Designing a Legacy
A live presentation of short films by comedian and modernism geek, Tim Ross.
Comedian and modernism geek, Tim Ross, delves into the heart of some rare architect-designed houses through a live presentation of original short films, offering a delicate insight into the stories and memories linked to these homes.
There is no lofty architectural discourse and there are no grand designs in this film night. Far from it. Thank God. Building on his popular ABC TV series Streets of Your
Town, Tim Ross’s latest show is a live presentation of short films that delve into the living histories of a handful of vintage homes designed by architects. Each film includes archival footage, unpublished photography and conversations with the people who have lived there about what it was like, and what it means to them.
The houses aren’t monuments to ego, but to ingenuity, passion and perseverance – love stories from long ago. On stage, Tim interweaves the various stories with trademark witty anecdotes, personal asides and obscure details that help ground the houses not just to their place, but also to their time.
You’ll hear, for instance, how, in the early 1970s Wrest Point Hotel Casino in Hobart saved Tasmania’s economy after Britain stopped buying the island’s apples, and how its (Melbourne) architect Roy Grounds caused a scandal (and two divorces) by falling in love with his client on a house at Ranelagh Beach in Victoria. Their daughter Victoria Grounds (also an architect) recalls to Ross summers spent in the idyllic 1937 weekender – the family’s happiest times together.
In another of the films, 91-year-old Bill Lyons reads to camera his letter from five decades ago to architect Robin Boyd, to whom he wrote: “I am seeking an architect who will attempt to find an answer to my definition of how I wish to live.” The Lyons House in Sutherland Shire was Boyd’s only Sydney commission, and Bill candidly shares his concerns about its future.
His dilemma is the central tenet in Designing a Legacy. To paraphrase Ross, letting go of any family home is hard enough, but imagine if it’s an architectural gem. Could you let it go? How could you uphold that legacy?
The films were previewed in February at Australia’s most famous house of all – the Sydney Opera House, giving larrikin Ross license to frame architecture and its legacy as not only personal, but also political.
“This is the one building in Australia that most expresses our modernity and tells the world ‘we are a progressive people, even if our leaders are not.’”
Designing a Legacy is beautifully filmed by Streets of Your Town cinematographer Rod Pollard, and directed by Andrew Garrick. It isn’t the definitive list of Australian architectural masterpieces. It doesn’t need to be. It’s a thoughtfully crafted collection of stories offering delicate insight into how architecture and memories bind us to a place. Not through our heads, but through our hearts. themanaboutthehouse.net
Designing a Legacy premiers in March at Melbourne Design Week 2020, before touring nationally.