Mordechai Benshemesh

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Mordechai Benshemesh
Born Mordechai Benshemesh
(1911-01-16)16 January 1911
Tel Aviv, Ottoman Palestine
Died 22 December 1993(1993-12-22) (aged 82)
Melbourne, Victoria
Nationality Palestinian
Australian (6 December 1946)
Occupation Architect
Spouse(s) Herma
Children Lisa, Joseph

Mordechai Benshemesh (Tel Aviv, 16 January 1911 – Melbourne, 22 December 1993) was an Ottoman born Jewish émigré architect, who practiced in Australia from the 1950s to the 1970s. He was the designer of one of Melbourne's first large scale modernist apartment blocks, Edgewater Towers.[1]


Mordechai Benshemesh was born on 16 January 1911, in Tel Aviv, which at the time was part of the Ottoman Empire.[2][3] He studied Polytechnical School in Tel Aviv between 1930-33 before travelling to London where he completed diplomas from Institute of Engineering Technology and International Correspondence School.[3] It was in Australia where he produced his most notable work. Benshemesh arrived in Australia on 13 June 1939.[4] and spent the next ten years working with numerous Melbourne architects; most notably Arthur W Plaisted (1940–41) and Harry Raymond 'Ray' Johnson (1946–49).[3][5] Benshemesh was naturalised as an Australian citizen on 6 December 1946.[6] When Johnson retired from architecture Benshemesh opened his own architectural firm[5] in 1950, where he gained reputation for multi-storey apartment designs, primarily within the St. Kilda area.[2] Benshemesh died on 22 December 1993.[3]

Ground and typical floorplans of Edgewater Towers (1959-60)

Notable Works[edit]

Edgewater Towers[edit]

Edgewater Towers located at 12 Marine Parade, St Kilda, was constructed in 1959-1960.[7] When construction was complete the tower was advertised in The Age as "everything you'd find in a Manhattan building, only minutes from Collins Street".[5][8] The apartment block was important at the time as it was the first multi-storey apartment block in St Kilda and it was also one of the first in Melbourne.[9][10] The tower supports 100 one bedroom and two bedroom apartments all with patios, laundry and garbage disposal chutes, lounge rooms and dinettes. Throughout the 1960s numerous planning permits were permitted to allow enclosed balconies.[5][11] The design of the Edgewater Towers is considered in the style international modernism and is constructed largely out of reinforced concrete. The building is listed on the City of Port Phillip's Municipal Review, which lists its significance as being "the first of St Kilda's residential highrise developments". The listing goes further to state "It still plays an important symbolic role in the perception of St Kilda's character and imagery." "Standing somewhat like a towering section of a stranded ocean liner, it announces St Kilda's uniquely nautical cosmopolitan zone at its southern approaches."[11]

Apartment drawing showing conversion from ground floor restaurant at Edgewater Towers

The Motel Palm Lake[edit]

The four storey Motel Palm Lake is located at 50-52 Queens Road, Albert Park. The motel was opened on 13 December 1962 by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Maurice Nathan,[2] and was one of Melbourne's most prestigious motels at the time. It originally had 84 suits which substantially enlarged to 164 suits. The Palm Lake Motel also provided parking, conference facilities, a nightly dinner dance and licensed restaurant ('The Outrigger').[2] It remained in operation under a new name, Noah's Palm Lake Motel. A new facade, two more storeys and a multi-level car park surrounding the swimming pool terrace were added in phases.[2] Two of the Canary Island Palm trees which were planted along the building's frontage in 1961 on the opening day (by Melbourne's Lord Mayor) still remain.[2]

List of works[edit]

  • 1951 – Blackshaws Road, Spotswood – Factory
  • 1951 - 38 Westbury Street, St Kilda East - Three storey flats
  • 1955–289 Barkly Street, St Kilda – Three storey flats (Barkly Lodge) [12]
  • 1955 – 614 St Kilda Road, Melbourne – Flats (Elizabeth Lodge)
  • 1957 – 26W Toorak Road, Toorak – Four storey flats (Gilbert Court)
  • 1959 – 43-44 Marine Parade, St Kilda – Three storey flats
  • 1959 – 11 Marine Parade, St Kilda – Four storey flats
  • 1960 – 12 Marine Parade, St Kilda – 13 storey apartments (Edgewater Towers)
  • 1960 – Toorak Road, South Yarra – 11 storey apartments (Pavic Investments)[13]
  • 1960 – St Kilda Road, Melbourne – Danglow Wing (Montefiore Home for the Aged)
  • 1960 – 8 Westbury Street, St Kilda East – Three storey flats (Wolverton) (Westbury Co-operative Housing Society Ltd)
  • 1961 – 166 Toorak Road, South Yarra – Ten storey flats (St Ives)
  • 1962 – 52 Queens Road, Albert Park – Palm Lake Motel[14]
  • 1963 – 21 The Esplanade, St Kilda – Ten storey flats (Questa Heights)
  • 1967 – 610 St Kilda Road, Melbourne – Office building (General Insurance Company)
  • 1971 – 98-100 Albert Road, South Melbourne – Office building,
  • 1971 – 10 Queens Road, Melbourne – Office building (Nilex House)
  • 1973 – Appleton Dock, Footscray – Cool store (BSC Containers)



  1. ^ Goad, Philip; Bingham-Hall, Patrick (1999). Melbourne Architecture. Watermark Press. p. 1959. ISBN 9780949284365. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Reeve, Simon (December 2010). "Australian Motel Owner's Journal". A Tale of Two City Motels: 10–11. ISSN 1743-7563. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Mordechai Benshemesh (1911-1993)". Dictionary of Unsung Architects. Built Heritage Pty Ltd. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "Immigration Records". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Edgewater Towers – 12 Marine Parade, St Kilda". St Kilda Historical Society Inc. 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "Naturalisation records". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  7. ^ "Survey of Post-War Built Heritage in Victoria: Stage One" (PDF). Heritage Victoria. October 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  8. ^ 'Age', 'Sun', 4 November 1960
  9. ^ "Survey of Post-War Built Heritage in Victoria" (PDF). Edgewater Towers 027-006. Heritage Victoria. 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Murphy, John; Smart, Judith (1997). The Forgotten Fifties: Aspects of Australian Society and Culture in the 1950s. Melbourne University Press. ISBN 9780522848151. 
  11. ^ a b "City of Port Phillip Heritage Review". Edgewater Towers – Citation No: 2049. City of Port Phillip. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "Narry Perrott's Property news". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 20 August 1953. p. 11. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "£500,000 Flats for South Yarra". The Age. 13 April 1960. p. 5. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "RAIA (Vic) 20th Century Architecture Register 1983" (PDF). Gramae Butler & Associates. 9 March 2000. Retrieved 22 May 2014.