May 18, 2023 | Local News

Hidden gem of modernist design comes back to life in Gympie

Vivienne Wynter

 When it comes to Queensland architecture, most of us think of the iconic timber Queenslander.

The south east Queensland town of Gympie has plenty of stately Queenslanders. It also boasts one of the largest and most intact examples of residential mid-century modernist architecture in Queensland, possibly Australia.

Yindingi, a 1960s home at 66 Channon Street Gympie, is easy to miss, with an unassuming street view. True to the design ethos of the time, it’s not designed to impress or stand out. It’s designed for the occupants to be comfortable and happy.

Mid-century modernism, a design movement that peaked in Australia in the 60s and 70s, is all about simplicity, clean lines and functionality. There are no decorative trims, stately pillars or wrought iron flourishes to attract the eye.

The style went out of fashion in the 1970s but surged back into vogue from the mid 90s for good reasons, particularly in the Sunshine State. The design principles make sense for Queensland buildings because the natural materials of plywood and stone, climate responsive siting, floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows and indoor-outdoor flow suit the subtropics.

While there are other mid-century modernist houses in Gympie, such as Pronger House at 45 Channon St, most have undergone unsympathetic renovations.

No clashing alterations

Original cabinetry

Designed in 1959 and completed in 1961, Yindingi is a bit unique because of its size and well preserved original design and interior.

The three storey house has a library, TV room with kitchenette, wine cellar, tool room and three original bathrooms plus a powder room. The house and garden are almost completely as they were in the 60s. The house still has all the original cabinetry, most of the original fittings and some interior decoration including carpet and window coverings in good condition.

Rear view showing the three storeys

Originally commissioned by a Gympie doctor and his wife, the house was built next door to his medical practice (The Gympie Clinic at 68 Channon St which is still operating). Locals used to call Yindingi “the doctor’s house”.

Brisbane lawyer Marcus Schmidt bought the home in 2010 and is the second owner. Marcus appreciates mid-century modernism and plans to further restore the house.

“It’s believed to be the largest, most intact and best appointed remaining example of a 1950s designed architectural residence in Queensland,” said Marcus.

“It was on the market for a year before I bought it. A lot of people were interested but prospective buyers thought it too much work and expense because of the size.”

He named the house Yindingi after a sky spirit who made Fraser Island according to the Butchulla people’s dreamtime story.

Marcus and his partner split their time between Gympie and Brisbane.

He says Yindingi is a joyful place to inhabit.

“The house is beautiful to look at every day. It provides endless joy. I observe and enjoy the beauty of the home around me constantly, including the garden and magnificent views.”

Part of a modernist trend

Together with iconic buildings like Glenfalloch apartments in New Farm and Torbrek apartments in Highgate Hill, Yindingi is an early example of Queensland’s mid-century modernist architecture.

Centenary Pool in Spring Hill and Jacobi House in Indooroopilly are also well known monuments to Brisbane architects enthusiastically embracing modernism in the 50s and 60s.

Perhaps less well known, is the fact that handful of Gympie residents were also right on trend with the modernist wave sweeping the state.

Street view

Yindingi’s original owners, Doctor Neville Wilmer and wife Joyce, commissioned Yindingi as a multi-generational home for their immediate family of four and Joyce’s parents, the Mitchels, who were progressive thinkers and supported the commission.

Marcus, who extensively researched the property and is in touch with the Wilmer family, says Joyce was the brain and force behind the design and construction of the house, working with architectural firm Lund, Hutton and Newell (LHN).

The architects

Architect Peter Newell

Primary architect Peter Newell, played an instrumental role in the Queensland modernist movement. A fellow student, friend and collaborator with famous modernist architect Robin Boyd, Newell designed dwellings with relaxed simplicity. His work helped pave the way for development of a distinctive Queensland style of subtropical modernism.

LHN also designed the Glenfalloch apartments on the corner of Sydney and Oxlade Streets in New Farm, Brisbane at the same time as Yindingi.

Marcus says all the directors at LHN, contributed to Yindingi’s design.

“This may indicate the importance of the commission,” he said.

The builders and contractors

Local building company Robertson Brothers, constructed Yindingi. Builder, Keith Robertson, recalls the Peter Newell as “the most detail orientated person I had ever met”.

Other contractors included:

  • Edward Morrow hand-made the fibrous plaster for the walls using hemp or horse hair.
  • Bill Wriggler, Bob Strackon and Warren Pheifer did the brick work.
  • Pages Furnishers made the cabinetry under the direction of architect Maurice Hurst.
  • Stohlberg Plumbing.
  • Vivian Pronger supplied Lidco plate glass slider windows and hand-made extra thick external doors.

What’s so special about Yindingi?

Marcus says the house was designed at a high point of Queensland’s architectural design.

“I think there was a short period of golden years for mid-century modernist architecture in Queensland when Yindingi was built.”

He says Yindingi’s design, with what looks like the back of the house facing the road, is intentional, smart and practical.

The house is designed for minimal exposure to the road.  Living spaces are orientated to face the backyard, the northern sun and magnificent view.

The house faces away from the street to magnificent views

“You need a good block of land like this to start with.”

The way the house is designed for thermal comfort is also a big feature.

“There are no windows north or west which deflects direct sunlight,” says Marcus.

“The house is orientated so the sun goes directly over the top in summer and enters the house in winter. In summer, people comment about how much it must cost to air condition, because they notice how cool it is.”

Features include:

  • Heat deflecting white concrete Monier roof tiles
  • Important rooms attract natural light and take in the view
  • Renowned landscape architect and early adopter of native species, Arne Fink, designed the garden
  • Laundry chute, water filtration system, sliding bookshelves hiding a staircase and a low tiled step in the showers for leg shaving
  • Self-contained lower ground level accommodation built for Joyce’s parents with private entrance, ensuite, kitchen, bedroom with walk-in wardrobe, paved and covered patio, combined lounge/dining, wine cellar and library alcove.

Bathrooms have a little step for leg shaving

The restoration challenge

Yindingi cost around £16,000.00 to build at a time when a new local house and land package started at £2,700.00.

Marcus paid $418,000.00 in 2010 and plans to repair some subsidence and complete the house to its original specifications which he estimates will cost around $600,000.00.

“Maintaining and restoring Yindingi is time consuming and expensive. You have to be determined, enjoy working with your hands and have a creative side.

Restoring Yindingi is challenging and exciting says the owner

“The most overwhelming, but also exciting, thing is sourcing original fixtures, fittings and building materials. I’ve been stripping mid-century homes scheduled for demolition for years. That’s how I obtain high quality fixtures and building materials. I will keep Yindingi’s original fixtures unless I can improve on them with higher end original versions.”

Experts recognise Yindingi

It’s not just Marcus who sees the value of Yindingi, which is listed as one of architect Peter Newell’s most notable buildings wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter Newell_ (architect).

Recently, the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, wrote to Marcus to support protecting Yindingi.

Marcus says the house contributes to the story of Gympie and he is happy to open it to visitors.

“I enjoy showing the house to people who are interested in it. I find joy in sharing the home with others. ”

Follow the Yindingi restoration story and contact Marcus at
https://www.facebook.com/groups/919501718166073

 

Main entrance

 

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