• design

17 November 2017

Victorian architect Neil Clerehan passed away at the weekend, leaving an extraordinary legacy of work and critical writing behind him.

House. Hopetoun Rd. at Russell Street. Toorak. Vic. Neil Clerehan. 1967-68.  Photo by Peter Willie.

House. Hopetoun Rd. at Russell Street. Toorak. Vic. Neil Clerehan. 1967-68.  Photo by Peter Willie. Courtesy State Library Victoria.

Born in the Brighton in 1922, Clerehan developed an early fascination with design and enrolled in the architecture program at RMIT University (then Melbourne Technical College) where he befriended a young Robin Boyd. Like Boyd, Clerehan was instrumental in the growth and development of Australian modernism, a style that dominated his six-decade-long career.

Clerehan worked predominantly on private homes, with many beautiful examples still standing in the inner south of Melbourne. He viewed the home as a frame for family life and his designs were therefore economical and unobtrusive, employing limited materials to maximise space and light. He preferred function over form, and stylish simplicity was his hallmark.

Earlier this year, Professor Phillip Goad of the Melbourne School of Design revisited one of Clerehan’s homes in South Yarra, Clerehan House II. "This is typical Clerehan,” he wrote in Architecture magazine, “Understated, self-effacing and underestimating his own consummate skill in being able to provide an elegant backdrop to everyday life."

Clerehan was honoured with numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, including the 2005 Victorian Architecture Award and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture in 2009.

He continued to have an active practice until well into his nineties and was the subject of an RMIT University monograph in 2006.

We honour this great man and his vast contribution to Victoria’s architectural heritage.