Jonathan Chancellor | 26 November 2012

Walter Burley Griffin's 1922 Salter House, Toorak, sells

Women’s fashion identity Amanda Morgan has sold her Walter Burley Griffin-designed home in Toorak for $1.81 million.

The property at 16a Glyndebourne Avenue, Toorak, is known as Salter house after Stanley Salter, who commissioned the property in 1922. It was featured in The Australian Home Beautiful in 1927.

It went to weekend auction through R T Edgar Boroondara agent Simon Derham who had a $1.7 million reserve. It last traded at $1,082,500 in 2006. It's now a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house with bluestone terraces with heated waterfall saltwater pool on its 642-square-metre block.

Melbourne recorded a clearance rate of 61% compared to 51% for the same time last year – with the REIV chief executive Enzo Raimondo suggesting the continued good results are "helping to build confidence and should provide the foundations of further improvements in the new year".

In Sydney, the city recorded a clearance rate of 59%, compared to 58% last week and 53% last year.

Salter House was being marketed as showing Walter Burley Griffin’s architectural simplicity while incorporating many of his subtle innovations to take advantage of the home’s natural surroundings.

The heart of the project was arguably its internal courtyard, which architecture commentators described as a gesture adapted from his Prairie House experiments 20 years prior.

It comes with his “knitlock” brick method of construction, which has made his commissions known around the world.

Knitlock was patented in 1917, with a company headquartered at Griffin's Melbourne office formed to market it.

Walter Burley Griffin first settled in Sydney, forming a brief partnership with J Burcham Clamp, who had sought out a friendship with the Griffins in Chicago in about 1913.

However, the partnership was dissolved in 1915 when it became necessary for Griffin to move to Melbourne, as the Federal Capital Office, of which he was director, was in Melbourne.

Griffin rented an office on the seventh floor of 395 Collins Street.

His initial plans to build his patented knitlock construction met resistance from Malvern Council, which was slow to be convinced as to the suitability of the material for a home in the wealthy suburb of Toorak.

The council's procrastination delayed construction, so the Griffin Society records reveal instead the Griffins sold the land in Kooyong Road to William R. Paling, who in turn commissioned Griffin to design his two-storey house in knitlock.

The Palings' neighbour was a Toorak property investor who became one of Griffin's best Melbourne clients. Mary Williams commissioned the rental flats Langi at the corner of Toorak and Lansell roads, Toorak.

Griffin's design for Stanley Salter led to designs of knitlock houses for Stanley's brother, Foster Salter in Brighton, and his brother-in-law, Alfred Ewins in Ballarat, although neither was built.

Other knitlock houses were built in Canterbury (1921), Black Rock (1923), Surrey Hills (1923), Heidelberg (1924) and Woodend (1929).

Knitlock was based on cheap manufacture, lightness and compactness for minimising transport, and on standard units assembled without hand fitting, cutting, bedding or plastering for speedy erection.

Much of the renovation was undertaken by Barbara Hocking, who recollected on its listing once that Griffin's original cottage in the mid-196os was terribly dilapidated.

"In those days it was normal to just tear houses like that down," Hocking recollected.

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