• THE RELUCTANT ARCHITECT – JUNE 2017

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    Being an architect is the best job in the World. Well, that’s what i think! So its’ a surprise to come across someone who is a reluctant architects, and especially so when a) he’s handed a series of plum commissions without any need to promote his skills and b) he’s someone who clearly enjoyed designing.

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    John Verge (1782-1861) was a reluctant architect. After a reasonably successful career in England as a builder/developer/building designer (i.e. an architect) he emigrated to Australia hoping to become a gentlemen farmer. That didn’t work out because of insufficient funds and so he had to fall back on his former trade. Between 1830 and 1838 (just 9 years!) he designed and built some of the very best of the colony’s houses.

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    Elizabeth Bay House (1835-38) (The intended continuous ground floor vernadah was never built.

    Tusculum-1835Tusculum Villa (1831-1837)

    Original__9726725_2570_Camden_Park_House_0tqmw5zCamden Park (1835). And many others of which a scandalously large number have been demolished.

    36editedJohn Verge’s work shows a determination to go beyond merely fulfilling the requirements of the brief – the quality of the construction and the intellectual application evident in his designs surely exceeded the expectations of his client? His buildings speak of an architect getting satisfaction from a job well done – an architect enjoying himself. Here the concave wall of the oval stairhall meets the convex door of the circular saloon beyond.

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    The layout of Elizabeth Bay House shows John Verge enjoying himself: and oval stairhall in the centre of a rectangular plan, with the first stone catilevered staircase to be built in Australia, and above an oval dome.

    24And then, when he’d made enough money, he became a gentlemen farmer. His achievements  in farming are unknown. His achievements in architecture live on.