This remarkable Sydney residence was designed by Bruce Rickard in 1961 for clients who were captivated by a fictional house in an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Its design reveals how the organic modernism of Frank Lloyd Wright influenced Rickard’s own ideas for living in the landscape
A spy movie may be an unlikely foundation on which to base your “forever home,” but that’s exactly how it was for John and Judy Reid in 1961. They would go to extraordinary lengths to re-create the rusticated stonework of a house seen in the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest.
The film’s Vandamm House was set on Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. But the residence was a work of fiction: its interiors were built on a soundstage at the MGM studios in Culver City, California, and its exteriors – including thick stone buttresses and a cantilevered terrace – were a photomontage. It was all brought convincingly to life through the magic of cinema.
Determined to find its designer, the Reids contacted Hitchcock, who was in Sydney promoting the film. Hitchcock was also an architecture enthusiast and suggested they write to MGM, who obligingly sent photographs of the studio set. Then a family member suggested they meet a friend – a young architect, Bruce Rickard, who’d recently returned to Sydney from an extended trip to the United States.