Landscapes

  • Pool garden and rear facade of the Snelling House 2 (Max Dupain).

Douglas Snelling was a Sydney follower of Frank Lloyd Wright's principles of organic modernism – integrating landscapes with buildings rather than modernism's European alternative philosophy of separating (elevating) buildings above their natural terrains.

Like Wright, he was inspired by traditional Japanese garden design. Many of his residential gardens included compositions of large boulders, amoeboid fishponds stocked with expensive koi carp, trios of Melanesian totem poles, and moody night-lighting via concealed lamps, scultural 'light trees' and gas flares. His Assef House included an indoor-outdoor pond (with fish swimming beneath the window glass) and his Little House included a waterfall flowing down a rock retaining wall beside the main bedroom.

Swimming pools often were centrepieces of Snelling's residences. He built the southern hemisphere's first 'infinity' (spill-edge) pool for the Kelly House 2 (Tahiti) at Vaucluse in 1965 – only a couple of years after Los Angeles architect John Lautner built the world's first infinity pool. (Lautner, a former work associate in Los Angeles, advised Snelling by mail on the technicalities of his water recycling system.)

Snelling was admitted to the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects shortly after it was founded in the late 1960s—after some prevarication by the group's founders because he was not formally qualified in horticulture. He sketched his landscapes in 3D pen and ink perspective formats, with recognisable species of plants artfully composed. Then these sketches were realised by his landscape contractors. One of his preferred plants experts was Verner (Wern) Kuchell.

Almost all of his architectural projects and many of his commercial interiors included gardens, but he also completed several small individual landscape compositions. These, like many of his larger landscapes, remain in good condition today—including descendants of the koi carp which originally swam in his ponds.

SMALL LANDSCAPE ENSEMBLES

Clayton Fishpond, 27 Wallaroy Road, Double Bay, NSW, 1967.

Hesky Pool, 53 Headland Road Castle Cove, NSW, 1969.

K13 Memorial, Pennant Hills Road near Carlingford Rail Station, Carlingford NSW, 1963.

INDOOR GARDENS

Pan-American Airways Booking Office, Berger House, 82-92 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, 1955-56.

Assef House, 20 Bulkhara Road, Bellevue Hill, 1964.

Hartford Fire Insurance, 46 Margaret Street, Sydney (demolished), 1951-53.

Kelly House 1, 24a Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill (demolished), 1953-55.

Kelly House 2 (Tahiti), 22d Vaucluse Road, Vaucluse (altered), 1965-67.

Little (Arthur F.) House, 3 Riverview Road, Clareville, 1964-65.

Smith (Keith) House, 39a Parriwi Road, Mosman, 1955-58.

Snelling House 2, 84 Kambala Road, Bellevue Hill, 1957-65.

Woolworths Executive Suite, Market and Pitt Streets, Sydney (demolished), 1963-64.

NOTABLE RESIDENTIAL GARDENS

Assef House, XX Kambala Road, Bellevue Hill, 1964.

Hay House, 32 Killeaton Street, St Ives, 1949-51.

Kelly House 1, 24a Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill (demolished), 1953-55.

Kelly House 2 (Tahiti), 22d Vaucluse Road, Vaucluse (altered), 1965-67.

Little (Arthur F.) House, 3 Riverview Road, Clareville, 1964-65.

Nawa (Jean and Betty) House (Bettina Paradise), Mont Mou, Noumea, 1968-69.

Nawa (Louis) House, Lot 232s Rue Michelet (corner Cote de l'Amiral Halsey), Noumea, New Caledonia, 1968-70.

Snelling House 2, 84 Kambala Road, Bellevue Hill, 1957-65.

RESORT LANDSCAPE (UNBUILT)

Tassiriki Park Estate, Vanuatu, 1970-71.