned architect to client requirements for a domestic commission and is a fine example of an architect designed home from the era. It is highly intact, including to the interior which retains much high quality original timber joinery, finishes and other original features. [Criterion D]
BRETT HOUSE - History
Post-war domestic architecture
By the mid-1950s, after a period of post-war austerity, the Victorian economy was recovering and a building boom was underway. This occurred in tandem with cultural developments in a many creative fields. This was influenced by pre- and post-war European immigration and also by Australian born artists, architects, and designers seeking to create a modern Australian identity. In architecture, various forms of modern architecture were being adopted. These experiments were eloquently explored in the design of new private homes. Approaches to domestic living were changing, with a new casualness and positivity expressing itself through open plan living. Design increasingly responded to the Australian landscape and climate, with outdoors and indoors increasingly integrated. Innovative design and construction approaches were being explored by people like Robin Boyd, Roy Grounds, Peter McIntyre, Kevin Borland and Neil Clerehan. Many of these figures published widely and their ideas became both influential and fashionable, achieving a widespread popularity that has left a lasting legacy on Victoria's built environment.
Grounds, Romberg and Boyd
Roy Grounds, Frederick Romberg and Robin Boyd established a joint practice in 1953. They quickly built a reputation as one of the most innovative architectural practices in Australia. Despite establishing the practice in an effort to gain larger commissions, domestic projects formed a substantial proportion of the firm's work. Many of the practice's domestic commissions were fine and creative designs. Larger commissions did follow, and designs for the ETA Factory (VHR H1916), The Black Dolphin Motor Inn in Merimbula and the Australian Academy of Science Building in Canberra were produced. The partnership dissolved in 1962 after the departure of Grounds to work on the Victorian Arts Centre and National Gallery of Victoria. Although the partnership was relatively short lived, it was an influential convergence of three of the era's best architects.
Robin Boyd trained in architecture at Melbourne Technical College and Melbourne University before becoming an assistant to Roy Grounds. He maintained an involvement in architectural interests while serving during World War II. In 1946, Boyd became Director of the Small Homes Service. He founded his own practice in 1947 and began designing a series of innovative family homes, including his own. Between 1953-62 he worked as part of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd, concentrating on the firm's domestic commissions. He published extensively and influentially throughout his professional life and developed a national and international profile. He was a key exponent of progressive modern architecture and design to the Australian context.
The Brett House
Sheila and Alan Brett acquired the newly subdivided site on Buddle Drive in 1954 on their move to Melbourne from Adelaide. The Brett's commissioned Boyd to design the new house for the site. Georgian Revival was a popular style in the suburb, and the Brett's called on Boyd to design them a Modern reinterpretation of Georgian house. The house was constructed by Clissolds of South Melbourne. As it turned out, the Brett family resided in the house for a relatively brief period. In October 1959, the property was offered for sale by auction and purchased bybusinessman Kingsley Allen. In November 1960, the Brett House came up for auction again. The new owners, Mina and Nevill Dixon, carried out minor changes such as replacing the looped chain to the balcony with the current balustrade. The property was purchased by sculptor and writer, Ken Scarlett, and his wife Marian in 1978. They still reside in the property at the time of writing .
Transition, no. 38, special issue on Robin Boyd (1992)
Clerehen, Neil "Robin Boyd", Australian Dictionary of Biography http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/boyd-robin-gerard-9560
Goad, Philip (2009) Melbourne Architecture
Goad, Philip and Willis, Julie (2012) Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture
Hudson, Nicholas and McEwan, Peter (1986) That's Our House: A History of Housing in Victoria
London, Geoffrey et al (2017) 150 An Unfinished Experiment in Living
Built Heritage, Nomination document
BRETT HOUSE - Permit Exemptions
It should be noted that Permit Exemptions can be granted at the time of registration (under s.38 of the Heritage Act). Permit Exemptions can also be applied for and granted after registration (under s.92 of the Heritage Act).
Under s.38 of the Heritage Act 2017 the Executive Director may include in his recommendation categories of works or activities which may be carried out in relation to the place or object without the need for a permit under Part 5 of the Act. The Executive Director must not make a recommendation for any categories of works or activities if he considers that the works or activities may harm the cultural heritage significance of the place or object. The following permit exemptions are not considered to cause harm to the cultural heritage significance of the Brett House.
General Condition 1
All exempted alterations are to be planned and carried out in a manner which prevents damage to the fabric of the registered place or object.
General Condition 2
Should it become apparent during further inspection or the carrying out of works that original or previously hidden or inaccessible details of the place or object are revealed which relate to the significance of the place or object, then the exemption covering such works shall cease and Heritage Victoria shall be notified as soon as possible.
General Condition 3
All works should ideally be informed by a Conservation Management Plan prepared for the place. The Executive Director is not bound by any Conservation Management Plan, and permits still must be obtained for works suggested in any Conservation Management Plan.
General Condition 4
Nothing in this determination prevents the Heritage Council from amending or rescinding all or any of the permit exemptions.
General Condition 5
Nothing in this determination exempts owners or their agents from the responsibility to seek relevant planning or building permits from the relevant responsible authority, where applicable.
Specific Permit Exemptions
- Minor patching, repair and maintenance which replaces like with like without large-scale removal of or damage to the existing fabric or the large-scale introduction of new materials. Repairs must maximise protection and retention of fabric and include the conservation of existing details or elements. Any new materials used for repair must not exacerbate the decay of existing fabric due to chemical incompatibility obscure existing fabric or limit access to existing fabric for future maintenance.
- Repairs and maintenance to heating and air conditioning services.
- Emergency building stabilisation (including propping) necessary to secure safety where a site feature has been irreparably damaged or destabilised and represents a safety risk.
- Removal of extraneous items such as pipe work, wiring, antennae and aerials.
- Localised repairs to roof to prevent ingress of water.
- Painting of previously painted surfaces provided that preparation or painting does not remove all evidence of the original paint.
- Painting of previously painted walls and ceilings provided that preparation or painting does not remove evidence of all original paint schemes (no currently unpainted surfaces are to be painted).
- Installation, removal or replacement of non-original floor coverings.
- Installation, removal or replacement of non-original curtains and other window furnishings.
- Installation, removal or replacement of devices for hanging artworks and the like.
- Works to maintain or refurbish existing bathrooms, including installing new appliances, retiling and the like.
- Installation, removal or replacement of electrical wiring provided that all new wiring is fully concealed and any original light switches or power outlets are retained in-situ.
- Removal of stairlift and making good.
All works specified for the Residence, plus:
- All works to the interior.
- The processes of gardening, including mowing, pruning, disease and weed control, maintenance to care for existing plants and planting of new plants.
- Subsurface works involving the installation, removal or replacement of watering and drainage systems or services.
- Works and activities associated with the management of possums and vermin.
- Maintenance and care of trees and removal or pruning of dead or dangerous trees to maintain safety.
- Maintenance and repair of existing paving and other hard landscaping elements, like for like.
- Maintenance and repair of existing fences and gates.
BRETT HOUSE - Permit Exemption Policy
The purpose of the Permit Policy is to assist when considering or making decisions regarding works to a registered place. It is recommended that any proposed works be discussed with an officer of Heritage Victoria prior to making a permit application. Discussing proposed works will assist in answering questions the owner may have and aid any decisions regarding works to the place.
The extent of registration of the Brett House in the VHR affects the whole place shown on Diagram 2396 including the land and buildings (exteriors and interiors). Under the Heritage Act 2017 a person must not remove or demolish, damage or despoil, develop or alter or excavate, relocate or disturb the position of any part of a registered place or object without approval. It is acknowledged, however, that alterations and other works may be required to keep places and objects in good repair and adapt them for use into the future.
If a person wishes to undertake works or activities in relation to a registered place or registered object, they must apply to the Executive Director, Heritage Victoria for a permit. The purpose of a permit is to enable appropriate change to a place and to effectively manage adverse impacts on the cultural heritage significance of a place as a consequence of change. If an owner is uncertain whether a heritage permit is required, it is recommended that Heritage Victoria be contacted.
Permits are required for anything which alters the place, unless a permit exemption is granted. Permit exemptions usually cover routine maintenance and upkeep issues faced by owners as well as minor works or works to the elements of the place. They may include appropriate works that are specified in a conservation management plan. Permit exemptions can be granted at the time of registration (under s.38 of the Heritage Act) or after registration (under s.92 of the Heritage Act). It should be noted that the addition of new buildings to the registered place, as well as alterations to the interior and exterior of existing buildings requires a permit, unless a specific permit exemption is granted.
Conservation management plans
It is recommended that a Conservation Management Plan is developed to manage the place in a manner which respects its cultural heritage significance.
Aboriginal cultural heritage
If any Aboriginal cultural heritage is discovered or exposed at any time it is necessary to immediately contact Aboriginal Victoria to ascertain requirements under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.
Please be aware that approval from other authorities (such as local government) may be required to undertake works.
Any works that may affect historical archaeological features, deposits or artefacts at the place is likely to require a permit, permit exemption or consent. Advice should be sought from the Archaeology Team at Heritage Victoria.
Cultural heritage significance
Overview of significance
The cultural heritage significance of the Brett House lies in the residence (interior and exterior) and its finishes, fittings and fixtures which remain intact from the era of its construction including the crazy-paved porch at the front door. The garden has evolved in the decades since the residence's construction and although it is sympathetic is not significant. The car port was added at a later date and is not significant.