Gordon Beaumont Smith has been remembered as a ‘top flight designer’ who was ‘ahead of his time’ (Hall 1991: 3), qualities perhaps best seen in his domestic designs of the 1930s.
Gordon Beaumont Smith was born 21 July 1903 to Samuel Smith (1866-1950) of Walkerville and Edith Maud, (nee Hart), (1875-1939) of Hutt Street, Adelaide. He attended Unley High School before being articled to Woods, Bagot, Jory and Laybourne Smith. He studied at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries, graduating in 1928 with an architectural draftsman’s certificate (Walkley 1976: 117).
Gordon Beaumont Smith married Joan Rachel Atkinson at St Peter's Anglican Church, Glenelg on 8 February 1939. They moved to Brighton in c.1940 and had two sons, Peter, and David who is also an architect. Within his community Beaumont Smith was involved as organist at St Peter’s Anglican Church at Glenelg and as a Freemason was a Worshipful Master at Sturt Lodge. He also lectured in architecture at the South Australian School of Mines (now University of South Australia). He retired from practising architecture in 1966, aged 63. Following a long illness Gordon Beaumont Smith died on 22 February 1991 at Somerton and is buried in the churchyard of St Jude’s, Brighton.
As a young man, Gordon Beaumont Smith worked for Woods, Bagot, Jory and Laybourne Smith following the completion of his articles, with Walter Bagot’s influence on him evident in his designs (Hall 1991: 3). However, due to the Depression of the 19030s he left the practice and ran his own business for a time, finding much success with his domestic designs. During this time he had offices in Shell House, North Terrace, Adelaide. Beaumont Smith joined Edward Caradoc Ashton in his practice following the death of Caradoc Ashton’s partner, Norman Fisher in 1949. Robert Woodhead, another architect working in the practice, was made a partner around this time, and it became known as Caradoc Ashton, Fisher and Woodhead. Beaumont Smith was made a partner in July 1950 and the practice then became Caradoc Ashton, Fisher, Woodhead and Beaumont Smith.
Beaumont Smith joined the South Australian Institute of Architects as an Associate member on 26 August 1926 and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects on 1 December 1931. In 1982 he was recognised as a privileged member of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. When the South Australian Architects Act 1939 was passed, Beaumont Smith became a Registered Architect during its first year of operation, gaining his registration certificate on 17 September 1940.
Gordon Beaumont Smith had many successes in architectural competitions. His 1933 entry in the Chamber of Building Industries ‘Ideal Homes’ competition won first prize in the 6-roomed residence category (‘Awards in Ideal Homes Competition’ 1933: 25). While the second prize gained for the rebuilding of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital in 1933 was only surpassed by James Irwin and Gordon Laybourne Smith’s entry, from the Woods, Bagot, Laybourne Smith and Irwin practice (‘Additions to Children’s Hospital’ 1933: 17). In the 1936 South Australian Housing Trust competition for cottages, which was won by Hubert H. Cowell, Beaumont Smith gained second placing. The well-known 1936 Centenary Obelisk and Pioneers Memorial, which still stands near the foreshore at Glenelg, was the result of Beaumont Smith’s first place in that competition (‘Pioneers Memorial Glenelg’ 1936).
While employed at Woods, Bagot, Jory and Laybourne Smith, Beaumont Smith worked on several Adelaide University buildings under Walter Bagot’s supervision including the Refectory and Cloisters (designed in 1927), and the stone dressed, red brick Barr-Smith Library in Georgian Revival style (1933). During the early 1930s the Woods, Bagot, Jory and Laybourne Smith practice also completed the War Memorial, North Terrace, Adelaide, and ongoing works for St. Paul’s Retreat at Glen Osmond and Calvary Hospital, North Adelaide, both for the Catholic Church.
In private practice between 1933 and 1945 Gordon Beaumont Smith worked mainly on residential commissions, however other types of buildings also crossed his drawing board. He completed the Greek Orthodox Church, at 262 Franklin Street, Adelaide was designed in 1937 and consecrated on Sunday 27 March 1938, dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. It seated 400 in the congregation and remained standing until 1967 when the current building was built over the foundations. During this period, Beaumont Smith also worked closely with fellow architects. In association with Gavin Lawson and Cheesman, architects, Beaumont Smith worked on new engineering workshops at McLaren Wharf, Port Adelaide for Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd in 1938.
With regards to his domestic work, his former colleague, Robert Hall wrote, ‘under the tutelage of Mr Walter Bagot, of whom he was a favourite disciple, Gordon developed a very high flair for domestic wrok in Georgian and, in a later development, the American Colonial style. Under W.H. Bagot, Beaumont developed much of the design for Bagot’s own house in North Adelaide, still a South Australian masterpiece (Hall 1991: 3). In 1936 he designed the Dr B.P. Funder House, 17 Rymill Road, Somerton Park. Among his other residential works was a Moderne styled house for Frederick and Rosa Maeder, at Grant Avenue, Toorak Gardens (1938) which was of cream brick and glass blocks with red painted decorative iron externally. It featured wood panelled entrance hall, stainless steel kitchen, and all modern conveniences such as piped music and heating in all bedrooms. He also designed Hair Salons for the same client, Fred Maeder, in Adelaide, Perth and Timaru, New Zealand. As well as freestanding homes he designed Bruceden Court’ flats, which stand on the corner of Deepdene Avenue and Cross Road, Westbourne Park and were a group of ten flats designed with Art Deco or Moderne detailing (‘Comfort, Charm and homeliness Given’ 1941: 26). Gordon Beaumont designed his own house at 31 King Street, Brighton (‘SA Homes & Gardens’ May 1940). This was followed with other homes during the 1940s including the Frank Hurren House, 31 Delamere Avenue, Springfield; the Reg Nurse House, 4 Brookside Road, Springfield; the D.L. Todd House, 6 Delamere Avenue, Netherby; and the Geoffrey T. Clarke House, 1 Olive Grove, Hazelwood Park.
As the architect employed by the Savings Bank of South Australia, which had bought up much residential land in the metropolitan area in the postwar period, Gordon Beaumont Smith was responsible for many of the houses designed under the Savings Bank Homes Scheme. In this role he prepared a book of plans for the Savings Bank of South Australia (c.1945) which was published as the ‘Design Book’ and included various home designs, all illustrated for prospective clients to choose from. When interviewed for the local newspaper, ‘The News’, Gordon Beaumont Smith said ‘he believes in a closer relation of garden to house, and in the idea of making part of the garden into an outdoor living room. Many suburban houses …are unsatisfactory because they are poorly planned, have little relation to their site, do not give maximum comfort, have waste space costing money, and are not always placed to get the best of the sun and the view’ (‘Passing By’ 1945: 2).
After Beaumont Smith formed the partnership with Caradoc Ashton, Fisher, Woodhead and Beaumont Smith the practice completed a contemporary residence for F.H. and J. Harrison, Woodland Rd, Springfield in 1950. This was remembered by Hall who said: ‘Then, just to show his flexibility he designed the Harrison House at Springfield, an early flat-roof effort, which style was to become popular in Adelaide’ (1991: 3). Since 1927 Caradoc Ashton’s practice had had an ongoing client in the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia at the Wayville Showgrounds. This continued with Caradoc Ashton, Fisher, Woodhead and Beaumont Smith designing the modern Australian Barley Board Pavilion (1952) and a Trotting Track at Wayville Showgrounds. Although the practice did limited ecclesiastical work, designed the centenary terrace in front of St Michael’s Church at Mitcham in 1953. In 1964 they designed the new St. Jude’s Church at Brighton, which replaced the structure designed in the 1954 earthquake. The architectural practice of Caradoc Ashton, Fisher, Woodhead and Beaumont Smith produced many larger commercial buildings such as the modern multistorey Savings Bank of South Australia Building in Hindley Street, Adelaide (1957), the Electricity Trust of South Australia head office at Eastwood (1964), the Chrysler automobile plant, Tonsley Park (1965) and premises for the Royal Automobile Association (RAA) at Melbourne St, North Adelaide in 1957 (Architecture in South Australia 1960). Gordon Beaumont Smith in his contribution to the South Australian architectural scene was, to quote Robert Hall, ‘at his peak, rather avant garde and certainly ahead of his time … a dedicated architect concerned for his product’ (Hall 1991: 4).
This entry was based primarily on information provided to the author by Gordon Beaumont Smith’s son, David Beaumont in 2009.
Collins, Julie, 'Beaumont Smith, Gordon', Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2013, Architects of South Australia: [http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=112]