The McCraith house, known as the “Butterfly House” for its geometric shape, was donated to RMIT in 2013 by the Dixon-Ward family along with an endowment to support its maintenance.
The house was designed in the 1950s by RMIT alumni Rex Patrick and David Chancellor for the McCraith family and is considered an important example of structural modernism.
RMIT undertook significant work to restore, renovate and bring the property in line with occupational health and safety requirements, engaging alumnus architect Peter Elliott for the process.
The University’s sensitive restoration work was recently recognised with a Victorian Heritage Award from the National Trust of Australia.
The house is now home to RMIT’s Writers-in-Residence program, which has supported writers such as Carrie Tiffany (Mateship with Birds), Hannie Rayson (Hello, Beautiful!), Indigenous poet and activist Lionel Fogarty as well as international writers Dai Fan from China and RMIT Adjunct Professor Robin Hemley from Singapore.
RMIT's Associate Dean, Writing and Publishing, Francesca Rendle-Short, said: “McCraith House is a truly special place — an iconic Australian beach house perched on a hillside on the Mornington Peninsula — and it provides the perfect sanctuary for the solitary work of writers, and the perfect counterpart to RMIT's vibrant City campus.”
The McCraiths’ granddaughter, Bin Dixon-Ward, is completing her PhD at RMIT and says her family is thrilled the house has found a new lease of life as part of the University.
“The renovations have brought a freshness to the house,” she said.
“The architects have interpreted the original design, bringing the house up to 21st century standards while retaining its holiday and seaside feel.
“The award is a bonus and we would like to thank RMIT for the sensitive and innovative approach they took to the renovation project.”
Kevin McCarthy, Deputy Director, Projects, who oversaw the restoration, said the house was significant for RMIT.
“The restoration was a delicate balance – we had to be sympathetic to the building’s heritage and also meet the modern workplace requirements and general compliance issues,” he said.
“The National Trust award not only recognises how we protected this particular building for generations to come, the Butterfly House also demonstrates how RMIT reaches people across generations.”