Brighton Municipal Office
Oakley & Parkes,
Kevin Knight (design architect)
date of commission:
date of completion:
15 Boxshall Street, Brighton, Victoria
classification / typology:
protection status/heritage listing
– Victorian Heritage Register (H1292)
– City of Bayside Heritage Overlay Schedule (HO83)
– National Trust of Australia Heritage Register Victoria (B6653)
As the centenary of the venerable City of Brighton approached in 1959, it was resolved to mark the milestone with a new council chambers and municipal offices; a decision that brought forth Victoria’s first new purpose-built civic premises since World War II. A stone’s throw from the old town hall, the new Brighton Civic Centre was conceived in red brick and concrete: a series of flat-roofed wings, with broad eaves, balconettes and curved glazing or corner windows, clustered around a massive drum-like feature. This corbelled, squat and windowless cylinder triggered inevitable comparisons to Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, which the lead architect on the project Kevin Knight himself vehemently denied to his dying day, instead fingering a classical precedent, the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, as his chief inspiration.
The space was enlivened by the deft hand of furniture designer Grant Featherston, who not only supplied loose and fitted furniture but also other interior flourishes, such as bespoke hinged panels to hide services. Enveloping a spiral stairwell, a heavily glazed and textured figurative ceramic mural by Latvian-born artist Alnis Ansons provided a lively conversation piece.
With local council amalgamations in the late 1990s, the Brighton Civic Centre became surplus to requirements when the new City of Bayside consolidated its corporate headquarters at nearby Sandringham. While the foyers and office areas at Brighton were sympathetically re-purposed as a local library, the council chamber was retained virtually unaltered and remains in use to this day for official gatherings.
Text adapted from an entry by Simon Reeves in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson).
Statement of Significance (VHD)
“The Brighton Municipal Offices in Boxshall Street were designed by Kevin Knight of Oakley and Parkes with the engineers John Connell and Associates and were erected by Prentice Builders Pty Ltd., the foundation stone being laid on 13 February 1959. The interior decoration and furniture was by Grant Featherston. The building was opened on 21 July 1961.
The Brighton Municipal Offices are of aesthetic, historic and architectural importance to the State of Victoria.
The circular foyer, Council Chamber, and two circular meeting rooms designed by Grant Featherston including their extant furniture and light fittings, are of aesthetic and historic importance as an intact example of interior design in Victoria of the late 1950’s, and as an important work of Grant Featherston, a leading Australian industrial designer of the 1950’s and 60’s. Grant
Featherston earned for his profession a popular acceptance unique in the history of the Industrial design movement in this country.
The Brighton Municipal Offices are of architectural importance as an expression of the influence in Australia of the work of internationally renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The building, with its prominent curved and tapering ‘drum’ form recalling his design for the Guggenheim Museum of 1946-59 in Fifth Avenue, New York, successfully combines the different curved and planar forms and integrates the landscaping into the building fabric through use of planter retaining walls. The building represents a successful translation of the Organic International style into a suburban public building in Victoria.”
(source: Victorian Heritage Database)