slv, Caringal flats
ph: John T Collins

Site Overview

site name:
Caringal Flats
J.W. Rivett
date of commission:
date of completion:
3 Tahara Rd, Toorak, Victoria
classification / typology:
Residential / Housing (RES)
protection status:
– Victorian Heritage Register (H0579)
– City of Stonnington Heritage Overlay Schedule (HO104)
– National Trust of Australia Heritage Register Victoria (B5275)


A chance commission for Caringal, a vast block of flats in Toorak, afforded the architect John Rivett a rare chance to draw from nearly a decade of architectural voyeurism in Europe and North America. Occupying a corner site in a quiet street of this blue-chip suburb, Caringal was conceived in the heady spirit of pre-war functionalism.  A vast edifice in reinforced concrete, it was starkly expressed as three separate but linked blocks, dominated by the six-storey tower and a curving three-storey wing along the second street frontage. 

Allusions to European modernism abounded.  The provision of direct access to flats via external stairs and open walkways evoked Dutch precedents, as did the use of glazed screens to define private open space along the continuous balconies.  An elevated gangway that connected the two blocks harked back to the unbuilt (or unbuildable) projects of the Italian Futurists and Russian Constructivists, and represents a perhaps unique antipodean example of the elusive modernist ‘sky bridge’. Caringal otherwise incorporated labour-saving devices and modernist drawcards that, by the late 1930s, were thoroughly ubiquitous in Continental apartments: garbage chutes, a communal laundry, slab heating, and balustraded roof terrace optimistically earmarked for a sundeck, tea garden and children’s playground.

Text adapted from an entry by Simon Reeves in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975 (2019, Thames and Hudson).

Australia Modern