Sam Newman House
Sam Newman House, 2002
Bob Hart broke the news in the Herald - Sun on 7 June 2000, that ‘Footy funster’ Sam Newman was building a house with a facade entirely of a ‘9m by 8m’ mural of patterned glass designed by architect Cassandra Fahey, which may, or may not, feature an image of Baywatch siren Pamela Anderson... ‘The Pamela Anderson thing has been blown out of all proportion’, Newman said, ‘For which I blame her plastic surgeon, but never mind’.
The black plastic sheets were removed 17 days later. Builder, Wes Alfreson said, ’(the)... sneak preview was a mistake... It shouldn’t have been uncovered’. Mr Newman also made the mistake of building opposite former Royal Australian Planning Institute chair, Bernadette George. Port Phillip Council was alerted that the planning permit was incorrect. Journalist, Alan Attwood quipped: ‘Mother Teresa would have struggled to get a planning permit. To imagine otherwise shows more front than Ms. Anderson’.
However, Newman duly complied with the
Council’s request and lodged a corrected permit application. But a next door
neighbour appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal against
its issue. Meanwhile the press revelled in a deluge of double and even
triple Sam/Pam entendres. The Herald Sun noted that
Dr Gerald Vaughan, director of the National
Gallery of Victoria was reminded by the design of Italian Renaissance and
Baroque palaces; Juliana Engberg, curator of the
Melbourne Festival’s Visual Arts Program felt it fitted within
In fact there is tradition of faces as ironic,
yet strong design elements on the façades of buildings: such as in the
Sacro Bosco garden of
the Orsini family at
The narrow strip of land between
If developers complied with the guidelines,
then no further planning permit was necessary. The first section to be
developed was 229A
Residents have included Andrew Parr, director
of interior design at SJB Architects who have designed building complexes in
Cassandra Fahey of Cassandra Complex Pty Ltd
is a young recent Architecture and Interior Design graduate from
The Newman house is actually a most subtle and sophisticated design for a first work, in which Post-modernism co-habits seamlessly with Minimalism. Cassandra uses Robert Venturi’s term ‘billboard façade’, for her art-work actually named ‘White Noise’. She experimented with over 20 patterns to obtain such subtlety, printing full-sized versions of the pixelations. The façade is manufactured from laminated glass, digital film and an aluminium flat plate grid frame. Varying light, reflections, shadows, direction and distance, all contribute to the depth and density of the image, sometimes disappearing into non-figurative patterns. She began by looking at the work of Australian artist Geoffrey Smart, known for his highly coloured images of figures placed in bleak urban settings.
The tiny site measures just 20 x 9metres, half
now occupied by the house, on a difficult south-west, north-east orientation:
the south-west faces busy
Her client was such a popular figure; she determined to cast her design net over popular culture. She values action into the public space, by speaking in popular language, superimposing a flat image over the architecture, a gesture at once beautiful, subversive and confrontational. It became a design objective to get (her) architecture on the front page of the Herald Sun, and that she did, twice. That does not commonly happen these days. Architecture no longer determines the parameters of public life. It is commonly too cerebral for that.
Of the three levels of the Newman house,
ground seems to be taken by parking and utility, expressed as a solid plinth.
The two upper levels float above, set well back from boundaries in a fresh
interpretation of the typical sensible
The corrugated, studded, fibreglass walls on
the park facade are lined with pink bats, which in the morning sun, glow with a
pink fleshy tone (suggested to the press as reminiscent of
The colours are almost edible, reminiscent of jelly beans. Pinks, aquas, oranges, purples and yellows appeal to Cassandra. ‘We’re drawn to things we enjoyed as children, the plastic and glossy things that we put in our mouths’. In the Newman house, these contrast with hard, modernist materials like concrete, corrugated steel cladding, steel frames and louvres.
Such refinement of detail, considered spatial resolution, manipulation of light and ventilation, with such strong image-making is remarkable in a young designer.
Allan. ‘I think I am over you, Mr Newman’. The Age.
Sasha. ‘Sam waits on council’.
‘Sam’s Folly uncovered’. Herald-Sun.
Lecture at the Royal Australian Institute of Institute of Architects, Melbourne.
Crafti, Stephen. ‘In Your Face’. The Age. Domain 12-13 March. 2002.
‘ A glass eye for Pamela’.
Jo-Anne. ‘The Sammy And Pammy
No-Show’. The Age.
Watson, Fleur. ‘Face Value’. Monument. Residential Special. Issue 02. 2001. pp 40-44.