alistair knox : an integrated approach to landscape + architecture, appendix four ; projects table

appendix four ; projects table

Author: Clair Lee

  1. 'If the alternative society is to arrive in Australia, it will be done by flesh-and-blood people ranging from school teachers to bank managers, potters to porters who are prepared to buck the system'
    Knox, Alternative Housing,p 80

Knox provides detailed descriptions of many of his projects throughout his writings. This tabulation aims to extract the key features of the projects referred to in the texts. Quotes from the texts are identified by italics, the colour referring to the book concerned, with page numbers provided in the right hand column. Blank cells indicate that no relevant information was provided in the books.

CLIENT/SBALL William Macmahon and Katrina
BUILDING MATERIALSmudbrick & timber
PLANNINGpleasant simple construction31
OTHERearth mixing all done by hand

SITE CHARACTERISTICS3 acre site sloping to west
BUILDING MATERIALSMudbrick infill walls; recycled 12inch sq red ironbark adzed columns supported roof where living room joined the bedroom gallery wing; ribbed iron roofing with gentle sweeping curves, 15,000 sandstock bricks; several solid timber walls 67
PLANNINGEastern bedroom wing on highest level, entry galley accessed bedrooms & main courtyard room (36 X 24 ft x 16 ft high) minstrel gallery cantilevered out 6 ft above main floor level & 6ft below ceiling level eg of fluid planning-gallery decided on when chimney being built entered by the tiniest circular stair - drama of entering laroe space from small one65
BUILDING ELEMENTSpattern of clerestories allowed outside views & vertical dimensions within; secondhand square slate flooring large chimney for fireplace at southern end - northern courtyard with series of verandahs that opened onto different levels65
OTHERThe Barden house is one of those buildings which seemed to improve the land itself, which is a rare feat.68

SITE CHARACTERISTICSSteep & rocky, slope & valley it overlooked determined a severe, almost vertical excavation, bottom of which was shaped to look like a narrow moat60
BUILDING MATERIALSMudbrick, large timber posts ceiling lined with timber
PLANNINGNorman fortress as inspiration, with moat & portcullis connected to fixed drawbridge. Once inside the building, you would stand on a platform about five feet above the floor that would provide an exciting view of the house and the valley beyond .... & looked down onto the tops of the trees.60
BUILDING ELEMENTSlarge curved chimney, curving walls, roof led eye upwards to 2 balconies at first floor level, narrow arrow slit windows in curved wall, stairway was let into the mud walls & followed their sweeping curve, 3 fireplaces60
OTHERthe whole structure appeared timeless and powerful from the gravel track that led down to the land. Its massive walls, criss-crossed by squiggly shadows cast by the young eucalypts, created an aura of medieval power and pageantry. Inside the building this feeling persisted ... The internal shape had the character of a living organism.61

LOCATIONEaglemont, on subdivision designed by Walter Burley Griffin
SITE CHARACTERISTICSa few large river red gums standing here and there12
BUILDING MATERIALSrandom stonework
PLANNINGceiling followed roof pitch
BUILDING ELEMENTSfireplace, flaoqed terraces verandahs
OTHERKnox recruited building labour from coffee lounge gatherlnqs at Risties (predominantly artists) When he visited it years later, Knox commented on its successful 'Integration with the landscape:14
copied Griffin's door method as a temporary measure

SITE CHARACTERISTICSDifficult, steep sloping site, size of 5 standard bush blocks, retaining original landscape character excavated for house
BUILDING MATERIALSMudbrick; timbered ceilings & heavy beams; bitumen & creek gravel roofing
PLANNINGLarge house (in excess of 1200 sq ft) plan split along middle as a result of steepness of site; enter house from intermediate level ; 2 large main rooms, living room & kitchen downstairs, studio & bedroom upstairs possible to walk out of the studio bedroom onto the roof The house was welded into the hillside so that every room had access to the outside at ground level, in addition to the studio balcony over the livingroom.24
BUILDING ELEMENTSUpstairs balcony, Doors to outside in every room, thick earth walls giving sense of security; fireplace alcove24
OTHERcrawler tractor used for earth moving a positive alternative to architectural thinking ... It explored the flexible nature of earth to develop a new sense of flowing form and shape truly a building where every practical and experimental technique was tried or used49

LOCATIONEltham hilltop, a mile north of lookout
SITE CHARACTERISTICSthe ultimate in antediluvian mystery - bushland dominated by great strands of Eucalyptus sideroxytin - grey leaves and black trunks of plaited bark70
MATERIALSRed gum posts
PLANNINGBuilding located near the top of hill, facing east - it looked like a large eagle poised to take flight
BUILDING ELEMENTSroof 'wings' sloped out & down ... supported on their extremities by large red gum posts leaning at an angle of about 20 degrees from the vertical70
OTHERClient's brief to Knox was to design me a true house.70

LOCATIONEltham, on 15 acres of land
SITE CHARACTERISTICSSquarish site overgrown with blackberries, sloping gently to the south with beautiful natural bushland around the perimeters132
BUILDING MATERIALSMudbrick, secondhand bricks, and recycled Baltic pine flooring used to line ceiling & panel cupboards
PLANNINGOpen plan 5,000 sq ft house designed by Knox, built by his 19yr old son Hamish and his friends. You could feel the development in the builders as they worked together and they saw the structure becoming a reality.134
BUILDING ELEMENTSwith large central brick fireplace, large adzed posts with iron brackets, furniture & window frames also made by the builders
OTHER had to produce a result at about two-thirds the standard price of such a building when built by the proper professional methods . ... in the end there was a vibrance about the building tradesmen's procedures133

SITE CHARACTERISTICSAcre of land on site of a demolished house
BUILDING MATERIALSMudbrick & timber construction, recycled floorboards & 12 x 12 ft oreqon timber beams from the original house
PLANNINGWhen we discussed planning it emerged that Lynn's instinctive ideas were in the mud brick vernacular, but Camberwell was an area where brick buildings predominated109
BUILDING ELEMENTSdesigned & constructed a series of simple, but elegant metal brackets to bolt into all the vertical & horizontal members ... to create a timber skeleton ... similar to a steel framed building ... The infills were to be of glass and mud ... Courtyard with timber pergola full height windows109
OTHERMudbrick proposal presented to the Camberwell Council. Knox crush-tested bricks, did computations, took building authorities to visit other projects and council issued a permit. Clients later purchased land on the Mornington Peninsula. Such is the power of environmental building ... even in the suburbs. It can change our whole way of looking at life.110

CLIENT/SDISKIN, Aviva & Bernie
SITE CHARACTERISTICSStables, which later became residence situated in a beautiful clump of candlebarks103
BUILDING MATERIALSReclaimed 10x10in Jarrah posts; Iron roof curved; Ceiling lined with water-stained lining boards, external walls timber panels with 1in vertical timber battens
PLANNINGOpen Plan : Interior (upper & lower floors) unsubdivided, except for bathroom
BUILDING ELEMENTSEnormous fireplace, large & high verandahs timber walls
OTHERKnox describes this as a simple bush landscape building. The house took them over. They entered a new life, a new life role and a new life style ... The transformation that took place in their thinking and doing was exciting.103

BUILDING MATERIALSmudbrick; timber, roof covering was bitumen and creek gravel
PLANNINGsimple; 700sq ft; large living area
BUILDING ELEMENTSskillion roof; 3' x 3' mud brick piers; 5 yellow box tree trunks for main beams; 6"x 1' rough sawn hardwood ceilings
OTHERWritten up by Robin Boyd in The Age as 'a new vision for the new age' 26

YEARbuilt in 4 stages from 1948-1964
SITE CHARACTERISTICSdeep excavation (about 45 degrees) dug by hand, cut in steps of about one foot by one foot
BUILDING MATERIALSMudbrick, concrete plinth on top of each wall, 'primitive' internal wall linings of millsawn hardwood panels
PLANNING1st wing a simple rectangle the whole of the interior of the house could be comprehended at one time 2nd wing 5 sided, split level ground level which was used as a study, 2 bedrooms above springing back into the hillside Access was gained to a courtyard complete with its own creek & bog garden by passing under the upper floor level where it joined the excavated hillside.42
BUILDING ELEMENTSConcrete plinth on top of mudbrick walls with system of rafters set into the concrete beams to form scissor trusses - ceiling ridge appeared unsupported Knox had seen this done 1n old Ma/don church) Clerestory windows at each gable end looking out on the marvellous landscape, courtyard divisions (7foot walls) not full height landscape elements come up right up to the doors of the house landscape designed by Ellis Stones, with labour by Gordon Ford42
OTHERKnox would sit on the terrace with his clients where they would contemplate the wistful beauty of the landscape.44

LOCATIONMurphy's Creek, near Tarnagulla Vic.
SITE CHARACTERISTICSLarge house on slightly undulating landscape
BUILDING MATERIALSConcrete slab, iron bark poles from local trees, mudbrick infill walls
PLANNINGpositioning of kitchen sink to view passing_ traffic
OTHERKnox described the effect the house had on the owners and the team of inexperienced workers who all discovered a new relationship with each other & with the landscape ... human ecology in action109

CLIENT/S HUGGETT, Peter & Marion
YEAR c.1975
LOCATION Eltham, on old orchard site
SITE CHARACTERISTICS The house commands views of the Yarra Valley and the Dandenongs and glimpses of the Warburton and Healesville Ranges. It also looks back to the high rise buildings of the city ... 138
BUILDING MATERIALS Earth walls rendered with powdered milk mixed into topsoil, secondhand timber, brick flooring and outdoor paving

CLIENT/S HOLMES, Mr. and Mrs. Jack
YEAR 1948
LOCATION Batman Road, north of Eltham township
SITE CHARACTERISTICS Home set among spindly box trees & clay soil; excavated - excavation shape made lowest where the surrounding natural ground was highest, so that water ran away from the building in every direction 38
BUILDING MATERIALS Mudbrick, bitumen & creek gravel roof
PLANNING plan was an expanding circle or spiral which started from a seat built around a tree in the garden .. .looked exactly like a periwinkle shell lying on its side. On 2 levels. 37
BUILDING ELEMENTS Curved walls, concrete slab (3 "inch thick to cut costs - Wriqht's were 6 ")
OTHER Reviewed in in architectural journals & mentioned in Robin Boyd's book 'Australia's Home; attracted a lot of attention CSIRO visited & were impressed with simplicity of the foundation method Knox claims Eltham produced the slab floor system 38

PLANNING Designed by Knox, built by Hamish Knox & Eddie Gray. 1100 sq ft one of the simplest and best homes that could be conceived of 138
BUILDING ELEMENTS Roof ridge supported by 2 x 12-sided adzed electric light poles; 8ft wide verandahs on two sides, with large timber supporting posts, large fireplace at one end of living area, clerestory lighting; simple pitched roof follows line of surrounding hills
OTHER today I prefer simple, low-cost work because it makes interesting housing possible to a group who otherwise could not have it ... Good relations spring up all around and the sense of team work sets in 138

SITE CHARACTERISTICS Knox helped him choose land : We found some satisfactory land on an Eltham hillside, looking down a valley ... 23
BUILDING MATERIALS Mudbrick; 6 messmate trees measuring 2ft, 4inches in diameter at the butt with bark stripped off form the hardwood rafters from Gippsland forest, some recycled dock timbers; iron brackets anchoring rafters to posts standing like Greek columns in the centre of the great living room, welded by Knox's 14 yr old son Alistair 25
BUILDING ELEMENTS really big freshly logged timber columns as basis for the design 24
OTHER All was done by trust and understanding ..... all united with a common zeal .. no contract with builders client discovering the thrill of natural building 24

CLIENT/S KNOX Alistair & Margot
SITE CHARACTERISTICS on partly-cleared, comparatively unspoiled bushland; large excavation, shaped & filled to appear as a piece of nature. House sited half on excavated ground & half on filled.52


Used what he had at hand as was broke at the time concrete footings, mudbrick walls, brick & stone paving laid directly on to the ground, solid timber, secondhand building materials for window frames, recycled timber for other joinery; timber ceilings; recycled bluestone as gutter termination on excavation side
PLANNING very simple plan - dispensing with rooms to become a series of flowing spaces ... covered internal central courtyard (36 x 24 ft) surrounded by a peripheral band of large informal zones for sleeping and living. Courtyard ceiling raised 3 ft above rest of building with clerestory windows around it & large openings to external areas 53
BUILDING ELEMENTS series of 2ft x 2ft mud brick piers occurring at modular intervals around the entire outside wall line of the building & 3-tiered horizontal roofline consisting of pergola & verandah level spreading out all round, tying the building back into the bush to give the sense of indivisibility .... relationship to Aust. landscape of horizontal plane ∓ vertical rhythm Bullock hide splits sewn together to form curtains clerestory windows; central courtyard, folding concertina door to partition space; openings to outdoors from each area 12ft wide pergola surrounding whole building slate paving; corner fireplace 64
OTHERemployed non-professional builders Knox described his 'house landscape 'as an integrated series of simple plantings & land shapes' 59

LOCATION Strathfieldsaye Shire, Bendiqo
SITE CHARACTERISTICS 5 acres of untouched antediluvian wilderness Knox sited the dam so it could be seen from the house through native grevilleas. He devised a system of miniature damlets around the house and pergola site ... with consideration given to retaining reflective qualities of the water by keeping water black through planting grasses on excavation. Aim was to provide owners with a meditative place. 104
BUILDING MATERIALS 4 main creeper rafters, pitch of pergola rafters conforming with the surrounding landscape as they extend ever outwards. Designed to be added to as required : The building and its environs could then extend up to a distance of a 100 feet or more 106
PLANNING House square in shape (40 x 50 ft.) with 2 bedrooms. Knox based the design on the water garden principle that he claimed demands a different sort of shelter to go with it- a sense of eternity. House designed to be capable of extending out in any and every direction beyond the original roof line via 24 x 24 ft modules of pergola posts. Future bedrooms could be either be attached to existing building or located as separate wings across an intervening courtyard.105
BUILDING ELEMENTS Pergola posts and overhead connecting members, which would pass through and around tree clumps and over the water garden. New sections of roofing could be laid over such extensions in the spaces between the trees and water anywhere. Pergolas planted with grapevines to give shelter in summer and light in winter. Space within pergola posts seen as an indoor space which could be planted with grass - an 'indoor' ground cover ... Its size could be twenty- four by twenty-four feet and its containment related to the posts of the pergolas and the beams they support Clerestory windows 106
OTHER Such a structure would unite the house and the land into an indestructible whole. Additive design philosophy 106

LOCATION Mt Martha, beach house
SITE CHARACTERISTICS Major trees on ½ acre allotment which they wanted to retain
BUILDING MATERIALS Solid timber, sapling verandah posts, mud brick PLANNING open layout with a system of sliding doors ... whole fitted into the existing tree growth ... some of the trees came through the verandah floors and ceilings. 98
BUILDING ELEMENTSverandah 12 inches above ground level, fireplace, sliding doors· timber stained using water stains to relate to location

YEAR 1973
LOCATION Murrumbidgee area, 5 miles from Canberra ... about a million miles in spirit 88
SITE CHARACTERISTICS round shape house as a response to rounded landforms of the area
PLANNING Relatively independent rooms, on varying levels - designed
BUILDING ELEMENTS No roof overhangs, verandahs at a lower level. Insulation qualities of roof material - rain water would run from one level to another like a waterfall 89
OTHER Client was an ardent admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright & had seen many of his buildings. Said Knox was the only person who could design a house for him. 87

LOCATIONEltham area
SITE CHARACTERISTICSDifficult desperate site to build on : steeply sloping land with a superb view to the south ... hard to conceive of a suitable building for it ... to provide a good northern aspect (which the climate demands) It was obvious a new concept was required to do the house and landscape justice20
BUILDING MATERIALSSquared Posts - 18inch adzed recycled King Billy pine - very old & rare timber; Roof timbers recycled - from wrecked cinema & Melb dock
PLANNINGradical excavation ($4,000) - cutting a large plateau out of the solid stone base ... and design a building that curved outwards to the southern aspect to form a concave arc to the north. This would produce a sheltered & generous oval- shaped courtyard for winter living. Stone wall- gave promise of providing a natural waterfall sixteen feet high, with a native bush gully garden below at the house level,
OTHERResponsiveness to site : Knox decided to sit on the land and listen to it and see what it was saying.18

LOCATIONCobungra - a dramatic landscape - cattle station between Omeo & Mt. Hotham, covering some 130,000 acres in some of the highest land in Victoria87
87 SITE CHARACTERISTICSKnox selected the site for the building, with a commanding view & proximity to air strip & other buildings, & water
BUILDING MATERIALSRecycled bridge timbers, ceiling timber lined, slate paving
PLANNINGsimilar to Knox house; specifically planning for warmth, sunshine temperature control
BUILDING ELEMENTSCentral courtyard room 24 x 36ft, high ceiling, low pitched roof for snow; 2 fireplaces at diagonal angles, exposed rafters; clerestory windows all around, periphery surrounded b by rooms & wide, extending verandahs around the house extensions of the roofline External wall openings - nearly all floor to ceiling, 6 ft wide (planned to have wooden shutters, but not necessary due to earth walls, slab floor & insulated ceiling)

LOCATIONSt. Andrews overlooking Kinqlake range
BUILDING MATERIALSSeries of adzed posts set into the 12 ft modules (square red gum & reclaimed electric light poles, tallest 23+1t) Brick floor directly laid on ground, earth walls
PLANNINGDesigned in square modules to be built in stages, with courtyards (cruciform in shape).
BUILDING ELEMENTSSeries of draped roofs, adzed posts
OTHERJohn's mighty posts & timbers responding to landscape of ironbarks - sense of eternity within the eternal landscape82

LOCATIONEltham, Knox chose land ∓ designed house
SITE CHARACTERISTICSimpossible sloping site, rose very steeply to middle of its tencth then steeply away to other side
106 BUILDING MATERIALSFrame of electric light poles, with mud brick infills like Serle house· 2nd hand slate flooring sourced by client
PLANNINGBuilding c.20ft in height, designed to straddle highest point of land
BUILDING ELEMENTScurved & sweeping iron roof, clerestory windows, changes in levels106
OTHERWain house a catalyst for a series of 'do-it-yourself 'style houses in Eltham. We design the buildings and supervise them. Owners paid sub-contractors, organised finance & found interesting recycled materials.108

LOCATIONCottles Bridqe
SITE CHARACTERISTICShouse on 40 acres of land
BUILDING MATERIALSalmost exclusively constructed of mudbrick & second-hand materials : main beams were 8 sided 30 foot electric light poles, adzed red gum beams, 2nd hand timber ceiling lining, hand made brick paving, solid timber partition walls, recycled bluestone used as wing walls which support the roof and pergolas and create alcoves of interest and tie the building back into that landscape with its survival conscious growth/ shapes, soil & stones129
PLANNINGOpen plan; clients requested a 'primitive' design
BUILDING ELEMENTSclerestory lighting; main beams extend beyond walls of house to form into pergolas & court yards128
OTHERThe large floors of the living areas have the mood of the dying rays of a Central Australian sunset full of mauve-brown and red-gold. By the light of the fire they come alive.128

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