Neil Clerehan

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Neil Clerehan (born 29 December 1922 in Melbourne[1]) is an Australian architect of six decade's standing. He is a Life Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects,[2] and in 2004 was awarded the President’s Prize for the Hall of Fame (RVIA). Clerehan established several architecture firms: Neil Clerehan Architects (1951–1962), Guilford Bell and Neil Clerehan (1962–1964), Neil Clerehan and Associates (1964–1980), Clerehan – Cran (1980–1996) and Neil Clerehan Architects (1996-current). His current firm is situated in 1 Maddock Street, Windsor, VIC, 3181. Being grounded in the local traditions, Clerehan’s practice focuses on domestic architecture and puts forward Melbourne’s culture. Through this field, he has established his reputation. Clerehan is also famous for his encapsulation and dissemination of Architectural history through his publishing and community works. His notable works include the C. Ross Fenner house, the second Clerehan house and project houses for Pettit and Sevitt Merchant Builders.

Personal life[edit]

Neil Clerehan was born in Brighton, Australia. As a boy, he had an interest in architecture, and was encouraged by his parents. He inspected family investment properties with his father, and familiarized with works of Australian Architecture through readings given by his mother whom studied painting at the National Gallery School.

Clerehan matriculated in 1938. The following year, he returned to St Patrick’s and gained honours in European History, English, French, Latin, Chemistry and a bare pass in Math I. The year after, he enrolled in the architecture program at the Melbourne Technical College (RMIT University). Being educated at a small, private school in art subjects, he did not know architecture drafting tools. In 1941, Clerehan joined the University Rifles. In 1942, he was enlisted in AIF and was transferred to camp, then to Brisbane, Queensland and New Guinea until 1944, when he picked up malaria at Mline Bay. He was discharged and brought back to Melbourne. During this war period, he met and became a close friend with Robin Boyd.

In 1946, he resumed his course in RMIT University, but he left for Melbourne University to do the Atlier course. He discontinued his final year, and enrolled in the Bachelor of Architecture, graduating in 1950. During his school years, Clerehan worked in Martin and Tribe office, and took his time-off to work as a labourer on the Gordon Homes project. He registered as an architect and established his own practice in 1951.

In 1952, Clerehan set off for his own overseas journey to the United States of America. Within a year, he hitch-hiked and travelled by bus to about forty states, including east and west Taliesin where he met Frank Lloyd Wright. During this trip, he worked as a reporter for United Nations in New York. There, he met notable architects, including Philip Johnson, Walter Gropius, William Wurster, Mies van der Rohe and Oscar Niemeyer. He married Sonia Cole in 1955, and moved to their first home in South Yarra from their unit in Grounds’ Hill Street, Toorak. By the late 1960s, they had four children so they moved to a bigger home in Walsh Street.[3][4]

Colleagues and Influences[edit]

After a year of travelling in United States of America, Neil Clerehan returned to Australia. Afterwards, his designs were influenced by modern American Architecture. Clerehan and Boyd met again after the WWI, and worked together for the Smudge, Victorian Modern and Small House Service. In 1980, Neil Clerehan became a partner with his close colleague, David Cran. They worked together until Cran's death in 1996.

Neil Clerehan has described his style as that of "an unreconstructed Modernist". In 2010 he wrote that "architecture is a system rather than a style. I don't have a social conscience on the question of sustainability. I regard our building habits, especially of housing, as the antithesis of environmental empathy." [5]

Notable works[edit]

The Simon House was the most prominent work of Bell Clerehan partnership. The firm produced two identifiable works, which show the collaboration of each of the architects’ characteristic on it. The house has a rectangular plan, exposed post and beam structure with the beam extending beyond the roof. It also has a broad gallery, barbecue area, and an extensive view over the bay. In 1964, it won the Victorian Architectural Medal award.[6]

The Fenner House was produced after Clerehan opened his own practice in 1964. The house has two internal landscape courtyards, which provided light and views to come into the room. It was orientated to face north to the street, and the living room opens to the small surface through the full-height glazed doors. His design for the Fenner House won the RVIA Bronze medal.

Clerehan won two awards for his project house for Pettit sand Sevitt: the 1970 New South Wales architect’s award and the State Electricity Commission Award in Victoria. The houses were popular, selling three per week for a year. The design was expressed as a modular skeletal structure providing an adaptable frame for the walls. There is no entry hall. The front door opens directly to the sitting area.[7][8]


  • 1941 Student Competition Award for designing the Portico for the University
  • 1964 Victorian Architecture Medal
  • 1967 RAIA Vic Chapter Bronze Medal Fenner Residence, 228 Domain Road South Yarra, Victorian Architecture Medal and Merchant Housing Award for a Standard Model House
  • 1970 NSW Architect’s Award & State Electricity Commission Award
  • 1971 The 2973J House and House for Petit and Sevitt
  • 1972 Lot 634 Westleigh Estate
  • 1973 18 Fawkner Street South Yarra and 90 Walsh Street, South Yarra
  • 1974 Murray Maxwell Courtyard House
  • 2004 Victorian Chapter of the RAIA President’s Award for the Hall of Fame
  • 2005 RVIA Victorian Architecture Award



External links[edit]