Architect Personal DetailsArchitectural works in South Australia
Firms or Professional PartnershipsBibliographic Sources

Architect Personal Details



First name

Jack Hobbs








Jack McConnell was one of the leading exponents of modern architecture to work in South Australia and the eastern states. Called ‘Mac’ by his friends he became an influential mentor to many of the subsequent generation of architects. His award winning buildings mark the first phase of modern architecture in Adelaide.

Jack Hobbs McConnell was born on 5 June 1913, in Brighton, Victoria, to William James Norwood McConnell and Eliza Anne (nee Hobbs). His father, who was a grazier, was killed on the Somme on the Western Front in France during World War One. His mother was left to raise three boys on a widow’s pension, passing away when Jack was only sixteen. He was educated at Brighton State and Brighton Junior Technical Schools then, with the awarding of the McCaughey Bursary, he attended Haileybury College from 1925 to 1929. McConnell counted among his friends fellow architecture student Norman Seabrook who loaned him magazines and books on modern architecture (Page 1986: 185).

In 1935 McConnell married Ida with whom he had one son before the dissolution of their marriage. In 1964 he married Pauline; this marriage was later dissolved. He lived together with partner Margaret Grose until his death in 2005 in the house he designed at North Adelaide in the late 1960s, passing away on 18 April 2005 in Adelaide, he was survived by his son, three grandchildren and one great grandchild.

McConnell’s professional education as an architect began in 1930 at Melbourne University on a McCaughey Scholarship. In both 1933 and 1934 he was awarded the Victorian Architectural Students’ Society Prize, for which he was given a book by Walter Gropius on the Bauhaus, and in 1934 he also received the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects (RVIA) War Memorial Prize. During his time at University he was a member of the Students Representative Council and Secretary of the Victorian Architectural Students Society. He was awarded an Intervarsity Blue for his sporting achievements. He graduated in 1935 with a Bachelor of Architecture, receiving the William Campbell Memorial Medal as well as the RVIA Bronze Medal for that year.

Whilst he was studying architecture formally he worked in architects’ offices. The first was that of Harold Desbrowe-Annear whom McConnell remembers treated him much like a son. Following Desbrowe-Annear’s death he was employed by Leighton (Tony) Irwin who was then also Director of the Architectural Atelier at Melbourne University. Irwin based his teaching around the principles of modernist architects such as Le Corbusier, Gropius, Lloyd Wright and Dudok (McConnell 1996) and these influences can be seen later in McConnell’s designs. After McConnell’s graduation he moved to the office of Marcus Martin and subsequently to Edward F. Billson where he was able to design along modernist and Bauhaus lines.

It was while he was working for Billson in 1937 that John Islip (of the RVIA) introduced McConnell to Philip R. Claridge. Claridge, an architect from Adelaide was in Melbourne to recruit a designer for a proposed bank head office. Jack McConnell accepted the job and drove to South Australia to begin work with the practice which also comprised two Associates, Russell S. Ellis and Colin Hassell. Always immaculately dressed and famous for his bow ties, the tall and sporting McConnell is remembered arriving in Adelaide in a sports car with his boxer dog called Blaze and checking in at the South Australian Hotel (Cockburn 1997).

In 1939 the practice of Philip R. Claridge and Associates changed composition to become the partnership of Claridge, Hassell and McConnell. During the troubled years of World War Two McConnell worked part-time with the practice and part-time with the Commonwealth Department of War Organisation of Industry on war related projects whilst Colin Hassell served in the army. After the war the practice continued until 1949 when, following the retirement of Claridge, it became Hassell, McConnell and Partners with offices in Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra. Later, after the dissolution of the partnership in 1970 McConnell was made a partner of Stephenson and Turner and worked in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra and overseas until 1980 when he retired.

McConnell joined the South Australian Institute of Architects (SAIA) in 1938 as an Associate and was elected Fellow in 1956. Throughout his time with the Institute he served on numerous committees both at a state and a national level including those dedicated to education and membership. He also worked on the Significant South Australian Twentieth Century Architecture committee with the RAIA. McConnell received many honours and distinctions during his career. He was elected President of the SA Chapter of the RAIA from 1966 to 1968 and National President of the RAIA in 1968 and 1969. In 1970 he was awarded the prestigious RAIA Gold Medal for demonstrating distinguished service to the architectural profession and was made a Life Fellow of the RAIA. In 1998 his contribution to architecture was recognised more widely by his being made a Member of the Order of Australia.

McConnell was active not only in the RAIA but also in the town planning field, becoming a foundation member of the Australian Planning Institute (SA Chapter) in 1948, and a Fellow in 1952. He was foundation President of the South Australian Division of the Building Science Forum in 1969 as well as foundation President of the Civic Trust of South Australia. He also held places on the Architects’ Registration Board of SA and the Builders’ Licensing Board of SA (Freeland 1971: 275). McConnell served on the SA Housing Trust Board from 1971 to 1980 and was a member of the Lord Mayor’s Heritage Advisory Committee from 1981 to 1985. Along with his architectural activities, McConnell was also active in the wider community. He was a member of Kooyonga Golf Club, the Athenaeum Club in Victoria and from 1960 to 1961 he was President of the Amateur Sports Club S.A., a club that he remained a member for many years (Neighbour 2005).

Soon after his arrival in Adelaide in 1937 McConnell, together with Jack Cheesman, Rolfe Boehm and Dean Berry, established the Adelaide Architects’ Club which published regular newspaper articles on architectural design from a modern perspective (Boehm collection). His influence on the younger generation of students of architecture can be seen through those who list him as an inspiration and mentor, successful architects such as John Chappel, Newell Platten, Robert Dickson and Keith Neighbour. Chappel reflected that ‘he was a great inspirer of young architects’ (Page 1986: 185) and Keith Neighbour, in an Obituary for McConnell reflected that ‘even though he has gone, he will always remain my mentor’ (Neighbour 2005).

Travel figured prominently in McConnell’s life experiences with his first trip overseas being taken in 1947 for private study to the USA and Central America. He undertook commissioned research trips for clients H.J. Heinz in 1949 to the USA, UK and Canada and in 1952 to the UK and West Germany. Later, for CSR Ltd., he travelled to Denmark, Sweden and Finland in 1959. Further private research trips followed to the USA, UK, Europe, Central America, the Far East and South-East Asia. For the RAIA he visited Nigeria, the UK and Malaysia in 1969, and in 1979 and 1980 for Stephenson and Turner he travelled to Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

As he started his architectural career during the time of the Great Depression work was hard to come by yet McConnell found jobs in some well known offices in Melbourne. Whilst working for Desbrowe-Annear and for Irwin his role was primarily as a draughtsman documenting other people’s designs. In the office of Martin he was allowed to do more design work, mainly on residential jobs. However by the time he was working for Billson he was given the freedom to work on the design of the Sanitarium Health Food factory at Warburton along the lines of Dutch modernist architect Willem Dudok.

McConnell was initially attracted to Adelaide in 1937 by the opportunity to work on the design of the Bank of New South Wales for Philip R. Claridge and Associates in association with Louis Laybourne Smith. The site for the building was the prominent city corner of King William Street and North Terrace. Designed in the interwar stripped Classical style the Bank stands today as a monument to modern design, restrained but strong, in grey limestone.

During his early years in Adelaide McConnell’s designs conform to the Interwar Functionalist style with the 1942 Deepacres Flats on Melbourne Street, North Adelaide (State Heritage listed) being a prime example with painted brick forms, flat roofs and porthole windows. The single storey Frayne House, in the suburb of Mitcham (State Heritage listed) also from this early period, demonstrates McConnell’s use of functional principles as espoused by the Bauhaus school of thought. The office of Claridge, Hassell and McConnell entered architectural competitions and two in which they were successful were the 1938 Prospect Town Hall Competition and the 1946 Burnside War Memorial Hospital Competition.

However it was in McConnell’s industrial work designing factories that his functional planning skills developed. Among these were the British Australian Lead Manufacturers Pty. Ltd. (BALM) Paints factory at Port Adelaide (1946), International Harvester Company factories, service and office buildings, across Australia (1948-1950), the W.D. and H.O. Wills factory, at Southwark, South Australia (1948) and the Heinz factory at Dandenong in Victoria (1952-1955). In order to design the Heinz factory, McConnell, who at the time knew little about the industrial processes required for the factory, sent pages of questions to the client who on being unable to answer them sent him to the USA, Canada and the UK to find the answers for himself. During his travels McConnell extensively researched and analysed the problems of factory design which led to ‘new and innovative factory planning and processing techniques’ (Neighbour 2005). It also led to Hassell and McConnell receiving the 1955 Architecture and Arts Award for the Best Building for the Bauhaus inspired Heinz factory design.

McConnell’s other main area of design expertise was in tertiary education campuses and facilities. Beginning in 1962 with the elegant International style Bragg Laboratories for the Adelaide University Physics Department which feature an expressed steel grid, glass walls and red brick infill, McConnell went on to larger and more complex educational projects. Flinders University was designed and built in stages between 1964 and 1975 by Hassell and McConnell and featured courtyards, raised walkways and simple detailing for buildings such as the library, students union, registry, lecture theatres and laboratories. These buildings were composed of concrete structure with dark coloured infill panels and copper roofing (Page 1986: 230). The South Ridge Buildings of Flinders University received the 1966 RAIA SA Chapter Award of Merit. Following the success of this project and now as a partner of Stephenson and Turner Architects McConnell designed the Canberra College of Advanced Education (1967-1980), Latrobe University, Victoria (1965) and the SA School of Dental Therapy at Somerton Park (1973) for the Department of Public Health, and further buildings at Flinders University.

McConnell designed significant commercial buildings as well as industrial and education facilities. The most significant to Adelaide’s streetscapes is the stunning International style Charles Birks (later David Jones) Department Store, on Rundle Mall (1960-62). Described as ‘Australia’s best piece of post-war retail architecture’ (Ward 2004) its expressive grid is clad in pale grey marble and features a sculpture called ‘Progress’ adorning the front. Other office buildings within the Adelaide city centre included the National Insurance Company of New Zealand Limited office building, Waymouth Street, Adelaide (now demolished) which featured Carrara marble cladding and a bronze grille sun screen.

Jack McConnell designed two noteworthy houses for himself, one at Hillside Road in the leafy foothills suburb of Springfield (c.1940s). This was a two storey house constructed of pale pink brick, with a very low pitched roof; it was sited to preserve existing trees on the site and take advantage of natural light. The other, again two storey, was at Kingston Terrace, North Adelaide overlooking gracious old gum trees in the Adelaide parklands. This house received the RAIA SA Chapter Award of Merit in 1969. It featured exposed concrete blockwork with flush pointing, custom made and dyed carpets and soft furnishings, and custom-made timber detailing and furniture all designed by McConnell.

Although Jack McConnell would not call himself a Modernist architect he believed in the tenets of the movement, ‘I don’t believe in “modernist” architecture … I believe in modern architecture because it is based on common sense, and careful analysis of functional requirements’ (McConnell cited in Cockburn 1997a: 118). In doing this he created solutions to architectural problems that were modern, functional and inspiring.

Julie Collins

Citation details
Collins, Julie, 'McConnell, Jack Hobbs’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: []




Architectural works in South Australia

Name Suburb Year Designed
Bank of New South Wales Adelaide 1937
Deepacres Flats North Adelaide 1942
Frayne Residence and Surgery Mitcham 1945
British Australian Lead Manufacturers factory Port Adelaide 1946
W.D. and H.O. Wills factory Southwark 1948
Bragg Laboratories Adelaide 1962
South Australian School of Dental Therapy Somerton Park 1973
Charles Birks Department Store Adelaide 1960
National Insurance Company of New Zealand Ltd. offices Adelaide
McConnell Residence, Springfield Springfield
McConnell Residence, North Adelaide North Adelaide 1967

Firms or Professional Partnerships

Name Dates Worked
Harold Desbrowe-Annear 1930-1935 
Leighton Irwin 1935- 
Marcus Martin c1935- 
Edward F. Billson c1935-1937 
Philip R. Claridge and Associates 1937-1939 
Claridge, Hassell and McConnell 1939-1949 
Hassell and McConnell 1949-1957 
Hassell, McConnell & Partners 1957-1970 
Stephenson & Turner 1970-1980 

Bibliographic Sources


(1968) Who’s Who in Australia, 19th edition, The Herald, Melbourne: 552-3.
(1974) The University of Adelaide Centenary 1874-1974, University of Adelaide, Adelaide.
Apperly, R., Irving, R. & Reynolds, P. (1989) A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture, Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Brine, J. (2012) 'HASSELL' in Goad, P. and Willis, J. (eds) The encyclopaedia of Australian architecture, Cambridge University Press: 317-318.
Cockburn, S. (1997a) Notable lives: profiles of 21 South Australians, Ferguson Publications, Adelaide.
De Micheli, C. and Herd, M. (eds.) (2004) Who’s Who in Australia 2004, Crown Content, Melbourne.
Duncan, W.G.K. and Leonard, R.A. (1973), The University of Adelaide 1874-1974, Rigby Ltd., Adelaide.
Freeland, J.M. (1971) The Making of a Profession, Angus & Robertson and RAIA, Sydney.
Gropius, Walter (1935) The New Architecture and the Bauhaus, Faber and Faber, London.
Holder, R.F. (1970) Bank of New South Wales: A History, Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Marsden, S., Stark, P. and Sumerling, P. (1990) Heritage of the City of Adelaide: An illustrated guide, Corporation of the City of Adelaide, Adelaide.
Page, M. (1986) Sculptors in Space South Australian Architects 1836-1986, RAIA (SA Chapter), Adelaide.
Schenk, J. (2012) 'McConnell, Jack' in Goad, P. and Willis, J. (eds) The encyclopaedia of Australian architecture, Cambridge University Press: 438.

‘Bank of New South Wales Building’, Building, 24 April 1942: 13-16.
‘Board of Architectural Education – The William M. Campbell Memorial Sketching Competition of the R.V.I.A.’, Journal of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, January 193: 133-135.
‘Bragg Laboratory, University of Adelaide’, 1963, Architecture in Australia, December 1963: 96-97.
‘Charles Birks New Store has many firsts’, Building and Architecture, vol.1, no.9, August 1962: 3-8.
‘Home of J. McConnell’, Architecture, July 1948: 30-31.
‘Jack McConnell AM’, Architect SA, Autumn 1998: 11.
‘The Bank of New South Wales Premises, Adelaide, South Australia’, Architecture, January 1948: 37-38.
‘The Bragg Physics Laboratories – University of Adelaide’, Building and Architecture, February 1963: 18-19.
‘The National Insurance Company of New Zealand Limited, Waymouth Street, Adelaide’, Building and Architecture: 43-44.
‘The RAIA Gold Medallists’, Architecture Australia, vol. 68, no.2, May 1979: 34-39.
Neighbour, Keith (2005) ‘Vale Jack McConnell’, Architecture Australia, July-August 2005.
Royal Australian Institute of Architects (2006) The Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal 1960-2006 Architecture Australia, Special edition, RAIA.
SA Homes and Gardens, March 1946.
Schenk, John (2005) ‘Modernist man was suitably ancient as well’, Place, May 2005: 28-29.
Smit, Jen (2006) ‘Modern Composition’, Monument, June/July 2006: 46-50.
Willis, J 2004, ‘Conscious design: the Melbourne University Architectural Atelier 1919-1947’, Fabrications: 43-62.

‘Architects’ Club formed: Aims to stimulate public interest’, Advertiser, 24 February 1938.
‘Influential creator of a modern state’, Advertiser, 7 May 2005: 78.
Cockburn, Stewart (1997) ‘Design for living’, Advertiser, 2 June 1997.
Ward, P. (2000) ‘Building teamwork’, Australian, 7 February: 16.
Ward, Peter (1998) ‘Adelaide, not Athens’, Australian, 27 February 1998: 48.
Ward, Peter (2004) ‘Landmarks and signposts’, Adelaide Review, August 2004.

Bruce Harry and Associates (1996) Deepacres Apartments Conservation Management Plan, June 1996.
Schwager Brooks & Partners Architects and Heritage Consultants (1993) Westpac Building Conservation Plan.

Boehm collection, Rolfe Boehm’s Scrapbook, Boehm collection, S216, LLSAM.
Bragg Laboratories, University of Adelaide, Heritage SA File, number 13757.
Burnside War Memorial Hospital Competition Architectural drawings 1946, S188/3/1-6, Architecture Museum, Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture and Design, University of South Australia (LLSAM).
Deepacres Apartments, Heritage SA file, number 13555.
Hurren Langman and James Engineers collection, McConnell House, Springfield, S248, LLSAM.
McConnell collection, photographs, correspondence, reports, drawings, S270, LLSAM.
McConnell, J.H. (1996) The Future of Architecture, unpublished manuscript, McConnell Collection, S270, LLSAM.
McConnell, J.H. (1982) South Australian Housing Trust History (Oral history) Interview with Mr Jack McConnell on 9 March 1982 interviewed by Averil Holt, copy held in McConnell Collection S270, LLSAM.
RAIA South Australia Significant 20th Century Architecture, 1986, card index, RAIA collection, S301, LLSAM.

Bragg Laboratories, Australian Heritage Database, online at
Deepacres Apartments, Australian Heritage Database, online at
RAIA 20th Century Notable South Australian Buildings Register online at

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