Brighton, in Melbourne’s southeast, became an important seaside destination during the Victorian period with people wanting to get away from the ‘big smoke’ of the city. In the mid-20th century, this highly coveted neighbourhood became a place where leading architects were engaged to design fine modernist homes, including architects Robin Boyd, Guilford Bell and Esmond Dorney.

1. McGlashan & Everist

Location: 9 Wolseley Grove, Brighton –circa 1967

McGlashan & Everist left behind a legacy of some of Melbourne’s most significant mid-twentieth century buildings in Melbourne, including Heidi II, now forming part of the museum of Modern Art in Bulleen, for arts patrons John and Sunday Reed. This highly acclaimed practice also designed this Brighton home, a courtyard-style design that was later expanded by architect David Godsell (architect Sean Godsell’s father).

2. Seccull House by architect Guilford Bell

Location: 32 North Road, Brighton –circa 1972 (pictured)

Originally designed for owner and builder Bill Seccull, this home is a Miesien masterpiece. The palatial 500–square-metre single-storey home, set on 2,000 square metres of manicured gardens, includes a series of courtyards cut into the home’s F-shaped plan. This flat-roof house is Bell’s tour-de-force of white stucco, black steel and travertine and was immaculately restored by Dr. Martin Hiscock and architect Graham Fisher, Bell’s younger business partner, a few years ago.

3. Morris & Pirotta

Location 3 Roslyn Street, Brighton –circa 1972

Morris & Pirotta designed some impressive brutalist homes, starting in the late 1960s. These homes are becoming popular again as a younger audience rediscovers their honest charm, including exposed concrete block walls and raked ceilings. Naturalistic-style gardens add to the look. Although not apparent from the street, the Roslyn street house conceals a two-storey rear addition. Described by Age newspaper’s architecture critic at the time, as ‘one of the initial brutalist homes in Melbourne and also one of the most refined’.

4. Malaru Maisonettes –Esmond Dorney

Location: 33-39 Campbell Street, Brighton –circa 1936

Designed by James Henry (JH) Esmond Dorney in 1936, these four two-storey townhouses are a stone’s throw from the beach. They were inspired by the work of eminent architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in particular his ‘Prairie School’ style developed in the early 20th century. This inspiration is not surprising given Dorney worked in the office of Walter Burley Griffin, the latter working initially with Wright. The maisonettes chunky concrete porches, with their fin-like elements, create a strong presence in the street.

5. Abrahams House by Daryl Jackson Architects

Location: 17 Seacombe Grove, Brighton –circa 1979

Sitting on the beach, this unique house designed by architect Daryl Jackson, is framed by a series of large angled timber pergolas that diffuse the afternoon western sunlight. As mentioned by Professor Philip Goad ‘the ground floor plan of living spaces is airy and open but the shading and volume is graded and a complex layering of light and zoning occurs’ (Melbourne Architecture published by Watermark Press - 1999).

Words by Stephen Crafti

Seccull house image from Nicole England


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