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Sir Roy Burman Grounds (18 December 1905 – 2 March 1981)[1] was one of Australia's leading architects of the modern movement.

Sir Roy Grounds
Born(1905-12-18)18 December 1905
Died2 March 1981(1981-03-02) (aged 75)
EducationMelbourne University
Known forNational Gallery of Victoria
Victorian Arts Centre
Scientific career


Born in Melbourne, Grounds was educated at Scotch College and then the University of Melbourne, and worked for the architectural firm of Blackett, Forster and Craig. In 1932 he won an award from the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects (RVIA) and left Melbourne to work in England and the United States for two years, gaining exposure to contemporary architectural developments.

On his return to Australia, Grounds went into partnership with Geoffrey Mewton, and together they designed a number of houses heavily influenced by the new modern movement, especially the simple, rough modernism of US West Coast architect William Wurster. The most notable of this group are there on the Mornington Peninsula, including Grounds' own house, nicknamed 'The Ship', and Lyncroft and the Ramsay House. They also designed some notable flat developments, which were more influenced by European modernist trends. Grounds ended this partnership in 1936 and travelled in England until 1939.

Grounds established his own practice between 1939 and 1942 and designed a series of unusually modern flat developments which further established his reputation. During World War II he served in the Royal Australian Air Force, performing works and camouflage duties. After the war, Grounds retired for a few years, returning in 1951 as a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture at Melbourne University. In 1953, he resumed his architectural practice and produced a series of houses, including his own, based pure geometric shapes. The Leyser House was triangular, the Henty House was circular, and his own house was square, with a central circular courtyard. This theme was repeated in later projects, including the circular Round House in Hobart, and the square Master's Lodge at Ormond College.

When Grounds, Frederick Romberg and Robin Boyd formed their partnership in 1953 all were well established in Victoria. Each brought substantial work to the practice, which they usually worked on separately, and the firm became very successful.

The Shine Dome of the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra.

Grounds' first large commission was for the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra. The construction of its reinforced concrete dome was a considerable technical achievement. Opened in 1959, it won the Meritorious Architecture Award of the Canberra Area Committee of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) and the Sulman Award for Architectural Merit. The Academy building also led to other work in Canberra, initially for the firm and later Grounds himself. Grounds opened a Canberra office in the Forrest Townhouses (1959), which he designed and partly financed.

In 1959 the firm was awarded the commission to design the National Gallery of Victoria and Arts Centre, with Grounds named in the contract as the architect in charge. When Boyd and Romberg were mildly critical of the preliminary geometric designs that Grounds showed them, relations between the partners became strained, and in 1962 Grounds left the partnership, taking the commission with him and setting up his own company with Oscar Bayne.

Under a building committee chaired by the philanthropist Ken Myer, Grounds devoted the next twenty years of his life to the completion of the Arts Centre. His longest-serving architectural associates throughout this period were Alan Nelson, Fritz Suendermann, Lou Gerhardt and Allan Stillman. While the Gallery was brought in on time and budget, the complicated Yarra River site for the Concert Hall and Theatre Complex resulted in building delays and criticism. Unlike the fate that befell Jørn Utzon on the Sydney Opera House project, Grounds managed to hold on to his commission from the Victorian Government despite tumult within his company in the late 1970s. Grounds showed Queen Elizabeth II the massive excavations shortly before his death. Much of the theatres' interior designs were completed by John Truscott after Grounds' death.

Grounds was awarded the RAIA Gold Medal in 1968 and was knighted in 1969.[2] In 1969 he was elected a life fellow of the RAIA. One of his last designs was Hobart's iconic 18-story octagonal tower and Wrest Point Hotel Casino complex. He died in Melbourne in 1981.

In 2011, with the opening of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania, two houses designed and built there by Grounds in 1957–8 for Claudio Alcorso on the Moorilla Estate—the Courtyard House and the Round House—became respectively the entrance and the library of Australia's largest private museum.[3]

Key worksEdit

Mewton & Grounds

  • 'The Ship' (Grounds' family house), 35 Rannoch Avenue, Mt Eliza (1935)[4]
  • Lyncroft, 410 Tucks Road, Shoreham (1935)[5]
  • Evan Price House, 2 Riverview Road, Essendon (1935)[6]
  • House, 236 Kooyong Road, Toorak (1935)
  • Chateau Tahbilk homestead, 254 O'Neils Road, Tahbilk (1935)
  • Woy Woy flats, 77 Marine Parade, Elwood (1936)
  • Bellaire flats, 3 Cowderoy St, St Kilda (1936)

Roy Grounds

  • Ramsay House, 2 Rendelsham Avenue, Mt Eliza (1937)[7]
  • Clendon Flats, 13 Clendon Road, Armadale (1940)
  • Moonbria Flats, 68 Mathoura Road, Toorak (1941)
  • Quamby Flats, 3 Glover Court, Toorak (1941)[8]
  • Leyser House, Kew (1952)
  • Grounds House and flats, 24 Hill Street, Toorak (1953)[9]
  • Henty House (Round house), 581 Nepean Highway, Frankston South (1953)[10]

Grounds Romberg & Boyd

  • Currawong Ski Lodge, 13 Jack Adams Pathway, Thredbo NSW (1957)[11]
  • The Courtyard House (1957) and The Round House (1958), Moorilla Estate (both now part of The Museum of Old and New Art), 655 Main Rd, Berriedale, Hobart
  • Masters Lodge, Ormond College, Melbourne University (1958)[12]
  • Vice Masters Lodge (alterations), Ormond College, Melbourne University (1958)[12]
  • Australian Academy of Science (Shine Dome), 15 Gordon St, Acton, Canberra (1959)[13]
  • Forrest Townhouses, 3 Tasmania Circle, Forrest (1959)[14]
  • Vasey Crescent Houses, 42, 44 and 46 Vasey Crescent, Campbell (1960)[15]
  • McNicoll House, 19 Gordon Grove, South YArra (1962-3).[16]

Roy Grounds

Gallery of worksEdit



  1. ^ "Grounds, Sir Roy Burman (1905–1981)". Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  2. ^ It's an Honour
  3. ^ "Museum of Old & New Art (MONA)". ArchitectureAU. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  4. ^ "The Ship". Victorian Heritage Database.
  5. ^ "Lyncroft". Victorian Heritage Database.
  6. ^ "Residence". Victorian Heritage Database.
  7. ^ "Ramsay House". Victorian Heritage Database.
  8. ^ "Quamby". Victorian Heritage Database.
  9. ^ "Grounds House". Victorian Heritage Database.
  10. ^ "Round House". Victorian Heritage Database.
  11. ^ Currawong Ski Lodge
  12. ^ a b "Ormond College". Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  13. ^ "Australian Academy of Science Building". National Heritage List.
  14. ^ "Canberra house | Forrest Townhouses, 3 Tasmania Circle, Forrest (1959)". Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  15. ^ "Canberra house | 42, 44 and 46 Vasey Crescent, Campbell (1960)". Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  16. ^ "'McNicoll House' 19 Gordon Gr, South Yarra VIC | Modernist Australia". Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  17. ^ CSIRO. "Phytotron Building". Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  18. ^ "National Gallery of Victoria". Victorian Heritage Database.
  19. ^ "Canberra house | 4 Cobby Street, Campbell (1969-70)". Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Victorian Arts Centre". Victorian Heritage Database.


  • Jennifer Taylor, Australian Architecture Since 1960, RAIA, 1990
  • Philip Goad, A Guide to Melbourne Architecture, Sydney, 1999
  • Geoffrey Serle, Robin Boyd: A Life, Melbourne, 1995
  • Eric Westbrook, Birth of a Gallery, Macmillan Australia, Melbourne, 1968