Louis Edouard Laybourne Smith was a prominent South Australian architect who established South Australia’s first School of Architecture in 1906 at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries. This achievement was recognised formally on 10 May 1963 when the Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture and Building was named officially for its founder (Walkley 1976). The school continues today as the Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture and Design at the University of South Australia.
Described as the ‘mentor of architectural education’ (Page 1986: 154), architecture was Laybourne Smith’s profession as well as a hobby and indeed even an obsession. In his later years he claimed that he had no intention of retiring from practice and he actually died at his office desk on 13 September 1965 (Irwin 1988).
Laybourne Smith was born at Unley, South Australia, and his primary and secondary education was undertaken at Whinham and Way Colleges. Having left school at the age of 15 he moved with his parents, Joseph Laybourne Smith, a chemist and dental surgeon, and Annie Rosalie (née Thomas) to the goldfields in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, Western Australia (Irwin 1988). There he pursued architecture and was articled to A.A.E. Dancker (Walkley 1976).
Returning to Adelaide in 1898 Laybourne Smith began studying at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries (Irwin 1988). He enrolled in night classes in mechanical engineering and achieved an Associate Diploma in 1902 (Irwin 1988). A very capable student, he was awarded scholarships in his second and third years and was the first of the evening students to complete the four-year course within the prescribed period (Walkley 1976).
In 1901 Laybourne Smith was articled to Edward Davies (Irwin 1988) and on 9 April 1903 he married Davies’ daughter Frances Maude, (Irwin 1988), they had three daughters, Kathleen, Ada and Margaret, and a son, Gordon (Bill) (Wallkey 1977: 43). He completed his apprenticeship with Davies in 1904 and in 1908 he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Adelaide (Walkley 1976).
On completion of his articles, Laybourne Smith found work as a draftsman with Ernest Bayer and then with John Quinton Bruce. He also worked part time for Alfred Wells (Page 1986). In 1903 he accepted an offer to lecture in mechanical engineering at the School of Mines and Industries (Irwin 1988). Two years later in 1905 he was appointed Registrar of the School of Mines, a role that he held until 1914 (Irwin 1988). In 1905, in the absence of a course in architecture at either the University of Adelaide or the School of Mines, he initiated his own and invited colleagues to contribute lectures in the history of architecture, drawing and construction. The course was formalised in 1906 as a part-time Diploma in Architecture (Walkley 1976).
In 1914 Laybourne Smith began working with one of Adelaide’s most influential architectural firms, Woods, Bagot and Jory, becoming a partner of Woods, Bagot, Jory and Laybourne Smith in 1915, when Woods retired (Walkley 1977: 15). In 1928 James Irwin joined the practice as a draftsman and in 1930 was made partner with the firm renamed Woods, Bagot, Laybourne Smith and Irwin following Herbert Jory’s decision to establish his own practice (Irwin 1988, Page 1986). During these years Laybourne Smith retained his position as head of the architecture course at the School of Mines, and it was not until 1951 that Gavin Walkley, a former pupil of Laybourne Smith, took over the role on a full-time basis (Freeland 1971). For a further fourteen years, Laybourne Smith continued his association with the school (Walkley 1976), until his death at age 85.
In addition to his role in architectural education, Laybourne Smith was renowned for his contribution to the profession through various organisations and committees (Collins et al 2005). He was an Associate of the South Australian Institute of Architects (SAIA) from 1904 (Irwin 1988) and was made a Fellow of the SAIA in 1907. Elected to the SAIA Council in 1909, he served in various capacities including two terms as President between 1921 and 1923 and from 1935 until 1937 (Freeland 1971: 257).
Laybourne Smith was integral to the formation of a national body of architects and was a founding member of the Federal Council of the Australian Institutes of Architects of which he was appointed President between 1919 and 1922 (Freeland 1971: 257). Laybourne Smith was a Councillor of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) between 1933 and 1944, serving as President from 1937 to 1938 (Freeland 1971). During World War One, he was sub-editor for the South Australian section of the architects’ journal Salon, (Collins et al 2005). Laybourne Smith’s professional achievements were recognised nationally in 1961 when he was awarded the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal (Walkley 1976). Laybourne Smith was awarded the RAIA’s Life Fellowship in 1944. He was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1939 and was made a Life Fellow in 1944. He was awarded the CMG (Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George) in 1948 (Freeland 1971).
On the South Australian Board of Architectural Education and a referee for the Adelaide City Council in building disputes, Laybourne Smith advised on the drafting of the South Australian Building Act 1923 (Irwin 1988), described as a ‘revolutionary’ piece of legislation (Page 1986: 136). A leader in the initiative for the registration of architects in South Australia (Irwin 1988), Laybourne Smith contributed to the framing of the Architects’ Act 1939 (Page 1986); he then served as a member of the administering body for the Act, the Architects’ Board of South Australian (Freeland 1971). He was appointed Architectural Advisor to the South Australian Committee of the War Damage Commission in 1944 (‘Portrait’ 1953).
Laybourne Smith’s architectural designs included his own house at Northgate Street, Unley Park, considered ‘startlingly modern when it was built’ in 1911 (Walkley 1977: 17). Other domestic works were the Hosking residence, Hawker’s Road, Medindie (1924) and the Wardle residence, West Terrace, Kensington (1927).
His ecclesiastical commissions include a chapel for the Dominican Cabra Convent at Goodwood (1914), St Cuthbert’s Church of England, Prospect (1914) and the rebuilding of St Paul’s Retreat at Glen Osmond in the 1920s (Walkley 1977; Page 1986). The Roman Catholic Church was an important client for the practice and Laybourne Smith was involved in the design of many of the buildings at Calvary Hospital, North Adelaide, these include operating theatres (1929), the Eastern Wing (1935), the Chapel (1937) and the Maternity Wing (1939-40) (Walkley 1977: 16).
The practice acted as the University of Adelaide architects for many years. Laybourne Smith worked on the original Students’ Union Building and cloisters (1927) as well as the Lady Symon Building and Sir George Murray Building, the Inorganic Chemistry Building (1932) and the Main Building of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute. Other educational buildings included the red brick Bonython Jubilee Building of the South Australian School of Mines and Industries (now University of South Australia), Frome Road, Adelaide (1937).
Laybourne Smith's firm won the competition to design the South Australian National War Memorial, on the corner of North Terrace and Kintore Avenue, Adelaide (completed 1931), in which he collaborated with Walter Bagot and Sydney sculptor, Rayner Hoff. He also completed the working drawings and supervised the erection of the Daw Park Repatriation Hospital, (1941-3) south of Adelaide Adelaide during World War Two (‘Portrait’ 1953), from sketch plans drawn by Stephenson & Turner of Melbourne (Page 1986).
His early training in mechanical engineering stood him in good stead to collaborate with equipment suppliers on the design of the air-conditioning and generating plants in buildings such as the AMP building, King William Street, Adelaide (1935). Following the war Laybourne Smith worked on buildings which included the Nuriootpa Memorial Community Centre (1946), British Tube Mills, Kilburn (1948), and the First Church of Christ Scientist, North Terrace, Adelaide (1954.
Laybourne Smith was among the last links with the more distant past of South Australian architecture as he was able to speak of architects of the colonial era either from personal acquaintance or through conversing with colleagues who knew them personally (Page 1986). His professional work significantly influenced architectural education and the growth of professionalism in South Australia.