Docomomo Australia Modern Register

(arch.) James Birrell

JAMES BIRRELL


James Birrell Portrait

Australian Architect (1928-2019)

James Birrell, is one of Queensland’s preeminent architects. Birrell was responsible for some of Queensland’s best-known buildings from the 1950s onward. His work includes the innovative car park on Wickham Terrace in Brisbane’s CBD (1960), the former Toowong Library (1961), the J.D. Story Administration Building and the Union College Building (1964-67) at the University of Queensland, the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library (1968-1976) and University Hall of Residence (1964-67) at James Cook University and the Centenary Pool Complex at Spring Hill (1959).

Born in Victoria in 1928, James Birrell attended Essendon High School and later graduated from Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1951. At the age of 27 he was appointed Brisbane City Council Architect in 1955. Over the next six years, Birrell oversaw an extensive range of public building projects, including libraries, car parks, even public toilet blocks. The majority of his buildings from this period have since been altered or demolished.

Between 1961 and 1966 he was responsible, among other buildings, for Union College, the J.D. Story Administration Building and the Agriculture and Entomology Building at the University of Queensland. In 1964, he wrote a biography on Walter Burley Griffin, the America architect best known for designing Australia’s capital city, Canberra.

Birrell later went into private practice in Queensland and New Guinea and became a planning consultant to the Indonesian Government.

In 2005, James Birrell received the RAIA Gold Medal, the highest award of the Australian Institute of Architects, in honour of his distinguished service as an architect. James Birrell passed away in 2019. (Source: State Library of QLD)

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