Peter Wille: Out driving / Melbourne, Exhibition

About the exhibition at the State Library of Victoria

Explore the work of Peter Wille, who amassed a collection of more than 6000 colour photographs of Melbourne’s architectural wonders throughout the 1950s and ’60s.

This amateur photographer and architectural draftsman took images that capture a period of experimental design, from the austerity measures of post-WWII to the height of modernism.

The exhibition includes works by groundbreaking architects Robin Boyd, Peter McIntyre, Kevin Borland, and John and Phyllis Murphy.

Plan your visit

Eltham Borlan
Peter Wille, photographer, Kevin Borland, architect, Rice House, Eltham, completed 1954, reproduction of colour slide, H91.244/566

Hours: 10am–6pm daily, to 9pm on Thursdays
Dates: Saturday, 1 December 2018–Thursday, 30 April 2020|Cost: FreeVenue: South Rotunda

Related events

  • ‘The changing face of Victoria’ tour
  • World of the book

Image gallery

Peter Wille, photographer, Robin Boyd, architect, Peninsula House, Haldane Street, Beaumaris, completed 1955, reproduction of colour slide

Browse a range of slides and images from Peter Wille’s archive of more than 6000 images.

About Peter Wille

Peter Wille (1931–71) had an unflagging passion for architecture. Emigrating from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) with his wife during the 1950s, he settled in the newly developed suburb of Mount Waverley, in Melbourne’s south-east.

Wille was employed by the firm Smith, Tracey, Lyon & Brock as an architectural draftsman, and he also contributed to the architectural journal Building ideas. In his spare time, he photographed buildings across Melbourne, particularly in pockets of the south-east, compiling a vast archive of more than 6000 meticulously annotated colour slides.

In 1955, Wille began corresponding with architect Robin Boyd. Over the next 15 years, they developed a friendship centred on sharing and critiquing ideas.

On 16 November 1971, Wille was killed in a tragic road accident while out photographing a building. His death came only one month after that of Robin Boyd.

Peter Wille’s carefully compiled archive is not only a significant record of a critical period in Australian architecture, it also illustrates one person’s love of the buildings, environment and ideas that surrounded him.

Melbourne modernists

round modernist house with railings and driveway
Peter Wille, photographer, Roy Grounds, architect, Henty House, Frankston, designed 1952, reproduction of colour slide, H91.244/2070

Melbourne in the mid-20th century underwent significant social and cultural change. Following WWII, limited access to building materials forced architects to experiment with design and to develop innovative construction techniques.

Housing, in particular, reflected postwar optimism, with simple, open buildings that considered the needs of their occupants. Architects also responded to the environment, from the bush in Eltham and Warrandyte to the bayside suburbs of Beaumaris, Aspendale and Frankston, and to riverside sites along the Yarra in Kew, Toorak and South Yarra.

Australian architects of this period were influenced by the experimentation in Europe during the 1920s and ’30s, and American residential architecture of the 1940s. It was in this context that the ground-breaking architect, design advocate and critic Robin Boyd emerged.

Along with his contemporaries – including Roy Grounds, Frederick Romberg, Peter McIntyre, Neil Clerehan, Kevin Borland, Graeme Gunn, and John and Phyllis Murphy – Boyd drove a cultural shift towards alternative ways of living.

The Library’s architecture collection

Eaglemont house designed by Walter Burley Griffin
Eaglemont house designed by Walter Burley GriffinPhotographed by Wolfgang Sievers, 1976

Interested in architecture? The Library’s architecture collection spans a wealth of resources, from books to journals, photographs to architectural drawings, elevations to specs and correspondence.

View collection items online

modernist house interior with wooden staircase to mezzanine level from lounge
Peter Wille, photographer, John Hipwell, architect, Hipwell House, Warrandyte, completed 1953, reproduction of colour slide, H91.244/3091

Our collection includes a treasure trove of images and resources relating to Peter Wille, including thousands of his iconic photographs.

Boyd House II

dark lounge room with light streaming in through glass doors, copper fireplace and modernists chairs
Peter Wille, photographer, Robin Boyd, architects, Walsh Street, South Yarra, completed 1957, reproduction of colour slide, H91.244/752

Browse Peter Wille’s collection of photos capturing the evolution of Robin Boyd’s iconic Walsh Street home.

Opening hours

Mon-Thurs 10am-9pm
Fri-Sun 10am-6pm

Please note that opening hours for The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, Victoria Gallery and some other spaces differ to the Library’s main opening hours

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