Ongoing program of walks and talks

Downtown Delights
South of Sydney CBD

Concrete Learning
Macquarie Uni and UTS Ku-ring-gai

Harry & Penelope Seidler House
Completed in 1967

Rose Seidler House
Completed in 1950

The City's Backyard
Surry Hills

Elizabeth Bay & Potts Point
Self-guided walk

After the Griffins

Australia's national capital

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Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.

Notes on Australia's national capital by Roy Lumby

University House was one of the very first buildings constructed on what was then the campus of the University College of the University of Melbourne. Designed by Professor Lewis and constructed by Howie Moffat & Co of Sydney, it was completed in 1953 and awarded the Sulman Medal for 1953. The Duke of Edinburgh officially opened the building during the Royal Visit of 1954. The building is a reworking and mildly modernised version of the tradition of English University college quadrangles. Here a shady verandah and a wide pool encourage one to linger and enjoy the tranquillity of the quadrangle itself. Furniture within the building is mostly original, the work of Melbourne designer Fred Ward.

The Australian War Memorial
on the site designated for a casino on Griffin plan. Decision to erect the War memorial on axis with Parliament House in 1923. More>

Nicholls Collection
at the National Library of Australia, situated near the intersection of King Edward Terrace and Parkes Place West in Parkes, was designed by the Sydney-based architectural firm of Bunning & Madden in association with T E O’Mahoney. The Library originally formed part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library but only received separate status in 1960. An earlier (1934) building housing the Library, the first stage of a much larger building that did not eventuate, was situated on Kings Avenue but demolished in the early 1970s.

Australian National Gallery
: Col Madigan of Edwards, Madigan, Torzillo & Briggs of Sydney, 1982. Reworking of a competition entry originally intended for Capital Hill. More>


Provisional Parliament House designed by John Smith Murdoch, Commonwealth Architect of the day. Officially opened by the Duke of York in May 1927, the building was only intended as a provisional structure. Nevertheless it served the nation for 61 years. Griffin had proposed Camp Hill as the site of houses of parliament, but a Parliamentary Works Committee seems to have guided a decision to locate the building in front of and below Griffin’s site.

The National Archives of Australia located in the former Secretariat buildings on Queen Victoria terrace, are the siblings of Old Parliament House and were completed in 1925 (the East Block) and 1927 (the West Block). They too are the work of John Smith Murdoch and share the same architectural vocabulary and use of materials. Canberra’s original post office was situated in the East Block. Conservation works in 1998 to convert to National Archive.

One of the most memorable buildings in Canberra must be the Australian Academy of Science’s building, the Shine Dome, (formerly Becker House). More >

The intriguing former English Scottish and Australian Bank Building at 17 London Circuit was designed by one of the bank’s staff architects, Stuart McIntosh, and completed in July 1963. The firm of Yuncken Freeman Architects supervised construction. McIntosh designed a large number of suburban branch buildings for the Bank during the 1950s Control of sun penetration is achieved by the horizontal blades that vary in thickness and appear to float across three facades of the building. The blades are fixed to a structural steel cantilevered frame bolted to the edge beams of the structure. The canopy marking the entrance (which also collects rainwater from the other blades) is made prominent because of its placement on one end of the University Avenue façade, while slender subsidiary blades reinforce corners in the manner of quoins.

According to Professor Robert Freestone “the precincts developed for the first permanent housing in Canberra in the 1920s have matured into the most substantial and distinctive suburban environments inspired by the Garden City movement in Australia … no other Australian city boasts such an extensive set of self-consciously designed and controlled projects from this era. These early precincts set the standard for the manicured landscapes which are now the essence of Canberra”. Amongst these is a precinct of dwellings that is included in the City’s planning instruments as the Reid Conservation Area. The Conservation Area falls in the area enclosed by Limestone Avenue, Coranderkk Street, Booroondara Street and Anzac Avenue.

The Former Canberra High School, axially aligned with Childers Street, was opened in 1939. More>

The former Patents Office (now known as the Robert Garran Offices) in National Circuit, Barton, was designed by Cuthbert Whitley of the Department of the Interior and completed in 1941. It was built by Concrete Constructions Pty Ltd. The austere and dignified Stripped Classicism, that Whitley seems to have favoured for public buildings has been overlain with sufficient decorative detail (some of it Art Deco), particularly at the main entrance, to avoid dullness and results in a satisfying and understated work. The building is faced with Hawkesbury sandstone.

St Paul’s Church of England, Griffith Canberra Avenue and Captain Cook Crescent, Griffith. Burcham Clamp & Son 1939 consisting of four bays, and 1956 additions that included the rest of the nave and the tower. The first Anglican church in Canberra. Hints of Griffin – Clamp took Griffin into partnership after he arrived in Australia 1914-15 for all of nine months.

Modernist house at 107 Limestone Avenue, Braddon, was designed by Cuthbert Whitley and completed in 1940. More>

The Manuka Swimming Pool in Manuka Circle, Griffith, was completed in 1930. The complex was the work of the Federal Capital Commission’s Edwin Henderson in association with H G Connell. Only swimming pool for about 200 miles when completed.

St Christopher's
St Christopher’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, situated on Manuka Circle and Furneaux Street in Griffith, started off as a church attached to a convent and school. More >

The blocky Forrest Fire Station, overlain with hints of Stripped Classicism, is just one element of the group of buildings in the block contained by Canberra Avenue, Empire Circuit, Fitzroy Street and Manuka Circle. More>

Calthorpes’ House
at 24 Mugga Way, Red Hill was designed by Kenneth Oliphant of the Melbourne firm of Oakley & Parkes, who oversaw the construction of what is now the precinct known as Forrest, and completed in 1927. The house is rather formal, with two projecting wings terminated by shady loggias forming a sheltered court, but because of this has an engaging relationship with its site. The loggias, warm toned cement rendered walls and decorative elements such as exposed rafter ends and small circular vents in the loggia gables are all hallmarks of the Inter War Mediterranean style. The house is less remarkable, however, for its architecture than for the fact that its interiors still contain the Calthorpe family’s original furnishings and artefacts from the 1920s onwards, making it a unique record of everyday life in early Canberra. Harry Calthorpe was a successful stock and station agent when Canberra was founded. He later ventured equally successfully into the realm of real estate. The Calthorpe family occupied the dwelling until Mrs Calthorpe died in 1979, after which it was taken over by the ACT. It is now a justly famous house-museum.

The former Institute of Anatomy (now ScreenSound Australia) must be one of Australia’s finest Inter War Stripped Classical style buildings. More>

The Moir House at 43 Melbourne Avenue, Forrest, was designed by architect Malcolm Moir for his own family and completed in 1936. Malcolm Moir was born in 1903, studied under Leslie Wilkinson at the University of Sydney and graduated in 1924. In 1927 he moved to Canberra to join the architectural department of the FCC. After the FCC was disbanded Moir set up his own practice in 1931 and became one of the city’s most important architects designing Modernist buildings. In the second half of the 1930s he married Heather Sutherland; the firm of Moir and Sutherland continued until her death in 1953. The firm subsequently evolved into Moir Ward & Slater then Moir & Slater during the 1960s. This house is considered to be the best of the Canberra houses that Moir designed. Its rectilinear Modernist forms, executed in warm toned brickwork and offset by occasional curves, contain four levels. All major living spaces are oriented to the north to take advantage of the sun. The prominent lightweight glazed structure is a later addition, designed by Moir as his own studio-office. The Moir family occupied the house until Malcolm’s death in 1971.

For more interstate architecture, also see Melbourne >

Main picture: Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science.


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