John Smith Murdoch

John Smith Murdoch (29 September 1862 - 21 May 1945), born in Cassieford, Elgin county, Scotland, was the chief architect for the Commonwealth of Australia from 1919, responsible for designing many government buildings in Australia, most notably the Provisional Parliament House in Canberra, the home of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988.

He trained with major engineering firms in the United Kingdom before moving to Australia in 1884. It was he who persuaded Walter Burley Griffin to come to Australia from the USA, and who went to Sydney to greet him on his arrival in 1913. Later, however, he had a difficult relationship with Griffin. [Max Bourke, "Old house rules", "Canberra 1900-2000" (supplement to the Canberra Times), 19 March 2000]

In addition to the Parliament House, he designed many of Canberra's first public buildings, such as:
* Kingston Power Station (1913-1915). This was decommissioned in the early 1960s, and reopened on 25 May 2007 as Canberra Glassworks, a glass artist studio. [ [ Transformer: Canberra Glassworks; Construction Tour and Program Launch (media release)] , accessed 31 May 2007]
* the Hotel Canberra (1924) - now the Hyatt Hotel
* the Hotel Kurrajong (1926)
* Secretariat Buildings No. 1 and 2 (1927) - now East and West Blocks
* Gorman House
* Ainslie Public School
* several residential hotels necessary for public servants and politicians.

In Melbourne, his notable works included:
* the Commonwealth Offices in Treasury Place (1912)
* the former Mail Exchange on Bourke Street (1913)
* the former High Court in Little Bourke Street (1926).

Elsewhere in Australia, he designed:
* the Commonwealth Bank and General Post Office buildings (1923) in Forrest Place, Perth
* ANZAC Square, Brisbane
* the Customs House in Mackay, Queensland
* 12 bungalows built in 1915 for staff of the Royal Australian Navy College, HMAS Creswell, at Jervis Bay, New South Wales. These now have heritage-listing, and were refurbished in 2006-7. [ [ Creswell's heritage houses restored, p6] Navy News Vol.50 No.9, 31 May 2007]

Murdoch was a member of the Masonic order and it is claimed that he incorporated many masonic motifs into his designs. [ [ John Smith Murdoch, Brisbane, a Wooden Leg, Symbolic Signs, and the OPH Building] , Denis Strangman, accessed 31 May 2007]

Murdoch was reclusive, he never married, and there are only 4 known photographs of him. He was typically dour and frugal; he had no enthusiasm for the Canberra project, saying expenditure on it could not be justified at the time; and he thought the whole idea was a waste of money. [Robert Messenger, "Mythical thing" to an iced reality", in "Old Parliament House: 75 Years of History", supplement to the Canberra Times, 4 May 2002.] He died in Brighton, Melbourne.

Gallery of work


External links

* [ Canberra Glassworks]

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