Harry Norris

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Harry Norris
Born (1888-06-12)12 June 1888
Died 15 December 1966(1966-12-15) (aged 78)
Occupation Architect

Harry Norris (12 June 1888 – 15 December 1966) was an Australian architect, one of the more prolific and successful in Melbourne in the interwar period, best known for his 1930s Art Deco commercial work in the Melbourne CBD. His designs were informed by his regular overseas trips, especially to the United States, which he visited at least every 18 months from perhaps the late 1920s;[1] and he was one of the very first architects to introduce Art Deco style buildings to central Melbourne. He had a strong relationship with the wealthy Nicholas family, designing not only the Nicholas Building, but the simpler yet similar Nicholas Factory[2] in South Melbourne, and the spectacular mansion 'Burnham Beeches' in the Dandenongs for Alfred Nicholas. He also had a long relationship with G J Coles, designing branches of their eponymous Coles Stores from the late 1920s, numerous matching Art Deco branches in the 1930s, and some of their earliest supermarkets in the 1950s, as well as a country house for E.B.Coles in 1938. He refused membership of the RVIA for many years until finally joining on the 21 February 1946. Harry Norris retired on his 76th birthday in June 1966 and died 6 months later.[3]

Key buildings[edit]

Nicholas Building, Melbourne
Nicholas Building

Address: 27-41 Swanston Street Date of construction: 1925-26, 1939-40 (extension) Client: Alfred Nicholas The Nicholas Building is the most distinctive commercial palazzo in Melbourne. The facade is an essay in the Commercial Palazzo or Stripped Classical on a grand scale, with classical elements such as tall ionic pilasters and Doric columns and a wide cornice, all executed in terracotta faience. The Cathedral Arcade is located on the ground floor and its glazed leadlight barrel vaulted ceiling is a main feature of the building. Norris had his architecture practice from 1926 until moving to 136 Jolimont Road East Melbourne in the 1950s. The Nicholas Building was originally used as offices and retail, and as of the 2010s is known for specialist retail and the creative industries.

Block Court

Address: 288-292 Collins Street Date of construction:1930 Harry Norris' Block Court was a remodelling project where a shopping arcade was introduced to the ground floor to connect Collins Street with the Block Arcade. The building was originally the Athenaeum Club built in 1890. Block Court is noted for its extensive use of Art Deco or Jazz Moderne detailing, with features like zigzag decoration to the copper shop window frames, stained glass, patterned terrazzo flooring and elaborate ceiling decoration with stepped geometric shapes and floral motifs.[4]

G.J. Coles Building
David Jones Store(Former G. J. Coles Store), Melbourne

Address: 298-304 Bourke Street Date of construction: 1929-30, 1938-40 (extension), [1984 Bates Smart McCutcheon (conversion to David Jones)] Client: G.J. Coles Builder: Clements Langford Pty. Ltd. Engineer: Mr. Clive S.Steele The building is noted for its use of colorful Jazz Moderne detailing, the unusual mauve colour of the faience facade and its overall verticality created by the use of prominent vertical piers, a form known locally as "Commercial Gothic". It was not only the first example of this building style, but also one of the first large scale examples of Art Deco design.[5]

Mitchell House, Melbourne
Mitchell House

Address: 325-362 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne Date of construction: 1937[6] Mitchell House is located at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Lonsdale Street. The building is designed in what is called Streamlined Modern, reflecting the architecture language of a European modern architecture of the 1920s and '30s with its clean horizontal glass and plain wall surfaces, broken by a contrasting vertical stairwell element.

Carlow House, Melbourne

List of selected works[edit]

  • Tattersall's Club premises (now Curtin House), 248-258 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 1922
  • Deva House, 327 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 1924
  • Nicholas Building, 27-41 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 1926
  • Majorca Building, 258-260 Flinders Lane, 1929
  • Former Kellow Falkiner Showrooms, 375-379 St.Kilda Road, South Yarra, 1928 (altered)
  • Block Court Arcade, 288-292 Collins Street, 1930
  • G.J.Coles Stores, 299-307 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 1928 – 1930
  • Northcote Town Hall auditorium and lobby refurbishment, 197-201 High Street, Northcote, 1930
  • Burnham Beeches, Sherbrooke Road, Sassafras, 1931-3
  • Moonya, 9 Lakeside Drive, Country Club Estate, Emerald, c1935
  • Silver Birches, 1 Mary St, Country Club Estate, Emerald, 1937
  • Melford Motors Showroom, 615 Elizabeth Street, North Melbourne, 1937
  • Mission to Seamen, 1 Beach Road, Port Melbourne, 1937 (dem c1992)
  • Former Capitol Bakeries, 625 Chapel Street, 1937 (dem 2017)
  • Hendra, 11 Williams Rd Mt Eliza, 1938
  • Northern Bakery (later Tip Top), 170 Edward Street, East Brunswick, 1940 (altered)
  • Coles Store, Ivanhoe, 115-117 Upper Heidelberg Road, Ivanhoe, 1940
  • Nicholas Hall, 148 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 1940
  • Ivanhoe Grammar School, The Ridgeway, Ivanhoe, 1954
  • Fowlers Vacola Manufacturing Factory, 275 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, 1955 (now The Works homewares store)
  • Australian and New Zealand Bank, 224-236 Queen Street, Melbourne, 1958 (altered)
  • Windsor Hotel, Spring Street (north extension), 1961
  • Kodak Factory (1950s-60s) and administration building (1964) (dem 2011).


  1. ^ "Plan for Planning". Townsville Daily Bulletin. 27 January 1943. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  2. ^ "Aspro Factory Photograph". Sate Library of Victoria. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  3. ^ Australian Encyclopedia of Architecture. Cambridge University Press. 2012. pp. 502–503. 
  4. ^ "Block Court Arcade". National Trust Database. Heritage Victoria. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  5. ^ "David Jones (former Coles Store)". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  6. ^ Mitchell House at National Trust (Victoria) database. Accessed 21 October 2013

Further reading[edit]

  • Freeland, J. M. (1968) Architecture In Australia - A History. Penguin Books.
  • Goad, P & Plaxe, K (2002) A Short History of Melbourne Architecture. Pesaro Publishing.
  • Goad, P. (1999) Melbourne Architecture. The Watermark Press.
  • Grow, R. (2009) Melbourne Art Deco. Ripe Off The Press.