Daryl Jackson Modern Melbourne Video
Modern Melbourne is a series of interviews that document the extraordinary lives and careers of some of the most important architects and designers. In this interview, we speak with Daryl Jackson.
After completing his education at RMIT and University of Melbourne, Daryl went on to establish his practice with Evan Walker in 1965. His early work in brutalism cemented his reputation as one of Australia's leading architects. His considerable teaching, writing, and lecturing have significantly influenced the course of Australia's architectural identity.
Modern Melbourne is a series of interviews that document the extraordinary lives and careers of some of the most important architects and designers. today, we speak with Daryl Jackson.
After completing his education at RMIT and University of Melbourne, Daryl went on to establish his practice with Evan Walker in 1965. His early work in brutalism cemented his reputation as one of Australia's leading architects. And his considerable teaching, writing, and lecturing has had a significant influence on the course of Australia's architectural identity.
Let's start at the beginning. Can you tell me about how your early family life influenced your decision to become an architect?
Well, I was very keen to draw and paint. My mother was a seamstress and milliner, and I had an uncle as well, who was a builder. And so my older brother and myself traveled around in holiday time, doing alts and additions to houses in Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale. And then, I felt that I wanted to make things myself. And so I went to RMIT.
And did your parents encourage you into architecture when you started drawing?
It was my decision. And I think they were both happy, my father and my mother. And so my brother wanted to be a builder, older than me. And so I took up architecture.
Were there any seminal experiences during your studies at RMIT and then later at University of Melbourne that changed your approach to design?
To design is really a thinking mechanism, in terms of making things and fabricating things. You need to know what it is that you're doing. And so we were making in RMIT, going ahead with models and so on. And so we could see three dimensional models and then take them home. And my mother would think, well. [CHUCKLE]
And were there visiting international professors? I think in a conversation earlier, you mentioned Walter Gropius came to Melbourne and that had a big impact on your ideas around architecture.
Yeah, the studios in RMIT were really expansive. There are interior design people, other sculptors sculpturing, and then hands-on craftsmanship in the carpentry shop. So there's plenty of room to see in and how you can manufacture things, as well as design things. And so in 1954, Walter Gropius, the king of modernism, came to Melbourne. And he met with Robin Boyd. And so they came to our RMIT studios and gave a lecture.
And how did that impact on you as a young student?
I think I was overwhelmed.
And these were the black and white era. So my mates, if there was a spare time, we'd look at the Universal one-hour shows down Swanston Street, just to get a flavor of what else there is in the world.
At a sort of time when Melbourne was quite old fashioned still, here comes Walter Gropius and kind of blows your mind.
It does. We had the benefit of the library and museum at that time. And so we would wander, if there was a spare period, wandering around the museum and looking at I suppose the library as well, and looking in the arts books as well, and the architecture books.
We had two or three very good mentors for us, in terms of Kevin Boland and Peter MacIntyre. And at that time, it was 1954. They were to build the 1956 Olympic swimming pool, which they'd won in a competition. So we would troop down there and see how it was being made in the round.
So you went from RMIT to University of Melbourne. Can you talk about the differences between the two schools of architecture at the time?
The schools, I think, were not dissimilar. And so you did the first three years. And we did architectural history, painting, drawing, and so on. And we came, I think, further with that time, dealing with painting and so on, going. And then, in the fourth year and fifth year at Melbourne University, we were, I think, probably better people to draw with, because we'd had-- mentored by the art school at RMIT.
On the other hand, there were very good theoretical, history people, planning people, and so on. And that was a more expansive thing at Melbourne University. I thought it was a very enriched facility for two things. And then, subsequently, I think, in terms of about a decade on, and was trying to get a job in London, let's say, I didn't feel that I was underdone.
After graduation, you traveled extensively, so first relocating to Sydney, where you worked under Colin Madigan at Edwards, Madigan, and Torzillo.
And then, you departed for the UK and ultimately then onto America, quite the adventure. And you ended up working under Paul Rudolph.
Can you tell me about that period in your life and how those people influenced your practice when you returned to Australia?
A major influence is that I came back from Sydney and married my wife Kaye.
And very important. And so she had been working with Channel Nine in Melbourne Tonight. And so we both got together, married, and then went to London. And in London, I found Chamberlin, Powell, and Bon. And we worked there for two years, three years. And we would take off, like, at Easter and travel through Europe down to Greece, Morocco, Spain, just looking and finding what architecture was about in European model.
Some time later, we went to America and then went to New York. And a New York architect found a job for me at Yale with Paul Rudolph, who was the senior academic at Yale. So that was good.
And you told some rich stories around your time with Paul--
--including living in his apartment when he was not in town. How did he influence you as a young architect?
Oh, I think he was enthusiastic. He understood. And he was very disciplined. And so in terms of producing innovative work, we would, in the studio, draw and manufacture the work that he led with us.
You designed the Harold Holt Swimming Centre, an early representation of brutalist architecture in Melbourne, in collaboration with one of your lecturers and mentors, Kevin Boland.
Can you tell me about how this collaboration influenced you and also the outcome of the project?
Yeah. Well, after my time away, there was-- Kevin had an office next door to the office that I ultimately got to. And we were very much enthused, as Kevin Boland was. And he was the leader. And I was really the person that was his, I suppose, understudy. And through that piece of work, we joined together.
And was this at a time when you were sharing the same building in East Melbourne?
The hotbed of young architecture practices.
Yeah, there was four terrace houses in Powlett Street East Melbourne. And so we had a back office, and Kevin had an upstairs office. And there were four people of architects. And it was a really good grouping, because you could swap people. If you had a big job, you could pull two or three people into the job. And so I had two people working with me and then married Kevin's two people, and so there were four.
And this is before Evan Walker returned from Canada to join you in the practice.
Yes. Kevin-- Evan and I were joined at RMIT at the first flag of 1954. And so we kept very good mates. And he'd taken a journey to Canada, and so-- to deal with a master's class. So he'd come back in '64. And so we had-- 10 years after we'd met each other-- and we took up the back room as well. And so we were joined at the hip, you say.
For a long and fruitful partnership.
We had a good partnership. It was a 10-year partnership. And subsequently, he went into politics.
From here, you go on to design the Canberra School of Music, Princes Hill High School, and various buildings at MLC. There are significant rock concrete buildings. Do you have a lasting love affair with beton brut?
In the right place, in the right time. And there was the Canberra School of Music, which is really one of the very significant buildings of the time. We also dealt with red brick in Melbourne. We were not doing it all at once. And Lauriston Girls School-- and that was a very early school for me to gain. And so we went, then, into educational work.
Is it the earlier influences in your career that saw you bring in raw concrete as a strong material in your practice?
Yes, it is. And it's a form that you can see the pressure of building and without manufacturing something slick or positive. It's a matrix of concrete. And so it tells you the story of the building.
That's a beautiful way of putting it. So I'd like to talk more about some of your most significant projects in Melbourne. So let's start with the MCG.
Within that precinct, there are very good amenity all the way around the ground. And men and women and families are coming together. And in the northern stand, there are some very significant spaces in which people come in and escalate up. And so it's a really strong exercise. And I think people enjoy it.
Was it daunting to work on a stadium which is so close to everybody's heart here in Victoria?
Well, I only live about 200 meters away. So I've got to get it right. And I think it has been much appreciated.
Very successful. You were telling the story about the East Melbourne Residents Association up in arms around the lights going up--
--and the fact that you're actually-- you're an East Melbourne resident, but also were responsible for some of the new design elements.
Yes, they-- you can't hold elements of real circumstance. People have got to give way and grow. So the imagination of what has happened to the MCG was really in the 1930s would never have seen anything like it. The next circumstance was I've just really finished the tennis center practice courts, which Roger Federer has reported to us, said they're very good.
Well, talk about Princes Hill High School and the work you've done there.
Yes, it was burnt down for half the school, a long time before you were born. And so the head wanted a new school. And we built it with half the money that was done. But I took his advice to place a theater and a library in the center of that school. And it's addressed that streetscape. And again, North Carlton people, my sister involved, appreciate that as well.
And so the community embraced the raw concrete nature of the redevelopment?
Well, it's a bit hard for them to take. [CHUCKLING]
The Olivia Newton-John wing at the hospital in Heidelberg, that's of particular importance to you.
Well, I think it's the latest and most significant health element in particular. And so it's really bringing the hospital alive. And in terms of its circumstance, it's really opened up with Olivia's presence and made it a more social structure about the patients and their parents and so on. And I admire her. And I admire that kind of thinking about hospitals.
And so I think this is sort of a revolution a bit, in not missing the health aspect, but the social aspect of health, just as it's come through in schools. Social aspects of people living and breathing together and learning together is very significant. So the buildings that I try to make is really to make them attach people and think what they are getting and being comfortable within them.
Hm, how you can impact their well-being.
And how they feel within a space.
The county court--
I wouldn't want to be in the court. But the county court in William-- was it William Street?
Yeah, William Street. And there's some very good interiors in there, particularly for the judges and the people that are going there. But you don't want to go there.
In what year was that project completed?
It was about 10 years ago now.
Going back a little, 120 Collins Street. It's a really significant--
It's 25 years old.
--project for you.
Can you talk more about that?
Yes, it was designed to fit Collins Street and Russell Street, and sit back from the church that's on the corner. And so there's a low rise about that height there, and then the bigger structure of 30 stories or so, back on Little Collins Street.
And was that your first high rise project in Melbourne?
And that's going back 25 years, so--
--there would have been challenges then, I'm sure, in terms of building technology and capability that you pushed against.
Yeah, I'd say.
And now, you partnered with Grimshaw on the recent Southern Cross redevelopment. Can you talk about that project?
So in terms of the partnership with Grimshaw, they came with the station technologies. It's simply with this diesel coming in. The undulation of the roof is really expelling that. And so it was really a curving model that Grimshaw and their engineers in Melbourne here and ourselves worked thoroughly. This is a partnership here.
And so its really taking it to the streetscape. And I see Spencer Street being upgraded. And as I said, I think its really at a transitional position from the Hoddle Grid, Spencer street, and then going across the tracks and then out into the Port Authority. I mean, that's a massive shift of ground in Melbourne.
So a common thread with the interview subjects for the Modern Melbourne project, which this is part of, is a commitment to teaching and communication in design, so communicating the value of design not only to students, but also to everyday people. Amongst many commitments, you taught architecture at RMIT. And you also wrote the regular housing column for The Age between 1966 and '69.
Can you tell me why this is an important part of your practice?
It was really a way of exposing the things that I had learned and pass them on as a professor. And the Small Home Service was following on from Robin Boyd and Neil Clerehan and Jack Clarke. I was the fourth person to spin The Age on Monday morning. And so that was really, then, following on, in housing in particular.
And do you think that we have lost our way somewhat with that type of communication? It doesn't-- we do have, obviously, design columns and regular articles about the development of the city, but not necessarily a column or area within the newspaper or other publications focused purely on residential housing and trying to communicate the importance of well-designed residential housing.
So do you think we've lost our way somewhere?
Well, I think it's a difficult question to ask. There are very good people coming into the boulevards. I mean, if you think of St. Kilda Road-- first of all, they were offices space. And then, now, there are changeover and people coming in with the money to deal with that, and then coming into the city.
And the city, really, form comes with that, and then going up to top end of Swanston Street, where there are students, looking at RMIT and Melbourne University. And I think that's all for the good. So it's a cosmopolitan city. It wasn't in the 1950s. It was a sort of post-war circumstance. So it's changed its coloration and its flavor, I think is very significant.
So you've had a rich and rewarding career, which we've only just touched on in this interview. But it resulted in you being made an officer of the Order of Australia for your contribution to architecture. So if not this, what are you most proud of in your career?
Oh, I'd be out of turn if I said some one thing. So there are a number of things in terms of buildings that I've been fortunate enough to put forward in terms of the Australian circumstance, a hearty number of projects in Canberra and laboratories in Queensland University. And so I think the package is really significant in Sydney for its School of Music as well.
Well, we were chatting before about if you knew how many projects you've worked on over the life of your career. And so we could only imagine that it's in the thousands.
Yes. I've got that.
So I guess the idea of just the breadth of experience and projects would be the thing that you would be most proud of.
Yeah. I've done work in China. And I've done work in Hanoi for an international school and the embassy for Saudi Arabia, for the Australian embassy. So I think that's a very difficult project. And they all have their goods and bads. So I've had a good run, I think.
And one that still continues.
We hope so.
Yes. It's been a pleasure talking to you, Daryl. Thank you so much.
Thanks for having me.