Invermark, Higgovale

SAOTA Stefan Antoni, Leah Johnson (original design by Gilbert Colyn 1969)

Invermark, designed originally by Gilbert Colyn, was the 1970 recipient of an Institute of Architects Award for Excellence.

Inspired by two iconic modernist houses, namely that of Phillip Johnson’s 1949 Glass House and Mies van der Rohe’s 1951 Farnsworth House – milled steel and large panels of glass as the primary architectural elements to create a pavilion type building where the glass exterior walls open up to surrounding landscape.

By 2013, when it was purchased by the architect Stefan Antoni, it had reached a poor state of disrepair and featured numerous inappropriate alterations and additions totally out of character with the language of the building. Had it not been for Antoni’s intervention, it might have faced demolition as its heritage status as being a fine example of contemporary architecture was not recognised.

Considerable care was taken to return the building structure to its original state. In the living area and main bedroom structure screens were removed to facilitate improved flows associated with contemporary living. The pine ceiling was retained but refurbished in a more uniform darker colour and the original parquet floor was replaced with large travertine tiles reminiscent of Mies’ pavilions.

Changes were effected to the exterior spatial configuration involving the relocation of the swimming pool from the darker mountain side to the sunny street sea view side, providing much needed privacy from the street. This freed the courtyard to become a family garden planted with lawn and a row of Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) trees. The street interface was also substantially redesigned. These changes have served to significantly augment the experience of the house relative to the landscape. It is noteworthy that when Colyn viewed the house after its completion, he was suitably impressed.

New additions included the relocation of the garage to street level and the introduction of an intermediate space housing a subterranean guest bedroom suite and cavernous family playroom at an intermediate level. The proportions of these spaces and the lack of adequate lighting detracted from the success achieved with the balance of the project.

Architect: SAOTA – Stefan Antoni, Leah Johnson (original design by Gilbert Colyn 1969)
Interiors: ARRCC
Quantity Surveyor: SBDS
Structural Engineers: Moroff & Kuhne
Main Contractor: Mansfield Construction
Landscaping: Nicholas Whitehorn
Town Planner: Tommy Brummer Town & Regional Planners