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Threatened Anatol Kagan house receives state heritage listing

The Heritage Council of Victoria has disregarded the recommendations of the executive director of Heritage Victoria in making the decision to heritage-list a modernist home in the Melbourne neighbourhood of Caulfield North.

A developer had planned to replace the house with eight dwellings of two or three storeys above a basement car park. It was saved from demolition in August 2017 when the local council, City of Glen Eira, successfully applied to the Victorian planning minister for interim heritage control over the property.

The house was designed by Anatol Kagan. Born in St Petersburg in 1913, Kagan immigrated to Melbourne in 1939 and established his own practice, Anatol Kagan and Associates. His bread and butter work as an architect was in designing homes for wealthy Melbourne families.

Lind Residence by Anatol Kagan.

Lind Residence by Anatol Kagan.

Image: Modernist Australia

In a report released in September 2017, Heritage Victoria’s executive director Steven Avery found that Lind House met only some of the criteria for inclusion on the state heritage register and that the council should consider referring the house to the council for inclusion on its local heritage overlay.

Avery said the heritage values that the house demonstrated could be “equally well understood in any number of houses in other middle-ring metropolitan suburbs in Melbourne and across the state.

“The Lind House is not a rare, uncommon or endangered example of its class or place.

“On the available evidence […] Kagan’s contribution to the course of Victoria’s cultural history cannot be described as strong or influential.”

Avery also argued that, when compared to other modernist houses in Victoria that are already recorded on the Heritage Register, Lind House “did not demonstrate the finely resolved and cohesive design and construction that would elevate it to State level significance.”

The Heritage Council disagreed on this point, describing the house as “a fine and highly intact example of post-war Modernist residential architecture.”

Lind Residence by Anatol Kagan.

Lind Residence by Anatol Kagan.

Image: Modernist Australia

In its submission to the council, the City of Glen Eira, supported by heritage consultant and Kagan biographer Simon Reeves, argued that the house was “particularly significant within the “sub-style” of Modernist residential architecture associated with émigré architects who were born, trained and practised in Europe prior to settling in Victoria.”

The Heritage Council said it was persuaded by the arguments made by the City of Glen Eira, and that in particular it accepted “that nuanced, but important, differences existed in the ways in which the many prominent Melbourne-trained architects and the émigré European-trained architects interpreted and applied Modernist design language.”

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Among the European touches identified by the council, which separate it from the work of well-known, locally trained modernist architects like Kevin Borland, Peter McIntyre, Roy Grounds and Robin Boyd, are “bespoke high-quality in-built timber joinery and furniture likely to have been detailed and fabricated by skilled European émigré craftsmen, powder/cloak room for guests, intercom system, downstairs servant quarters and colourback glass window spandrels.”

In a new statement of significance prepared as part of the decision, Lind House is now described as being of architectural and historical importance to the state of Victoria.

[Correction (30/5/18): This article originally identified Steven Avery as the executive director of the Heritage Council of Victoria. He is the executive director of Heritage Victoria.]

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