Simon took on the job of designing a new Manse for the Uniting Church
in Richmond in Melbourne he was confronted with a thick printed document
setting out all the ways in which the building had to comply with
goals for environmental sustainability. But this was not a problem
because the guidelines fitted with his usual way of designing.
As a two-storey house was needed, the problem arose of how to get
thermal mass at the upper level without the expense of a suspended
concrete slab. Having completed a rammed earth house at Strath Creek,
Simon saw no reason not to use this material for the internal walls.
It would certainly be a first for this inner-suburban neighbourhood!
parish was host to a large Fijian community which raised the possibility
that the architecture could reflect this. On the other hand any direct
reference to Fijian architecture would have been unconvincing. The
problem was solved by a design which makes reference to the kind of
hand-shaped objects produced by all traditional cultures which have
not become industrialised. The east fašade has two windows which can
be read as lotus flowers or bishop's hats, while the whole fašade
looks like a giant shrunken head. The brick patterns of the north
and south walls are similar to patterns found in weaving.
glass in the front door is shaped like a vesica pisces, and ancient
fertility symbol appropriated by the early Christian church. The heavy
timbers of the pergola allude to the devices used by the Romans to
keep troublemakers out of circulation. The colour scheme is based
on a painting 'The Nativity' by Gaughin which locates its topic in
the 'paradise' of Tahiti where he lived.
are many questions raised in considering the role of Western nations
in intervening in traditional island societies. This house does not
answer them, but is an attempt to move a step closer to attributing
value evenly between the cultures of coloniser and colonised, and
has been well-received by the parishioners.