It is with wistful resignation we wish to pay our respects and recollect the awe for architect and Australian Modernist giant, Neil Clerehan who passed away late last week, 7 weeks shy of his 95th birthday. A man of wit, generosity of knowledge, a pioneer of design ideals and writing, a family man. It is an ambitious task to attempt to detail such a life and career, such is its all encompassing impact; the searing clarity of his work and the incredible legacy he leaves behind, spanning the entire breadth of Modernist Australian architecture; the post-war pioneering years in Melbourne toiling alongside Robin Boyd and travelling to meet global instigators such as Philip Johnson, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright, the project homes, the awards, the remarkable public and private commissions, the later destruction and dismissal of many buildings and the resurgent recognition of Australian Modernism and Clerehan himself are now receiving more readily.
Clerehan House II (c.1964)
Always an indicator of quality person and their body of work is the words of contemporaries, however as Clerehan has in outlasted so many, maybe most, in his immediate professional sphere that job now falls to the newer generation to speak about the man. As their trailblazing forebear into architectural expression and exploration, planning and living, these later architects, designers and fans have been inspired, mentored and awed. It is these words gleaned from the webs, that we’ll leave here.
“…..elder statesman of Melbourne modernism, keeper of the flame, indefatigable chronicler of (and eyewitness to) eight decades of local architectural trends, a figure admired for his erudition, bodkin-sharp wit and unsurpassed gift for playfully scurrilous anecdote.”
– Simon Reeves, Architectural historian, Built heritage.
“farewell Neil Clerehan……a lifetime of buildings left for us to celebrate and enjoy”
– Kennedy Nolan Architects
“A giant of Modernist architecture in Australia. He was Director of the RVIA Small Homes Service (1954–61), and wrote weekly articles on architecture for The Age newspaper. In 1961, he published Best Australian Houses. Briefly in partnership with Guilford Bell, he was still designing into his 90’s.”
-Scott Burchell, Director, Comb Construction
“I have a lot of respect for his dogged passion for architecture. He did great things with both the Small Homes Service post WW2, and his boldly understated houses.”
-Jason Haigh, Cloud Dwellers Architects
“One of the best.”
-Grazia and co.
“It was with a deep and profound sadness I heard about the passing of Neil Clerehan. Neil was one of our most significant architects and he made an enormous contribution to the standard of post war housing in Melbourne.”
“Vale to a giant of Australian architecture. 1922-2017. #neilclerehan leaves a huge legacy after a sixty plus years career. His work at the #smallhomesservice continues to inspire my thinking about houses, more than fifty years later.”
– Rory Toomey, Rory the Architect