Category Archives: residential

randwick 20th century

I’m not quite done with Randwick yet!

The Art Deco Walk was a great introduction to the 20th century architecture of the area, and I discovered a lot more as I was walking round.

Here are some more.

Day Avenue & Anzac Parade, Kensington
High Street, Randwick
Don Juan Avenue, Randwick
Mears Avenue, Randwick
Altadena, Botany Street, Randwick
Belmore Road, Randwick
Arthur Lane, Randwick
Corner of Bradley Street & Alison Road
Silver Street & Elizabeth Lane, Randwick
Avoca Street, Randwick
Belmore Road ,Randwick
Arthur Lane, Randwick


I didn’t realise until after I’d got back home from the Sydney trip that there was a companion to the Randwick Art Deco walk for the neighbouring suburb of Coogee.

That’s cool. I have somewhere new to explore next time I’m in the area.

I spent only a couple of hours in Coogee this time. It involved a walk down Coogee Bay Road, fish and chips on the beach, and the return walk up a back road that ended up in St Pauls Street in Randwick.

I was going to explore more the next day but the rain put an end to that idea.

Sunburst Music on Coogee Bay Road
Sunburst Music on Coogee Bay Road
173 Coogee Bay Road
This shop + flats on Coogee Bay Road is in the Coogee Walk. Constructed c. 1933.
Coogee Beach Rainbow Walkway (opened February 2021)
John LeMarseny Boatshed, Coogee Beach
Coogee Beach
The wall supporting the walkway

sydney: circular quay meandering

On my recent Sydney trip, along with the Randwick Art Deco Walk brochure and the Brutalist Sydney Map, I had with me the Footpath Guides Sydney Architectural Walking Guides. I have their Melbourne Mid Century 1950-1970 book and on one of my Melbourne trips I followed the route suggested in that book and photographed all 25 buildings. This had involved a couple of early morning starts staying in Melbourne CBD.

I decided I wasn’t going to do the full walks set out in either the Sydney Inter-war (1915-1940) or Sydney Modern (1950-1990) books but would pick out places that interested me. There was only one building that was on my “I must see this or the whole trip is ruined” list. I was going to find the others if I got the chance because I’d planned to spend most of the week in and around Randwick rather than in the CBD.

The Sydney Modern book mentioned the Sirius apartment building and the AMP building, both of which were around the Circular Quay area. I’d heard of both of them, so I made that my first stop on my CBD day. Circular Quay is a convenient light rail ride from either Randwick or Kensington so I had no trouble getting there.

The first structure that caught my eye (apart from the gargantuan cruise ship) was the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Circular Quay (W.H. Withers & W.D.H. Baxter, 1952)

It was previously the Maritime Services Board building and replaced a much older building. It was planned in 1939 but was delayed because of shortages of labour and materials during the war. Work restarted in 1946 but further delays meant it wasn’t completed until 1952, by which time its design as considered somewhat dated.

Museum of Contemporary Art

The entrances are framed with pink Rob Roy granite, which came from quarries in Sodwalls, near Lithgow. The carved sandstone decorations under the clock tower (you can’t see them here) include a ship’s propeller, wheel and anchor signifying respectively the “driving force, guiding force and stability” of the Maritime Services Board.

Also, what visit to Circular Quay would be complete without a photo of the Sydney Opera House?

Sydney Opera House (Jorn Utzon, 1973)

I wasn’t there to see either of those structures! Circular Quay was packed with unmasked people and I didn’t want to stay there, so my search for Sirius began. It’s on Cumberland Street, which would be easy for anyone who isn’t as geographically challenged as I am to get to from Circular Quay.

According to Sydney Modern, the NSW Housing Commission built the Sirius apartment complex over the period 1975-1980 to re-house public tenants who were displaced during redevelopment of The Rocks. It included a total of 79 apartments of various sizes, and catered for 250 aged and family residents.

Its architect was Tao Gofers, who was a Housing Commission architect at the time. He originally wanted to paint it white, but they ran out of money so (I think, thankfully) that never happened.

A “rare and fine example” of Brutalist architecture (according to the NSW Heritage Council), Sirius looked like this:

Sirius (image by Katherine Lu. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

I knew it was in danger.

If I hadn’t already known, the bomb symbol next to the words “UNDER THREAT Demolition is imminent” in Sydney Modern (published in 2017) was difficult to miss.

The NSW government had announced in 2014 it would be selling the site to be redeveloped into luxury apartments. I hadn’t followed the story very closely but this was obviously very distressing for the residents of the complex, along with the broader community. They formed the Save Our Sirius Foundation to fight to save the complex.

In 2016 the NSW Heritage Minister refused to have Sirius listed as a heritage site, apparently because its heritage value was outweighed by its financial value to the government. The NSW Land & Environment Court didn’t agree.

By the end of 2017, however, Myra Demetriou was the only resident left at Sirius, and she moved out in February 2018 after the government finally put the complex up for sale. Myra passed away in 2021.

I’d heard there were plans to redevelop it into fancy boutique apartments rather than demolishing it but I hadn’t realised the work was actually underway until I (eventually) got there.

Sirius reimagined

That was disappointing, and I’m sad I never got to see it as it was.

Because I’d taken the long way round, by the time I found Sirius, I’d walked under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Continuing along Cumberland Street, past the bridge climb office, I found a random lift that went up to the bridge itself. I didn’t know you could walk on the bridge, so I went up to have a look.

Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932)

The bridge construction started in 1924 and was completed in 1932. I found the bridge plaque, which mentions the firm Dorman Long and Company, who were the contractors for design and construction. My great grandfather worked for that company in the 1920s and my mother says he was involved in the bridge design. I have no reason to disbelieve this. He was a structural engineer who specialised in bridges. He moved to Tasmania in 1925, so his involvement must have been only at the very early stages. (Or he wasn’t involved at all and it’s just a family urban legend!)

Sydney Harbour Bridge plaque

I decided not to take the lift to the top of the pylon. The view was pretty good from where I was.

Sydney Opera House from the Harbour Bridge

I didn’t want to go all the way across the bridge because I had other things to see. I’d been able to see a scaffold-clad building from the bridge and desperately hoped it wasn’t the AMP building which was also on my list to see . . .

I found this cool building on the way back. I have no idea what it is.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Coming off the bridge back down to The Rocks is the Cahill Walk, which accompanies the Cahill Expressway. I wondered if I was going to find myself in this Jeffrey Smart painting, but that’s further around the expressway.

I could see just one part of Siruis that hadn’t been covered over by the redevelopment work.

Sirius reimagined

The lone block made me think of Myra’s story, and what it might have been like for her to be the last person living in the complex.

There was a cool view of the skyline.

Sydney from the Harbour Bridge

Postscript for Sirius: I was at the Art Gallery of NSW later in the week and found a book about the struggle to save Sirius in the bookshop. It tells the history of the complex, from the Green Bans placed on The Rocks in the 1970s until the 2017 court ruling.

Sirius by John Dunn, Ben Peake & Amiera Piscopo

randwick art deco part 3

Continuing on the Randwick Art Deco Walk, today’s photos are from the last section of the walk including Alison Road, Bradley Street and Cook Street.

6 Botany Street. “Possible conversion from an old cottage (“Goodwood”) to a block of Art Deco Flats”
125 Alison Road (right).
Rothsay (c.1938) 132 Alison Road
Redlands (c.1934) 2a Bradley Street
Redlands (c.1934) 2a Bradley Street
Redlands (c. 1934) 2a Bradley Street
Redlands (c.1934) 2a Bradley Street
Indapur (c.1939) 3 Bradley Street
Belhaven, 52 Cook Street
Juverna (c.1925) 50 Cook Street
Juverna (c.1925) 50 Cook Street
Juverna (c.1925) 50 Cook Street
Winston, 17 Cook Street
Winston, 17 Cook Street

randwick art deco part 2: belmore road

Continuing on the Randwick Art Deco Walk, today’s photos are from around Belmore Road, which is the main business area of Randwick.

64-68 Belmore Road (corner of Waratah Street)
Babinda (c.1938) 60 Belmore Road
Babinda (c.1938) 60 Belmore Road
Babinda (c.1938) 60 Belmore Road
Babinda (c.1938) 60 Belmore Road
Alkoomie (c.1927) Corner Silver Street & Belmore Road
35-43 Belmore Road, listed as the “Asteroid Building” from 1939
35-43 Belmore Road
Babinda (Waratah Avenue side)
Carinya, 25 Waratah Avenue
Carinya, 25 Waratah Avenue

randwick art deco (part 1)

I recently spent a week in Randwick, NSW. I’d never been there before but discovered, thanks to Randwick City Council, that it has a lot of art deco architecture.

In the 1920s-1940s, there was a massive increase in residential building across Greater Sydney, including Randwick, to accommodate the population boom between the world wars. It figures that, as the art deco style was popular in that period, there are a lot of buildings of that style in the area. 

The Ritz Cinema Randwick, a cream art deco bulding
The Ritz Cinema (1937), St Pauls Street

Randwick City Council held an exhibition  of photos by resident Alan Lloyd, who had documented a lot of the buildings, in 2013. This became two walking tours of Randwick and Coogee, which were so popular they developed self-guided versions for each suburb.

The Ritz (1937)

I’d found the Randwick one a few years ago but hadn’t realised there was a Coogee one as well!

The Ritz interior

My goal for the week was to find all 20 buildings on the Randwick walk and photograph them.

It was easier said than done, mainly because, due to my early morning starts, I ended up with a lot of uneven light. And there were photos I definitely could have used a tripod for.

I also missed one because the walk brochure didn’t give the actual address of the building I was looking for and I got distracted by a more modern building . . .

Don Juan Avenue. Not what I was looking for but I like it.

It took me three days to find all the buildings, and I discovered some other cool buildings along the way. So this is going to be a series of several posts of my week in Randwick and other places around Sydney. (I also wrote a travel blog about my week in Sydney at my personal blog.)

Today’s photos are the first six buildings from the art deco walk, which starts at St Pauls Road at an area called The Spot, which is a small shopping centre with a lot of cafes and restaurants.

Salvios Shop (pre-1925), 34 St Pauls Street
The Spot (c. 1920), 46-50 Perouse Road
The Spot (c. 1920), 46-50 Perouse Road
The Spot (c. 1920) 46-50 Perouse Road
Gower Galtees (1940), 8-10 Coogee Bay Road
Gower Galtees (1940), 8-10 Coogee Bay Road
Ada Street flats

open house hobart 2021: aotea house

Open House Hobart 2021, Day 2: Aotea House

After our visit to Esmond Dorney’s 1958 Butterfly House, we ventured deeper into Sandy Bay to find a house that was a complete contrast, at least on the surface.

The view from the garden. It is possible that the official Open House photographer posted a photo of me taking this exact photo on Instagram. I wish I’d at least washed my hair . . . .

This was Aotea House, designed by Britten Pace in 2020. This house was only open for two tours so we were very fortunate to be able to see it. It’s a three level concrete building on a super steep site at the top end of Sandy Bay.

Open House Hobart tells us

A faceted monolithic concrete form punctuated by panel joints and openings, Aotea House faced challenging site conditions and the design muse of a commanding white gum.

Rather than provide a continuous panorama allied to a homogeneous kitchen/living/dining, the vertical program presented an opportunity to create smaller distinct spaces within a larger volume. These intimate spaces were designed as an escape for family members with foreground relief from the panoramic views of the living room.

The plan is an irregular pentagon stacked over three modest floor plates, with each narrowing and framing views of foliage and close bushland or opening to sweeping views of the Derwent and Southern Midlands. And there are only two right angles in the entire house!

The white gum creates a contiguous thread, cohabiting occupants with rosellas feeding in its leafy canopy, then descending past the striking white trunk of the understory to the forest floor below.

Open House Hobart Website

It’s a fascinating residence.

So many angles!

Although it’s more than 60 years older than the Dorney House, I think the concept of making the garden part of the house that Esmond described is a feature here too, with the huge white gum being incorporated into the views from every level of the house.

The white gum from outside

The owners told us that they didn’t want to live in a concrete box and went to great trouble to make sure the house didn’t become one. There are only two right angles in the house so, as you might imagine, finding furniture to fit has been challenging.

The main bedroom

It has huge windows that had to be commercial grade because of the size, and the logistics of installing them sounds incredibly complex. There’s a massive curved external wall that made me think of the Gordon Dam, but is actually based on a mould from an industrial water tank.

More angles

The owners explained that they wanted open plan areas where the whole family could be together, as well as little nooks where people could escape by themselves. The result is a very open space, where the vertical elements dominate, with cleverly placed hiding places that I’m sure the kids (and the adults!) would love.

It’s a beautiful structure, with the combination of concrete and timber working really well together.

Lush wood and concrete

And the views are fabulous.

Part of the view from the living space

open house hobart 2021: butterfly house

Open House Hobart 2021, Day 2: Esmond Dorney’s 1958 Butterfly House

Butterfly House (originally known as Young House) at 536 Churchill Avenue is featured in Miranda Morris’ 100 Hobart Houses, which says “Although the 1950s brought a radical change to Hobart’s domestic architecture, nothing prepared the city for the arrival of the sputnik house.”

Butterfly House, Churchill Avenue

Yes, apparently it was originally called the Sputnik House, after the Russian satellite.

In the book, Miranda says that it was built for a Mrs Young, with Esmond noting that “All the warmth and sunshine, the flowers, the trees, the gardens should be as much part of the home as the kitchen and the living room”, in direct contrast to most traditional houses that he saw as cold and dreary, with the beauty shut out. (I can confirm that my house, built in the same era, which I love, is exactly like this.)

The main living area

According to the Open House website, this house has featured in design shows, dramas (The Gloaming comes to mind but I could be wrong because I haven’t seen it) and magazines but this was the first time it was open through this program.

20211114 OHH-230 Butterfly House 536 Churchill Avenue
The view from the main living area

Open House goes on to say

Widely admired for its innovative and authentic contribution to international design, the building’s powerful arching form is equally a response to its site and panoramic views. The walls are predominantly glass, lightly framed in tubular steel with integral diagonal bracing in plane with the glazing. Interior living spaces offer arresting views of mountain, sky and river, yet remain surprisingly private from the street thanks to the wide deck that extends over the carport and workshop below.

Originally built for a single woman, Young House was a relatively compact two-bedroom residence when purchased by its current owners. They commissioned Morris-Nunn and Associates to design an extension in 1999. Taking the form of a new pavillion in the back yard, the project won the RAIA Tasmanian Chapter Heritage award in 2001. The firm (now Circa Morris-Nunn Chua) added an extra bedroom and a lap-pool to the design in 2008.

Carefully restored and fitted out with an eye to mid-century modern style, Young House, like the Tate House in Taroona, showcases Esmond Dorney’s exceptional capacity to create buildings that expand and enhance the lives lived within them.

Open House Hobart 2021
The most recent addition to the back of the house and the pool

I’m not sure what else I can say. It’s a beautiful house and I can see why it is so widely admired. We were fortunate enough to have Paddy Dorney on the tour to talk about Esmond’s vision and Robert Morris-Nunn to explain more about the extensions.

Corridor from the original house to the extensions

One thing I learned was that Esmond had used Caneite in the original house. This is a form of soft, pliable fibreboard made from sugar cane, so it was really suited to the curves of this house. If you look closely at the walls and ceiling panels, you can see the texture of the caneite.

Caneite ceiling in one of the original bedrooms
How great are these colours!

They didn’t use this in the extension.

The other thing Robert noted was the way they had continued the form of the original structure as they’d extended out the back. It’s hard to see this from the ground, but it’s a lot more obvious from further back (see the third row of photos on Robert’s website to get an idea).

The bathroom window

What I loved about seeing this place and Tate House on the same weekend was how the additions to the original buildings had been done in very different manners but still retained the original feel of Esmond’s designs.

I also loved being able to see Esmond’s own home at Fort Nelson (1978) from the deck of this house.

The deck

I mentioned this to Paddy and he said yes, it was like little brother keeping an eye on big brother.

It was a wonderful space to spend some time and we greatly appreciate the generosity of the owners for opening up their home for us to see.

open house hobart: kaljuvee house

Continuing our Open House Hobart weekend quest to visit Esmond Dorney designs, Lil Sis and I stopped in at Kaljuvee House in Lenah Valley.

This is one in a series of “missing” Dorneys, apparently discovered derelict by the current owners and no one had known it was there.

Kaljuvee House, Lenah Valley

This house was built in 1952 so it’s one of his earlier works in Tasmania. It’s a beautiful space and very much original. The owner, Kate, said the only significant modification they had done was to extend the kitchen a little to be able to fit a dishwasher and more than one person.

The fire place hiding the study/office space

It’s distinctly a Dorney but has some features I’ve not seen on other houses, such as the slats over the front windows, which Kate says serve no purpose at all, and this curved ladder-like structure near the entry door, which she says makes it easy to get onto the roof and remove leaves from the gutter.

The entrance to the house

The Open House website says

This building may be one of Hobart’s great secrets: the house is perched above a quarry face far below the street level and is invisible from any public space. As dramatic proof of the legitimacy of this urban myth, it was discovered in poor condition by the current owners, as no one knew it was there! Now beautifully restored, this is its first public outing.

Approached by a stairway that winds from the street high above, two pavilions – one private and one social – are defined by a partial level change and a butterfly of two opposing skillion rooves. An expressed skeletal structure wraps the portico entrance and shades the fully glazed northern wall which opens to a stunning panorama of the River Derwent and the hills of the Midlands. The open living space (masked by a wall planter Scarpa would be proud of) soars over the garden and into the landscape.

Kaljuvee House from the street

It has a beautiful outlook and a lovely garden. I think I could live here but Kate says she’s not moving out any time soon.

open house hobart: macquarie street

Open House Hobart weekend was held on 13-14 November, with a fascinating range of buildings open for tours and drop-ins.

After our Taroona Esmond Dorney buildings, we were supposed to take part in the Modern Hobart City walking tour, which I was super excited about, but unforeseen circumstances meant it had been cancelled earlier in the week, so we had some free time before our next Dorney house. We decided to wander along Macquarie Street and see what we could find

The National Mutual Life Building at 119 Macquarie Street was open, we think for the first time

119 Macquarie Street. I didn’t get a chance to photograph it on the day, so here’s one I prepared earlier

Open House tells us this about it.

This six-storey neo-Gothic sandstone building in the centre of Hobart has been a prominent part of the Hobart city landscape since its construction in 1906. The National Mutual Life Association (founded in Melbourne in 1869) commissioned prominent Hobart-born architect, Alan Cameron Walker, to design their Hobart offices. Walker was born in 1865 and apprenticed under the well-known Tasmanian architect, Henry Hunter. The stone facade and carved bas-reliefs of the building are of particular note, and feature a lion and unicorn flanking the company logo above the entrance on Macquarie Street. The building now houses a number of commercial tenancies, with the third and fourth floors being occupied as a residence.

I’ve always been intrigued by this building, especially the turret on the roof, and it sits nicely next to one of my favourite buildings, the Reserve Bank.

It was raining when we got to the roof top and my first impression was of the brilliant view it had of the two beautiful modernist buildings on the corner of Murray and Collins Street, Jaffa and the T&G Building. Who cares about the rain here?

Superb view from the roof

I was so excited by the view I almost forgot about the turret (I don’t know if that’s the actual term, I’m sure it’s not).

It also sits nicely against the Reserve Bank so you can reach out and touch it.

Should you wish to do so.

A different perspective of the Reserve Bank building

There was once a rooftop cafe up here, complete with deck chairs, which looks like it would have been a fabulous use of the space. We need more rooftop cafes!

The top floor of the building had recently been vacated and was empty, ready for refurbishment.

How good is this skylight?!

It was such a wonderful space and very hard not to notice all the lead lighting throughout, which is thought to have been an 1970s addition.

Every house needs a door with a ship on it

I wasn’t the only person expressing a wish to live here.

Wonderful colours
The door handles embossed with the National Mutual Life logo that also sits above the front door

On the other side of the Reserve Bank were two apartments at 105 Macquarie Street, “Polly” and “Henry”, which are recent transformations of former office spaces into short stay accommodation.

105 Macquarie Street. Another one from the archives.

They were both very different in look and feel, and Polly had super views of the other side of the Reserve Bank.

The other side of the Reserve Bank building

These spaces were designed by Preston Lane, who had done the Tate House restoration, and one of the things we noticed was how a huge artwork had been incorporated into one of Polly’s walls. Apparently this had inspired Erik at Tate House to do the same thing in his bedroom in Taroona. It looked really cool. And I wasn’t able to get any photos of it, but this post will give you the idea.

We didn’t get much time here as we had an appointment with another Dorney house further out of the city. Onward!