House at Evans Crescent, Griffith. evans-crescent-feature

Evans Crescent Precinct, Griffith

The Evans Crescent Housing precinct in Griffith was designed by husband and wife architects Malcolm Moir and Heather Sutherland in 1939 and 1940. The houses are an example of the inter-war functionalist style with their asymmetrical cubic massing, roofs concealed by parapets, metal framed corner and ribbon windows and cantilevered balconies and hoods.

The houses in the precinct are among the first truly modern designs in Canberra and represent a major architectural urban form designed by the same architects in the same style over a two year period.

Significance

The Evans Crescent Housing precinct, Griffith, is listed on the ACT Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture. The precinct is regarded by the RAIA as an excellent example of the inter-war functionalist style and the only example in Canberra of a coherent group of residences in this style. Malcolm Moir is recognised as one of Canberra’s leading architects of the middle period of the twentieth century.

Three of the houses are particularly important, since they retain their original character: numbers 7, 11 and 15. These display clearly the different types of massing and the growth in the confidence of the architects as the consecutive designs unfolded: the first (number 15) has a conservative tiled roof over the living area while later designs (numbers 11 and 7) have flat roofs concealed by parapets.

Description of the precinct

The precinct consists of numbers 7, 9, 11, 15 and 17 Evans Crescent. Number 13 Evans Crescent is not included. Designed by Kenneth Oliphant in 1939 in the same functionalist style as his house at 24 Arthur Circle, the house was extensively altered in 1978 with a cape cod style extension. Its placement in the centre of the precinct detracts from but does not destroy the urban form of the group. The siting of the houses on a curved, sloping street is a significant aspect of the precinct. It allowed the architects to exploit both the three dimensional expression of the inter-war functionalist style and the relationship between the levels, utilised by split level planning.

Number 15

Number 15 Evans Crescent was the first residence designed and is a generous split-level two bedroom plan with extensive glazing. The living areas have a pitched, tiled roof. Entry is at the middle level, which contains the living, dining, kitchen, study and sun rooms laid out in a rectangular plan. With the exception of the kitchen, all these rooms have full height glazing. The upper level is located over the garage and consists of two bedrooms and a bathroom while the garage, laundry and storage area are located on the lower level. Corner windows are used extensively.

Number 11

Number 11 Evans Crescent was the second house designed in the precinct. It is a tri-level house with a large porch at each level. The roofs are all low pitched with parapet walls and the entry is centrally located on the ground level and opens into a wide hall with a low ceiling. The living room is separated from the entry by a fireplace, with the living room and kitchen set three steps down to the north of the house.

A bedroom is located to the south at the mid upper level off the main stair landing, while the top level has a large bedroom, a lounge room with a study opening off it and a bathroom. The lounge has a large corner window (the only one in the house) and a glazed double door opens out from the study onto the large terrace above the garage and entry, which is surrounded by horizontal pipe railing.

The house was built by the well known local builder J C Tobler (1903-1989), and it has remained in the family. The Swiss born Tobler arrived in Canberra in 1927, establishing a furniture, joinery and building business. He was involved in many early Canberra construction projects and was building supervisor for the construction of the US Embassy in 1943. Tobler was also an enthusiastic amateur photographer. An exhibition of his work was held at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery from 5 February-26 March 2000.

Number 7

Number 7 Evans Crescent is a split level four bedroom house with a plan that turns about the entry axis to address the curve in Evans Crescent. The entry porch is covered by a thin concrete roof slab, partially supported by a steel column. Entry is on the lower level through a hall with an angled and curved wall directing the visitors to the upper living level. The living room faces north and has a central fireplace, with the dining room to south, forming an L shaped plan. The kitchen is off the dining room.

The lower level to the east has four bedrooms, a sun room and a bathroom. The lower level has three corner windows. The street facade of the house is mostly original. The rear has been altered with the addition of a bedroom and bathroom in the mid 1950s.

Number 9

Number 9 Evans Crescent was originally a five bedroom residence, with two bedrooms located at the rear of the ground level and three to the rear upper level. The house was set out in a T form, with the top of the T across the rear. The entry was centrally located on the south side with the living room facing the street. Interesting features included an internal curved stair expressed as a two storey curved wall at the south rear corner of the house, tall brick chimneys and a long porch off the living and dining rooms to the north.

The house was extended to the south in the early 1980s, with the addition extending past the original front. A number of unsympathetic features have also been added to the street facade.

Number 17

Number 17 Evans Crescent has been extensively altered with extensions in 1965, 1971 and 1973. The front elevation has been altered with the addition of an upper level and a number of unsympathetic features have been added which further compromise the front facade. Although the modifications have substantially affected the character of the house it can still be seen that it was once an inter-war functionalist design, like the other houses in the group.

Sources and further reading