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The Gryphon House Extension ELWOOD

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What is the relationship between old and new in architecture? In this extension to an old Edwardian house in the beachside suburb of Elwood, the owners' desire that their house appeal to all ages by acknowledging the enjoyment of myth and fantasy set the scene for an extension which would be sharply in contrast with the conventional language of the past. The idea of a large bird-like head appearing over the roof came directly from the world of dreams - in the form of a sketch done by Simon after waking in the middle of the night. Here the powerful sub-conscious processes of synthesis enabled an unusually potent design concept, which not only appealed to the owners, but prompted a further step in the development of the idea - to identify the sketch as a 'gryphon' and to add a tail for a chimney.

Then followed a long process of reconciliation to incorporate all the rooms, to allow sun in in winter, to locate solar collectors for hot water and electricity, to conceal water storage tanks and a grey water system, and to shape an abstract representation of a winged creature which integrates visually with the existing roof and house form. For those who live in the house there are endless surprises as the days pass and the seasons change, while passers-by of all ages are amazed by its startling shape. On one occasion a mother was seen being pulled to a halt by her gesticulating two-year-old, who wanted to stay and contemplate the large eyes and pointed beak. It is exciting to see that architecture can be appreciated by even the very young!

The Gryphon house sits well in Elwood, only a few streets from the alternative culture and colourful seaside history of St.Kilda, which seem to give permission for a kind of architecture which reflects the playful child within each of us, and our desire for mystery and drama in a world which has become too uniform and constrained. 


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