Walter Burley Griffin, the American architect who won the international competition to design our national capital, Canberra, also completed designs for over 50 private houses in Sydney and Melbourne but most were never built. Only 15 were completed in Castlecrag, his “ideal suburb”, most of which have been significantly altered. Following its major restoration in the mid-1990s, the remarkably intact Fishwick house is recognised as his most celebrated residential Australian building. Made of locally quarried sandstone, it is large, double-storeyed, complex in design and surrounded by a native garden, bushland and Griffin-designed reserves.
The house is of state significance and widely listed by heritage and professional architectural bodies, emerging as the prime conduit for introducing Griffin’s ideas to a broad audience. His legacy transcends his buildings. He was a prolific writer who advocated a set of principles as to what constitutes “good architecture”. Unlike modernist contemporaries who saw houses as machines for living, he held that they must stir the emotions through the use of unexpected detailing, lighting, colours and the manipulation of space.
Importantly, he brought new ways of thinking about architecture - how buildings should organically integrate with their environment and relate strongly to the surrounding landscape and how architects should bring fresh thinking to each design, rejecting formulaic or traditional styles. In this respect he is considered by many specialist historians to have introduced modern architecture to Australia. Fishwick House is a striking symbol of this progressive transition.