This documentary about Australian architect Richard Leplastrier was filmed over 15 years. It began with the filming of the design and construction of a house in the Blue Mountains.
It then expanded to filming at houses in Leura, Watsons Bay and Balmain, with visits also to Kyoto and the Sydney Opera House, combining to make a powerful portrait of a seminal figure in Australian architecture.
Richard Leplastrier is regarded as one of Australia’s finest architects, yet he’s anything but a household name.
Shunning the limelight, he tucks himself away in his one-room home in a remote estuary north of Sydney only reached by boat.
Leplastrier is the architect’s architect, refusing to become a ‘starchitect’. And while he designs beautifully crafted houses for his clients, his own lifestyle is closer to camping.
The documentary follows the very private but charismatic Leplastrier as he designs the Blackheath house that epitomises what he has learnt over 50 years.
It looks at the influence of his mentors – Jorn Utzon (Danish architect of the Sydney Opera House), Australian artist Lloyd Rees and Japanese professor Masuda Tomoya.
The film also explores the ground-breaking Bilgola house, designed by Leplastrier in 1974.
Acknowledged as one of Australia’s most beautiful houses, Leplastrier says he was “hard wired into aesthetics being the only thing” when he developed its radical design.
The house has no glass and no windows, principles that Leplastrier also incorporated into his own home.
The documentary moves from architecture to family life; from the construction of the Blue Mountains house to other extraordinary houses at Balmain, Watsons Bay and Leura; and from the Sydney Opera House to Kyoto.
It includes animated sequences of Leplastrier’s house plans and drawings. The houses Leplastrier designs for his clients are in contrast to his own bush camp where the family eats and sleeps on the floor.
“That’s a lesson learnt not only from Japan,” says Leplastrier, “but most Pacific Islanders live like that. You can do with a house half the size.”
When I asked Richard Leplastrier if I could make a documentary about him 20 years ago, I said I wanted to film him designing and building a house.
This was way before Grand Designs had graced our screens. However I didn’t realise at the time how much Richard closely guards the privacy of his clients.
He suggested that since he had young children (he was 54 when he had his first child and 61 when he had his third one), perhaps I could film him for the rest of his life to create a legacy for them.
A couple of years later I got a phone call from Richard out of the blue, saying that clients in the Blue Mountains had agreed to be filmed.
Over the next two years I attended nearly all of Richard’s site visits to the house in Blackheath, filming as he created the design as he went along.
At the outset I also began filming Richard’s family life at his home in Lovett Bay. His three children grew up in front of my camera.
When I first began filming they were 8, 12 and 15 years old. By the time I finished, they were 20, 24 and 27.
The benefit of filming with Richard over a long time assisted in his generosity in making the film. We made visits to Kyoto, the Sydney Opera House at dawn and an exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW to record the influence of Richard’s three major mentors.
I made him tack back and forth for hours while we filmed him sailing, on his 80th birthday, resulting in him hardly being able to walk the next day.
All the people I interviewed for the film are close friends of Richard’s – whether they are a client, a colleague or an academic.
It soon became evident that everyone in Richard’s orbit becomes part of his bigger family, sharing his passion for site-responsive architecture.
The world premiere of Framing The View is Tuesday, 12 May at 9.30pm on the ABC.