John James Clark

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John James Clark

John James Clark (23 January 1838 – 25 June 1915), an Australian architect, was born in Liverpool, England. Clark's 30 years in public service, in combination with 33 in private practice, produced some of Australia's most notable public buildings, as well as at least one prominent building in New Zealand.[1]


John James Clark, commonly referred to as JJ,[2] was born in Liverpool, England on 23 January 1838 to parents George and Mary Clark. Clark was one of six children. The family relocated from Liverpool to Melbourne, Australia in March 1852, in hopes of capitalising on the Victorian gold rush.[3] Whilst other family members took up employment working in the gold fields, 14-year-old Clark pursued his interest in architecture and was employed as a draftsman for the colonial architect's office.[4] JJ continued in public service until 1878 when he was retrenched in the Black Wednesday dismissals.[3] Clark took a brief sabbatical in 1858 to tour Europe [5]

In 1865 Clark married Mary Taylor Watmuff (1844–1871)[3] they remained married until her untimely death at the age of 26 in 1871.[6] The couple had one child, Edward James, in 1868. In 1889 when Edward was 21, Clark took him on a tour of Europe and America, mirroring that of the one Clark took in his own youth.

In 1880 Clark set up private practice in central Melbourne.[3] Between 1881 and 1896 Clark relocated several times between Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia in pursuit of commissions and employment. One of Clark's most notable achievements, during this time, was his appointment as Queensland Colonial Architect.

In 1896 Clark and his son formed a professional partnership that lasted until his death,[7] and saw them complete works in Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. Clark died at his residence in St Kilda, Melbourne on 25 June 1915.

J J Clark is the subject of a biography to be published in 2011 by UNSW Press.


The old Treasury Building in Melbourne, now the City Museum
Old Treasury Building

Old Treasury Building is considered by many as one of the finest examples of Renaissance Revival architecture in Melbourne. Clark began designing this building in 1857 when he was nineteen. Construction began in 1858 using bluestone, sourced from Broadmeadows for its foundations, and sandstone, from Baccus Marsh, for its intricate external facade. The building was completed in 1862. Originally the treasury was designed to hold Victoria's state gold, and also offices major colonial leaders.[5] In 1874 the Treasury offices were relocated, however the building was still used weekly for meetings with the Governor General. In 1992 the building was restored, and from 2005 it was the home of the City Museum.

Melbourne City Baths
Melbourne City Baths

Designed by Clark and his son Edward James in 1904, the Melbourne City Baths were the result of a winning competition entry to redesign the existing baths.

A significant example of the Edwardian Baroque style, the building uses a bold two tone palette of red brick and cream yellow rendered concrete. The highly articulated facade wraps around the corners of the site and displays multiple classical instances of cupolas, archways and triangular pediments that is considered by some as ‘Federation Freestyle’. These motifs also reflected a mesh of architectural styles popular in England and America at that time.

Melbourne (Queen Victoria) Hospital pavilion
Queen Victoria Women's Hospital

Clark's original design for the Queen Victoria Hospital occupied an entire block in Melbourne's CBD. In later years the hospital was relocated and subsequently a significant portion of the building was deconstructed. Currently all that remains of the original design is one of the three pavilions that ran along Lonsdale Street. Designed by Clark whilst in partnership with his son Edward James, the hospital was completed in 1910 in an Edwardian Baroque style. The design worked as a network of pavilions connected by a large central corridor that ran through the site. Raised upon a bluestone base the red brick ‘blood & bandage’ [8] building is ornamented with rendered concrete flanked by cupola topped turrets. The building's remnants are currently occupied by the Queen Victoria Women's Centre.

Further notable works[edit]

Royal Melbourne Mint
Supreme Court of Victoria, Melbourne
Melbourne Town Hall Administration Building

Victoria, Melbourne

Victoria, Regional

Treasury Building, Brisbane
Central Station clock tower, Brisbane


New South Wales

  • 1899 A new scheme for the Newcastle Hospital (of which only the Nurses' Quarters and operating Theatre were built)
  • 1903 The Maitland Hospital
  • 1862 A unexecuted design for the Sydney Free Public Library
  • 1881 The Waverley Town Hall (unexecuted)
  • 1882 The Orange Town Hall
  • 1880 The Wagga Wagga Town Hall (unexecuted)
Fremantle Town Hall

Western Australia

  • 1897 Perth St Andrew's Presbyterian Church
  • 1897 Fremantle Town Hall, alterations and extensions
  • 1898 Perth Royal Children's Hospital (unexecuted)
  • 1898 Vasse Butter Factory[12]

New Zealand

  • 1907 Auckland Town Hall
  • - A design for the Auckland Supreme Court
  • - A design for a Christchurch Court House


Clark placed in 38 of the 47 competitions he entered throughout his career; of these, 24 were first placements.[3]

Clark's obituary stated his partnership with son Edward James Clark, became his most professionally successfully period in respect to competition wins with the firm winning in succession competitions for:[7]

  • Fremantle Town Hall Auditorium Alterations (Fremantle, 1897)
  • Saint Andrew's Presbyterian Church (Perth, 1897)
  • Royal Children's Hospital (Perth, 1898)
  • Newcastle Hospital (Newcastle, 1899)
  • Maitland Hospital (Maitland, 1903)
  • The City Baths (Melbourne, 1903)

Additionally in later years the firm successful campaigned for

  • National Mutual Building (Ballarat, 1904)
  • Women's Hospital (Melbourne, 1907)
  • Carlton Refuge (Melbourne, 1907)
  • Auckland Town Hall (Auckland, 1907 )
  • Melbourne Hospital (Melbourne, 1912)

His other competition awards were produced from individual work, partnerships and associations with architectural firms.


  1. ^ Dodd, Andrew, John James Clark: Public Architect in Australia, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Melbourne 2009.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 March 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 November 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  6. ^ "Family Notices". The Argus. Melbourne. 14 March 1871. p. 4. Retrieved 6 September 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ a b "DEATH OF LEADING ARCHITECT". The Argus. Melbourne. 26 June 1915. p. 16. Retrieved 15 September 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ Goad, P. 2006. Melbourne Architecture. Watermark Press: New South Wales.
  9. ^ Aradale at[permanent dead link] Retrieved 08.April 2013
  10. ^ "Yungaba Immigration Centre (entry 600245)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  11. ^ "THE NEW IMMIGRATION DEPOT". The Brisbane Courier. 13 July 1887. p. 6. Retrieved 15 August 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "THE VASSE BUTTER FACTORY". The West Australian. Perth. 21 May 1898. p. 2. Retrieved 6 September 2013 – via National Library of Australia.

Further reading[edit]

Dodd, Andrew (2012): JJ Clark: Architect of the Australian Renaissance, University of New South Wales Press

External links[edit]