Architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear

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A 1903 Desbrowe-Annear house.
A 1903 Desbrowe-Annear house.

Harold Desbrowe-Annear was one of the most innovative architects in Australia in the early twentieth century. Trained in the heady days of Melbourne’s 1880s land boom and imbued with the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, he was acclaimed by Robin Boyd as a pioneer of modernism. In his first book Victorian Modern published in 1949 Boyd wrote ‘Harold Desbrowe Annear was the first Australian-born to produce original architecture, a big bluff, hearty architect, who knew what he wanted, and saw that his clients got it.’

Desbrowe-Annear embraced the power of architecture to improve people’s lives. Open plan living areas expressed architecturally the new openness and sense of freedom that was flowing through society at the time of Federation – an Australian architecture that responded to climate, use and place.

In the spirit of the Arts and Crafts he saw the suburban house in its widest sense – as part of a total ensemble that included the interior, the furnishings and the garden. He promoted the idea of an ‘architecture of democracy’: an art available to everyone. Adopting a variety of styles, the houses were nonetheless all planned for comfort and functional efficiency, as well as good design.

Homes of national importance on display

by Marc Pallisco
June 15, 2011
Peter Crone outside his beloved Desbrowe-Annear home, Chadwick House in Eaglemont. Photo: Eddie Jim, 9 June 2011.
Peter Crone outside his beloved Desbrowe-Annear home, Chadwick House in Eaglemont. Photo: Eddie Jim, 9 June 2011.

Private homes in Melbourne on show for the first time give us a unique opportunity to see noted architect Desbrowe-Annear's work.
IT'S the kind of event you might expect to find Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu attending, for nostalgia's sake.

An open-day to celebrate the works of prominent architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear has been organised for Sunday week by the Robin Boyd Foundation in association with the Sidney Myer fund.

Bendigo born Desbrowe-Annear designed many of Melbourne's highest character homes in the decades from about 1880 and during the period of a land boom.

His work, acclaimed by Robin Boyd, includes homes designed in the Arts and Crafts and American Romanesque styles.

729 Orrong Road
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Harold Desbrowe Annear design 729 Orrong Road Toorak Vic

Among his grandest designs is the mansion at 729 Orrong Road, built in 1925 and retained for four generations by members of the Baillieu family.

The home's current owner, Good Guys founder Andrew Muir, made headlines in 2007 when he appointed an agent to knock on the door of the then owner, comedian turned radio
commentator Steve Vizard, to make an offer despite it not being on the market.

FALLEN businessman Steve Vizard has set a Melbourne house price record by selling his Toorak mansion for about $18 million.
Mr Vizard, who has owned the eastern suburbs property since 2003, has more than doubled his money by selling the Orrong Road mansion to an undisclosed Chinese buyer, who reportedly knocked on the door and made an offer the former television comedian couldn't refuse.
The sale price of the mansion, built by the blueblood Baillieu family more than 80 years ago, easily eclipses the former Melbourne house price record held by Toll Holdings chief Paul Little, who paid $16million for Toorak mansion Coonac in 2002.
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Muir offered $17.75 million reportedly because he admired from afar.

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729 Orrong Road, Toorak Statement of Significance

Harold Desbrowe-Annear
Harold Desbrowe-Annear
from the Victorian heritage database:

"The former M.H. Baillieu residence and garden, 729 Orrong Road, Toorak, designed by noted architect H. Desbrowe Annear in 1925 and retained in family ownership for over four decades, is of State cultural significance:

  • for the largely unaltered residence which retains unpainted tapestry brickwork and cement render, and the design of which is an accomplish mix of classically-derived elements used with a Baroque exuberance;
  • for the layout, design and major planting of the garden; this aspect illustrates a prevailing enthusiasm for Italian and Mediterranean influenced gardens and this is amongst the best surviving examples in Victoria of this style, especially given the complementary ensemble of house and garden and the general intactness of the design;
  • for the design and workmanship of its architectural landscape elements, including retaining walls, garden walls, steps, balustrades, tennis court, the drive and pathways; the external masonry wall is of special importance for its design (which incorporates architectural elements of the residence and has oculi with wrought iron bars permitting vistas into and out of the garden);
  • for its planting, especially the mature trees and cypress hedges, and the tradition of planting the perennial borders.
  • for its aesthetic qualities, principally derived from the vistas within the garden, changes of level, mature planting and consistent use of masonry for architectural elements of the garden;
  • for the survival of the plan by Harold Desbrowe Annear, a towering figure in the history of Australian architecture and design; his garden plans are extremely scarce and this plan communicates ideas not fully realised in the property;"
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Open-day event Harold Desbrowe Annear

Robin Boyd Foundation
Sunday June 26 2011

Date: Sunday 26th June 2011, House opening times: 10.00am to 4.00pm


The open-day event will open five Desbrowe-Annear designed, privately owned properties that have never been open to the public. The event will also take in Desbrowe-Annear's Springthorpe Memorial at Kew Cemetery.

The Robin Boyd Foundation invites you to an rare public open day of privately-owned houses designed by architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear.
  • 6 inspiring houses open for you to visit.
  • A exclusive collection of houses never before opened to the public
  • 5 houses designed by Desbrowe-Annear, 1 designed with his influence
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Harold Desbrowe-Annear was one of the most innovative architects in Australia in the early twentieth century. Trained in the heady days of Melbourne’s 1880s land boom and imbued with the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, he was acclaimed by Robin Boyd as a pioneer of modernism. In his first book Victorian Modern published in 1949 Boyd wrote ‘Harold Desbrowe Annear was the first Australian-born to produce original architecture, a big bluff, hearty architect, who knew what he wanted, and saw that his clients got it.’

Desbrowe-Annear embraced the power of architecture to improve people’s lives. Open plan living areas expressed architecturally the new openness and sense of freedom that was flowing through society at the time of Federation – an Australian architecture that responded to climate, use and place.

In the spirit of the Arts and Crafts he saw the suburban house in its widest sense – as part of a total ensemble that included the interior, the furnishings and the garden. He promoted the idea of an ‘architecture of democracy’: an art available to everyone. Adopting a variety of styles, the houses were nonetheless all planned for comfort and functional efficiency, as well as good design.

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Desbrowe-Annear House (1903)

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Chadwick House (1903)

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Darvall House - Billiard Room extension (1908 - 11)

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Macgeorge House (1910)

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BrayHouse (1910)

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Napier Waller Houseand Studio (1922)

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Springthorpe Memorial (1897 – 1900)


Desbrowe-Annear Talks

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Two lectures on the work of Harold Desbrowe-Annear: To be held in the courtyard at Walsh Street, the former home of Mr and Mrs Robin Boyd at 290 Walsh Street, South Yarra.

Lecture 1 - Wednesday June 15, 6.00pm for a 6.30pm start.

Harold Desbrowe-Annear: A Life in Architecture.

With Professor Harriet Edquist - academic and author of the acclaimed biography 'Harold Desbrowe-Annear A Life in Architecture'.
  • He is the acknowledged authority on the life and work of Harild desbrowe-Annear.
  • Harriet will discuss both the multifaceted work and unconventional life of this intriguing man, a life that was sometimes scandalous and always eventful.

From the dustjacket:
'Harold Desbrowe-Annear was an iconoclast and maverick:
  • A friend of a great number of artists and writers
  • a bohemian who never outgrew the desire to shock'

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Title: Harold Desbrowe-Annear: a life in architecture
Author(s) Edquist, H, published 2004
Publisher Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, Australia ISBN 0522850529

Summary
  • "The architectural masterpieces, urban planning projects, and bohemian existence that characterized the life of Australian architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear are examined in this tribute to a major proponent of the arts and crafts movement in architecture.
The projects detailed in this study include
  • the apartments and houses in Melbourne that Desbrowe-Annear designed in the
  • Queen Anne, art deco, and arts and crafts styles;
  • the Corporation Arch, commissioned to celebrate the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in 1901; and
  • the Church Street bridge in Melbourne.
  • Both a member of the artist community and a friend to powerful members of the political establishment, Desbrowe-Annear produced works of merit that earned him awards and wide recognition in the early part of the 20th century".

Lecture 2 Wednesday June 22, 6.00pm for a 6.30pm start.

Peter Crone: Restoring the Chadwick House.

One of Australia’s most notable houses oh the early twentieth century the Chadwick House was recently awarded the AIA Victorian Chapter Heritage award as the culmination of 20 years painstaking research and restoration by Peter and Jane Crone.
Peter will talk about the detailed investigation of almost every aspect of the house that he and Jane undertook together with the experience and discoveries of doing most of the work themselves. It was a labour of love and celebration of craft but also an exemplary lesson in the value of heritage and good design.

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cost for each lecture:
Robin Boyd Foundation members $25.00
Students $15.00Guests (non members) $30.00rsvp
To book email: information@robinboyd.org.au
or telephone 03 9820 9838. Places are limitedDownload brochure

Photo feature:

Harold Desbrowe-Annear, one of Melbourne's most celebrated architects

Domain magazine of the SMH, Age and other newspapers
Architect Peter Crone's meticulously restored home, Chadwick House in Eaglemont, designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear in 1903. Photo: Neil Newitt
Architect Peter Crone's meticulously restored home, Chadwick House in Eaglemont, designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear in 1903. Photo: Neil Newitt

Architect Peter Crone's meticulously restored home, Chadwick House, in Eaglemont, designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear in 1903. Photo: Neil Newitt
Architect Peter Crone's meticulously restored home, Chadwick House, in Eaglemont, designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear in 1903. Photo: Neil Newitt

Restoration has retained architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear's signature work. The dining room at 54 Nelson Street Sandringham. Photo: 2004 by Gary Medlicott.
Restoration has retained architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear's signature work. The dining room at 54 Nelson Street Sandringham. Photo: 2004 by Gary Medlicott.

Desbrowe-Annear leaves a trail of wooden hearts. 55 Outlook Drive Eaglemont. Photo: 2003
Desbrowe-Annear leaves a trail of wooden hearts. 55 Outlook Drive Eaglemont. Photo: 2003

Harold Desbrowe-Annear was one of the first architects to include built-in furniture. Interior of Architect Peter Crone's house in Eaglemont, designed by Desbrowe-Annear in 1903. Photo: Neil Newitt, 2003
Harold Desbrowe-Annear was one of the first architects to include built-in furniture. Interior of Architect Peter Crone's house in Eaglemont, designed by Desbrowe-Annear in 1903. Photo: Neil Newitt, 2003

Architect Peter Crone's meticulously restored home, Chadwick House in Eaglemont, designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear in 1903. Photo: Neil Newitt
Architect Peter Crone's meticulously restored home, Chadwick House in Eaglemont, designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear in 1903. Photo: Neil Newitt

Country classic...the view across the man-made lake to the main house, designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear. Cruden Farm was the Property of Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, on the Mornington Peninsula South of Melbourne. Photo: Andrew Quilty, 2006.
Country classic...the view across the man-made lake to the main house, designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear. Cruden Farm was the Property of Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, on the Mornington Peninsula South of Melbourne. Photo: Andrew Quilty, 2006.

A Harold Desbrowe-Annear design at 55 Outlook Drive, Eaglemont. Photo: Gary Medlicott.
A Harold Desbrowe-Annear design at 55 Outlook Drive, Eaglemont. Photo: Gary Medlicott.

A Melbourne home designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear. Photo: Neil Newitt.
A Melbourne home designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear. Photo: Neil Newitt.

An old photo of Norman Macgeorge's house, Ballangeich, at 25 Riverside Road, Ivanhoe.
An old photo of Norman Macgeorge's house, Ballangeich, at 25 Riverside Road, Ivanhoe.

Artist Norman Macgeorge's house, Ballangeich, at 25 Riverside Road in Fairy Hills in Ivanhoe. Photo: 2001.
Artist Norman Macgeorge's house, Ballangeich, at 25 Riverside Road in Fairy Hills in Ivanhoe. Photo: 2001.

Springthorpe Memorial, designed by architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear. The Victorian era memorial is at the Boroondara General Cemetery in Kew, Melbourne.
Springthorpe Memorial, designed by architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear. The Victorian era memorial is at the Boroondara General Cemetery in Kew, Melbourne.

The Springthorpe Memorial designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear.
The Springthorpe Memorial designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear.

From the book "Harold Desbrowe-Annear: A life in Architecture" by Harriet Edquist
From the book "Harold Desbrowe-Annear: A life in Architecture" by Harriet Edquist


References