1992 Simon was commissioned to design a beachfront house an hour's
drive from Melbourne. He explains how it unfolded:
In 1966 Andrei Tarkovsky made his film 'Andrei Rublev' loosely based
on the life of the fifteenth century icon painter of that name who
became unhappy with his role painting murals in churches. His concern
was that the main purpose of the images seemed to be to intimidate
the people, rather than to celebrate the gospel. The film depicts
an invasion of the city of Vladimir by Tatars, and scenes of a plague
and of the repression of pagans engaged in a ritual. After Rublev
killed an invader who was attacking a simple girl he became so disillusioned
with the world that he decided that he would quit painting, and would
no longer speak. Twelve years later he met a boy who was asked by
the authorities to make a giant bell, as his father who was a bell-maker
had died. The boy, who knew little of bell-making, nonetheless agreed
and embarked on the long and difficult path of rediscovering his father's
methods. When the bell was made, and rang out over the land, Andrei
Rublev was reduced to tears of admiration and renounced his vows,
adopting the boy and beginning again to paint icons.
A year after I saw this film I was approached by Peter and Gabriela
Rose who had bought a vacant block of land at Shoreham with beach
frontage. They had prepared a plan and wanted me to turn it into a
house design.It is hard for an architect to take a two-dimensional
diagram and turn it into something three-dimensional because the usual
process it to conceive of a house in three dimensions. A horizontal
section through this is then called a plan. Nonetheless I did not
want to disregard their request. They wanted to build in stone. I
found this a difficulty because stonework carries such strong connotations,
either relating to ancient buildings or alternatively Modernist works
with plain stone walls. What could an architect do when faced with
all these constraints?
Contemplating stone construction led me to remember the film, which
contains bold images of stone churches and monasteries. I felt that
my clients carried a sense of seriousness that aligned with this beautiful
film. At a practical level, I realised that if I represented scenes
from the film in the stonework and roof forms of the house, I could
use their plan to organise a dream-like sequence of these images.
You have often heard the term 'the film of the book'. Well, this attempts
to be a 'building of the film'!
A short time after the house was completed Peter Rose died of cancer.
In reflecting on the sadness of this, I am reassured to think that
the house is based on a philosophical film of thoughtfulness and depth,
and that these qualities permeate the building.