To think of Heide is to conjure thoughts of post-war bohemian modernism. A place where mythology and dreams filled an artistic landscape that would endure for decades. John and Sunday Reed acquired the parcel of land in 1934; they named it ‘Heide’ for Heidelberg. They had a strong vision of a real life that would be fulfilled by supporting creativity in others. John and Sunday commissioned young architect David McGlashan to build Heide II in 1963. Everything was a joint activity with John and Sunday.
In function, they envisioned a gallery to be lived in that would be ageless. In form, they desired romance, ruins, and mystery. It was to be a good match, David, John, and Sunday. David was half of the design duo McGlashan Everist, an architectural practice founded in 1955 still exists today in Drummond Street Carlton. The two Directors are John Lee and Geoff Saunders; they have been there for more than thirty years, so a connectedness that bridges the bounds of time remains.
McGlashan says, ‘they tried to design houses without a time scale’. The practice became known for its modular style of building. They are often built on steep, sloping sites. Heide II is unique because it is made from Mount Gambier Limestone. This was chosen because it would weather and age gracefully on the outside and stay light and pristine on the inside. It would provide a neutral background for hanging art.
Heide II was designed to be a physical experience of moving ‘through space’, transitioning from the house site to the art and extending into the garden. McGlashan used techniques of framing to facilitate this experience. He wanted it to look as if it belonged to the landscape, as elegant as a sculpture and as timeless as a ruin.
Construction was complex and took far longer than anticipated. The limestone required precision placement, and the build became fraught with tension as the builder nearly went bankrupt. He had underquoted substantially on the cost of labour during construction. Finally, Heide II was complete. There were no skirtings or plaster traditionally associated with houses of that time. Terrazzo tiles, timber, glass, and leather door pulls had been utilised to maintain a connectedness with nature. It was a modern masterpiece that fulfilled the essence of the brief.
John and Sunday moved into Heide II just after Easter in 1967, having been in the Victorian farmhouse on the property for over thirty years, so this was the beginning of a new era for them at Heide. In 1968 McGlashan Everist won the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Award for a residential building of the year, and John and Sunday resided at Heide II until the winter of 1980.
Life had become challenging for John and Sunday around this time, and they had suffered significant personal losses, but their love for Heide and one another endured. In 1981 Heide II was to begin a new phase of its life as a public art gallery. John and Sunday spent the last year of their forty-seven years at Heide in the Victorian farmhouse and died at Heide ten days apart in December 1981 but never left Heide, their ashes scattered at the base of a scarred red river gum. In 2015 Heidi II received an Enduring Architecture Award, a triumph for modernist architecture.
A literary reflection of my time working at Heide II – 2015
My office, the former guest bedroom, with desk abutting wall, where the bed once did. Perpetual distraction, a tantalising essence of the incorporeal. Those who had lay in this tiny den, three stone walls, no windows. I place my hand on the limestone, little fragments of dust coming away. I go home, and the day comes with me, smudges of lime, little chalky writings adorn my dress. Another pair of heels ruined on the stone steps. Desire and destruction float in equanimity. The air is cool, and the light is thin, this little box I languor in.Nicole Cullinan
For a taste of Bohemian Modernism -Heidi II McGlashan Everist is open 10 am-5 pm Tuesday to Sunday, 7 Templestowe Road Bulleen 3105 – twenty minutes from Melbourne’s CBD.
For more information on Heide MOMA https://www.heide.com.au
For more information on McGlashan Everist https://www.mearchitects.com