Civic Offices (Roy Simpson of Yuncken Freeman for the NCDC, 1961). yuncken

16 Ryrie Street, Campbell

16 Ryrie Street, Campbell was designed by Yuncken Freeman Brothers, Griffiths and Simpson Architects in 1958 and construction was completed in 1960. The house was one of about ten designed for Defence personnel in Canberra being relocated from Melbourne in the late 1950s. The others are mostly in the more conservative post-war American colonial style.

Unfortunately I have no image of the house at 16 Ryrie Street. The image above is of the Civic Offices, also designed by Roy Simpson of Yuncken Freeman for the NCDC, in 1961.

The house exhibits elements of Yuncken Freeman Brothers work that combines rational and economic planning with elegant well proportioned spaces. Their work in Melbourne was recognised during the 1930s for its studied proportions and elevational treatment. They are considered key practitioners of the late twentieth century stripped classical style, a notable Canberra example being the Law Courts of the ACT (1961). The firm’s most significant work is the structuralist Sidney Myer Music Bowl (1959).

The Ryrie Street house is an example of a combination of two styles: the post-war international style with its cubiform shape and large sheets of glass and the late twentieth century stripped classical style with its symmetrical facade and regular bays with height exceeding width.


16 Ryrie Street, Campbell is listed on the ACT Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture. It is regarded by the RAIA as being an example of significant architecture by one of Melbourne’s leading architectural firms.

The house was built at the end of the post-war international style and the beginning of the late twentieth century stripped classical style. The design incorporates features peculiar to both styles: symmetrical facade and regular bays with height exceeding width (stripped classical) and cubiform shape and large sheets of glass (post-war international).


The house is set centrally on the block which slopes across the site and to the south west corner. Construction is cavity brickwork, timber framed and concrete floors, timber roof framing and galvanised steel roofing. The house is bagged and painted white externally while the fascia, double entry doors and external laundry door are painted black.

The house is an ‘L’ shaped, split level design with a central entrance. The internal layout is a compartmentalised arrangement of rooms, rather than the more typical open planning of the post-war international style. The entry path is on the central axis set between the front of the house to the west and the carport to the east, located in the void of the open ‘L’.

The axis of the entry path generally divides the upper living areas from the lower sleeping and utility areas. The double entry doors open into a lobby with the living room to the left, the dining room and remainder of the house down three steps to the right and a study area directly ahead. When the full height sliding doors to the study area are opened the entry axis flows through the full height glazed external doors of the study into the garden. The proportions of the living room are elegant, emphasising the flow of space out to the north and south through full height glazing.

The proportions of the upper level are carefully thought out. The 3m ceiling and full height glazing to the bays combine to give the formal spaces a restrained, classical elegance. The importance of these rooms is emphasised by the greater height and expressive massing of the cubiform shape of this section of the house, which extends further to the rear than the lower level of the house, which is deliberately understated.

Access to the rest of the house is next to the dining room which is set down three steps. The dining room also opens out on to the garden through full height glazed doors. The ceiling height in the lower level is 2.6m, with the central hall lit by borrowed light from the west service rooms which have highlights over the doors.

The division of living and sleeping areas has been achieved through a classical composition that relies on repetitive rhythm and carefully considered proportions to create symmetrical massing.

The rear garden has two circular terraces designed by the architect to be integral parts of the house. The larger terrace off the lounge room is 8m in diameter and paved with stone. The smaller is off the dining room and is 6.5m in diameter and grassed. The interior spaces flow out through the large glazed doors to these terraces.

Sources and further reading