Bernard Joyce – Unsung Hero

Many architects would have heard the name Bernard Joyce. The illustrious Melbourne architect, who passed away in 2009, left behind an important legacy. The Total Carpark at 170 to 190 Russell Street in the CBD, which has been likened to an oversized television set, would have raised eyebrows with the general public when it was completed in 1965.

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The Total Carpark Office by Bernard Joyce for Bogle & Banfield

Designed for Bogle & Banfield, there are few, if any levels in this iconic landmark that aren’t occupied by architects or designers. As mentioned in Philip Goad’s book Melbourne Architecture (Watermark Press), this office building/car park is “one of Melbourne’s best examples of Japanese-inspired Brutalist architecture when off form concrete is employed in emphatic structural and functional expression.”

While this landmark building is still with us, many of Bernard Joyce’s homes from the 1960s have been demolished. One of his houses was briefly lived in by architect Steven Coverdale who was disappointed he couldn’t afford to buy it when it was listed by the owner. Built in Lower Templestowe in 1968 by the Inge Brothers, after a ‘brave’ client saw the design in a Doncaster display estate, it was sadly bulldozed four years ago. “It was the only one that was ever built from that Doncaster display estate. I spoke to Zig Inge who was and still is, head of the Zig Inge Group, and he said at the time that the design we lived in was far too radical. He said that most people just wanted to buy a house like their parents,” says Coverdale.

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The Lower Templestowe House by Architect Bernard Joyce

The Lower Templestowe house was anything but conventional. High brick fences on either side of a central courtyard created a ‘blank’ façade to the street and the internal rooms all centred on an internal courtyard. The generous glazing, with the windows taking the form of French-style doors, strengthened the connection to the other strategically placed courtyards. “I first discovered the work of Bernard Joyce well before I rented the house. I was thumbing through old additions of Australian Home Beautiful and could see that he had a different ‘voice’. You could say my house loosely followed the ‘Nuts and Berries’ architectural school in Sydney,” says Coverdale.

Fortunately, a number of Bernard Joyce designs remain. There’s still a scattering of his houses in North Balwyn, Kew and, closer to town, there’s a house in Gordon Grove, South Yarra, together with eight townhouses he designed on the corner of Anderson Street and Domain Road, also in South Yarra. Known as ‘Kurneh’, the two-storey brown brick townhouses, have recently been restored. Designed in 1967, around the time the Lower Templestowe house was built, these townhouses, like that house, have discretely placed and private open spaces behind high brick fences. And although not large by today’s standards, are still comfortable well-designed homes for either professionals or those scaling down. And what a position, directly opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Bernard Joyce was fortunate to have his work regularly covered in magazines and sometimes in newspapers. But the recent demolition of the Lower Templestowe house means it’s still as important as ever to recognise the work of this unsung hero.

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The Lower Templestowe House by Architect Bernard Joyce

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The Lower Templestowe House by Architect Bernard Joyce. Floorplan courtesy of Steven Coverdale

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The Lower Templestowe House by Architect Bernard Joyce

Words by Stephen Crafti

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