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We are undertaking a Modern Architecture Heritage Study to investigate the influence of the Modernist movement in architecture and how it was implemented in the Northern Beaches area.

To assist with this Study, we were successful in securing a grant from Heritage NSW. The catalyst for this Study was the Pittwater Community Based Heritage Study (2015) which noted the remarkable number of examples of Modernist architecture which were in the former Pittwater Council area and recommended that further study be undertaken. As the former Councils of Pittwater, Warringah and Manly were amalgamated in 2016, it is appropriate that further study now looks at modern architecture throughout the whole Northern Beaches area.

The purpose of this Study is to examine the influence of the Modernist movement on development of the Northern Beaches and to identify examples of this architectural style which are worthy of protection by heritage listing.

Architecture from the Victorian, Federation and Inter War eras is generally well understood by the community and are well represented on heritage registers. However, Modern Architecture is not. It is increasingly becoming valued as a distinct form of architecture worthy of research and protection. This Modern Architecture Heritage Study will go towards addressing this lack of representation on the Northern Beaches Council heritage list.

The Study

We have commissioned GML Heritage Pty Ltd, a heritage firm with a specialisation in Modernist Architecture, to prepare this study. There will be two main components:

  1. Investigation of the influence of the modern architecture movement in the Northern Beaches and the preparation of a brief thematic history which draws out key themes; and
  2. Identification and assessment of notable examples of modern architecture, with a view to providing protection of these significant examples, by inclusion on our heritage list.

How can I help?

As part of this study, we are calling for community nominations of any buildings from the Modernist period, that may be worthy of further investigation and possible heritage protection. To nominate a building, please use the nomination form below.

For further information on how heritage significance is investigated and assessed in NSW, please see the document library which includes guideline documents by Heritage NSW.

What is Modernist Architecture?


Modernist Architecture in Australia refers to a style of building design that was prevalent in the period from the mid-1940s (after the end of World War II), through to the 1970s.

Other synonymous terms include ‘The Modern Movement’ and ‘Mid Century Modernism’. Technological, economic and social changes throughout this period gave rise to a period of rapidly increasing economic and living standards. With this came increased prosperity and optimism and an appreciation for new forms of architecture. This new style embraced the change and responded to the increased availability of new materials including reinforced concrete, steel and large panes of glass.

Notable architects

Globally, important modernist architects included Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Lautner and Alvar Aalto.

In Australia, notable modernist architects included Harry Sielder, Arthur Baldwinson, Peter Mueller, Stan Symonds, Sydney Anchor, Richard Le Pastrier, Kenneth Woolley and Bruce Rickard. Walter Burley Griffin, his wife Marion Mahony Griffin and Alexander Stewart Jolly were early exponents of the movement in Australia.

Interior design was also significant as part of this movement, for example, the designs by Marion Hall Best.

Influence on Northern Beaches

From the 1950s to the 1970s, technological advancement and infrastructure such as the new Spit and Roseville Bridges and the family car, made the Northern Beaches a more accessible place to live. This increase in suburbanisation fuelled development of the area and also lead to the commissioning of architects to design new buildings.

The expression of Modernist Architecture in the Northern Beaches was not restricted purely to residential and domestic architecture. There were many examples of industrial, commercial, civic and ecclesiastical buildings which were built in this period, following modernist design principles. Examples include the former Roche office buildings at Cromer, Dee Why Library and St Kevin’s Catholic Church in Dee Why.

Also, a distinct local style of modern architecture called ‘Sydney Regional Architecture’ or the ‘Sydney School” emerged and began to be practised by architects of the day. Inspired by the landforms and beauty of Sydne,y they increasingly incorporated the existing site conditions and vegetation into their designs, giving rise to a distinct ‘Organic Architecture’ movement which was prevalent in the Northern Beaches. Buildings were designed based on the conditions of the site, with an emphasis on the use of natural materials, such as timber and sandstone, and the retention and integration into the natural landscape. Alexander Stewart Jolly, who designed a number of significant houses in the area, including Hy-Brasil at Avalon Beach, was an early exponent of this organic form of modern architecture.