Back in August I posted about a little known late twentieth century organic style house in Kambah. The house is a fine example of that style of architecture. Along with its massing, use of geometric forms, deep roof overhang for shade and energy efficient design, it is also a successful implementation of a complex geometric plan based on a hemicycle—unusual if not unique for a mid-century Canberra house. Little known locally, perhaps—but not overseas. It has been widely published and visited by students, scholars and architects over the past three decades.
That house was designed and built by the Canberra architect Laurie Virr, who has had a fascinating career in engineering and architecture in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia spanning five decades. In between all of that, he trained with Herb Elliott at Portsea under Percy Cerutty and had a serious tilt at the 1960 Olympic team.
While Laurie has based himself in Canberra and produced important work here, he has largely worked interstate during the past thirty years. He has remained outside the system and gone unrecognised (in this country at least) by the mainstream—that is, the Australian Institute of Architects. Laurie’s idiom has mostly been the single residential dwelling, with an ongoing exploration of solar housing, geometric designs and planning for small spaces. It seems to me that, together with Enrico Taglietti, he has been one of the most original and important practitioners of the late twentieth century organic style of architecture working in Canberra.
I’ve now prepared a short biography of Laurie Virr which gives a brief outline of his career and work. I’m also working on a profile of Laurie’s other important Canberra work—his first house, the Andrews House, in Aranda, which remains as fresh and interesting today as it was when it was built in 1969.