Architect Personal DetailsArchitectural works in South Australia
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Architect Personal Details



First name









Gavin Walkley has been described as ‘the first real “academic” architect in South Australia’ (Jones 2000). A skilled educator and administrator, he made a significant contribution to the advancement of design and planning education in the state.

Born on 8 July 1911 to the ‘level-headed’ Nell and ‘a dynamic Adelaide business identity’, Arthur, Walkley lived at North Adelaide with two brothers and two sisters (Walkley 2005). He was educated at St Peter’s College. Outside of school hours he took lessons in music and drawing, showing great aptitude for the latter (Walkley 2005). He completed a Bachelor in Engineering (Architecture) at the University of Adelaide in 1934 having been articled since 1931 to Louis Laybourne Smith of Woods, Bagot, Laybourne Smith and Irwin. Laybourne Smith was to have a profound effect on Walkley’s appreciation of architecture as he developed an engrossing interest in the philosophy and history of art and architecture. He took that interest forward at the University of Cambridge where he completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in the History of Art and Architecture in 1938, and a Master of Letters (through the Faculty of Fine Arts) in 1939. He completed a Master of Arts in the 1940s and during the 1950s he broadened his qualifications further through studies in town planning and landscape architecture (Jones 2000; Walkley 2006).

Walkley enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Australian Engineers, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in May 1940 and was sent to the Middle East and New Guinea. Whilst away on war service, he married Barbara Esther Burton in Melbourne on 8 July 1944. The couple returned to Adelaide after his discharge from the AIF and they had two children, a daughter, Jane, and a son, Giles, also an architect. Barbara died suddenly after ten years of marriage (Walkley 2005).

During his years at Cambridge, Walkley spent his annual 3-month vacations working for London architectural firms such as Sir Burnet, Tait & Lorne (Walkley 1976; Page 1986). On returning to Adelaide he was Planning Officer for John W. Overall at the South Australian Housing Trust (SAHT) for four years from mid 1946, before the pair left SAHT in 1949 to form Overall & Walkley Architects & Planners (Jones 2000). As Jones (2000: 71) outlines, a variety of relatively small projects followed before the practice dissolved as each moved into new professional roles.

During 1946 Laybourne Smith invited Walkley to contribute weekly lectures on the History of Architecture at the School of Architecture in the School of Mines and Industries (School of Mines) (Page 1986). So began a commitment that lasted for a further thirty years. In 1951 Walkley was appointed Head of the School of Architecture at the South Australian School of Mines (later the South Australian Institute of Technology (SAIT)), following Louis Laybourne Smith’s retirement (Walkley 1977). During that year, in order to satisfy the School of Mines’ requirement that the Head of School be a current practitioner, Walkley joined Alan E. Welbourn, part-time, in private practice as Walkley & Welbourn Architects & Planners (Jones 2000). Their partnership continued for a further 20 years and included commissions for the Whyalla Institute of Technology, various St John Ambulance centres, and additions to the Mount Gambier Power Station and Aquinas College, North Adelaide (Page 1986: 202).

Walkley was extremely active as an academic and head of school. He believed that the School of Architecture ‘should cover the whole range of environmental design’ (Walkey in Page 1986: 212) and initiated various measures to that end, eventually broadening the School’s offerings to include building, quantity surveying, town planning, landscape design, and interior design. The School offered the first professional postgraduate courses in Australia in Town Planning in 1949 (Page 1986; Hamnett 1999) and in Building Technology in 1958. In 1964 it introduced sub-professional diplomas in Landscape Design and Interior Design. In 1975-76 Walkley compiled 'The Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture & Building' a meticulous history which, among other topics, carefully set out the various subjects and courses offered since the School’s inception in 1906 (Walkley 1976).

Walkley retired from his position as Head of School at the SAIT on 2 July 1976. At that time, the Gavin Walkley Collection was established. It comprises old and rare books – some are Walkley’s signed copies – on the history of architecture, town planning, and landscape design, as well as books on literature and the arts and various personal notebooks. The Collection is housed in the Library at the City West Campus of the University of South Australia.

Walkley served the architectural, planning and landscape architecture professions in numerous ways as Jones (2000, 2006) and Matheson (2006) have explained. Remarkably he was president of three professional associations (Walkley 2005). He was a long-time member of the South Australian Institute of Architects (SAIA) and its President from 1960 to 1962. In the late 1950s he supported the SAIA’s moves to secure a Chair in Architecture at the University of Adelaide, even though it would be his own school’s competitor (Page 1986; Jones 2000). In 1962 he was President of the SA Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA). After serving as a RAIA federal councillor from 1960 onwards he was elected federal President in 1965. In 1970 he was awarded Life Fellowship of the South Australian Chapter of the RAIA (Page 1986).

Walkley provided forty years of service to the Architects’ Board of South Australia, including Chairmanship from 1973 until 1987. He was President of the Architects’ Accreditation Council of Australia and for ten years was Chairman of the Council on Overseas Professional Qualifications.

In his planning and landscape circles, Walkley was Secretary and Vice-President of the South Australian Chapter of the Royal Australian Planning Institute (RAPI) and Chapter President between 1954 and 1956. A member of the National Capital Planning Committee between 1958 and 1967, he was closely involved in the establishment of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies (AIUS) that was formed in Canberra in 1967. Following the national presidency of the RAPI in 1964-66, he was made a Life Fellow in 1972. He served as Secretary and Vice-President of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) and was national President between 1971 and 1973. In 1988, when he was 76, Walkley resigned from the RAIA, RAPI, and AILA to concentrate on his conservation work for the National Trust (Jones 2000).

In addition to professional involvements Walkley was closely associated for over seventy years with St Mark’s College, a residential college of the University of Adelaide, where he had been a boarder in his university years (from 1930). As a student and in later life he took on a variety of committee and other roles (Matheson 2006). He was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1977.

Walkley received various accolades for his service to the professions and to architectural and planning education including an honorary Sidney Luker Memorial Medal in 1962 for ‘a notable contribution to Town and Regional Planning in Australia’, a CBE (Commander Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire) in 1968 for ‘services to Architecture and Government’ (Jones 2000: 74), the Alumni Award from the Adelaide University in 1992 (Matheson 2006) ,and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia in 1994.

In 1955, Walkley commissioned Robin Boyd, the Victorian architect and architectural critic, to design his new family home at 26 Palmer Place, North Adelaide. Gavin Walkley designed many of the fixtures and fittings and administered the contract single-handedly, apart from one intervention by Robin Boyd, upon invitation. The two-storeyed steel framed house exemplified modern design ideas and materials in its expressive structure, simple lines and extensive use of glass. It made an important contribution to the modernist movement in South Australia as well as a statement about Walkley’s own position on design. The building is listed on the South Australian Heritage Register and on the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ (RAIA) Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture.

The Walkley House, along with his many educational, professional and civic contributions, was amongst the legacies of the 94 year old Gavin Walkley who died on 25 November 2005.

Christine Sullivan

Citation details
Sullivan, Christine, 'Walkley, Gavin’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: []




Architectural works in South Australia

Name Suburb Year Designed
Princess Royal homestead renovation and landscape near Burra 1950
Murray Bridge oval Murray Bridge
Alterations to the Port Pirie Town Hall Port Pirie
Broken Hill Associated Smelter Broken Hill
BHP related recreational facilities Port Pirie
Woomera, building at Woomera
Glasshouse Adelaide
Whyalla Institute of Technology Whyalla Norrie
St. John Ambulance Centres various parts of South Australia
Major additions to the Mount Gambier Power Station Mount Gambier
Extensive additions to Aquinas College North Adelaide
Walkley House North Adelaide 1955

Firms or Professional Partnerships

Name Dates Worked
Woods Bagot Laybourne Smith and Irwin 1934-1935 
South Australian Housing Trust 1946-1949 
South Australian School of Mines (School of Mines) 1946-02/07/1976 
Overall & Walkley Architects & Planners c.1949-c.1950 
Walkley & Welbourn Architects & Planners 1951-1970 

Bibliographic Sources


Collins, J. (2012) 'Walkley, Gavin' in Goad, P. and Willis, J. (eds) The encyclopaedia of Australian architecture, Cambridge University Press: 744.
Freeland, J. (1971) The Making of a Profession: A History of the Growth and Work of the Architectural Institutes in Australia, Angus and Robertson in association with the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Sydney.
Marsden, S.E. (1986) Business, Charity and Sentiment: The South Australian Housing Trust 1936-1986, Wakefield Press, Adelaide.
Page, M. (1986) Sculptors in Space: South Australian Architects 1836-1986, RAIA SA Chapter, Adelaide.
Walkley, G. (1976) The Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture & Building: a history 1906-1976, South Australian Institute of Technology, Adelaide.
Walkley, G. (1977) Louis Laybourne Smith: A Memoir, South Australian Institute of Technology, Adelaide.
Walkley, G. (1985) St. Mark’s College: the buildings and grounds, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide.

(1953) ‘Portrait’, Architecture, Jan-Mar.
Draper, W.J. (1980) ‘Gavin Walkley’, Who’s Who in Australia, The Herald & Weekly Times Limited, Melbourne: 844.
Hamnett, S. (1999) ‘50 years of Planning Education in Australia’, Australian Planner, RAPI, vol.36, no.1: 12.
Jones, D.S. (1997) ‘20th Century Landscape Design in Adelaide’, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, vol.25: 35-57.
Jones, D. (2000) ‘The Evolution of Planning Education in South Australia: The role of Gavin Walkley’, Australian Planner, RAPI, vol.37, no.2: 70-5.
Jones, D. (2006) ‘Gavin Walkley, CBE 1911-2005’ Australian Garden History, Feb/March/April, vol.17, no.4.
Milne, M. (1979) ‘Study Tour Helps to Determine Ability of Migrant Architects’, Building and Architecture, Official Journal of the RAIA, SA Chapter, May, vol.6, no.4: 4.
Walkley, G. (1952) ‘Town and Country Planning in South Australia: An Historical Survey’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (South Australian Branch), vol.53: 79-92.
Walkley, G. (1954) ‘Pioneering Planning of British Colonies in Malaya and Australia’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (South Australian Branch), vol.55: 13-20.
Walkley, G. (1957) ‘Planning in South Australia’, Journal of the Town Planning Institute, vol.43, no.9: 242-245.
Walkley, G. (1968) ‘Support Institute of Urban Studies’, South Australian Master Builder, The Official Journal of the Master Builders Association of SA Inc, March, vol.3, no.3: 25.
Walkley, G. (1971) ‘Introduction’, Landscape Architecture in Conservation: A conference of the Australian institute of Landscape Architects held in association with the Australian Conservation Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia, 19-22 August 1971, Australian Institute of Landscape Architects & the Australian Conservation Foundation, Adelaide: 4.
Walkley, G. (1973) ‘Walkley House’, Architecture in Australia, Journal of the RAIA, vol.62, no.2: 66-7.
‘Early Prefab - Our First Brick Building’ (1981) Building and Architecture, Official Journal of the RAIA, SA Chapter, October, vol.8, no.8.
Walkley, Giles (2006) 'Vale Gavin Walkley 1911-2005', Architecture Australia, March/April, vol.95, no.2: 60.
Jones, D (2012) 'The role and contribution of Gavin Walkley CBE in advancing planning education in South Australia', Planning Perspectives vol 27, no 1, January: 131-141.

‘Achievements Speak Volumes: Gavin Walkley, CBE Architect’, Advertiser, 14 January 2006.

Walkley, G. (1964) Oral History and transcript, Interviewer: Hazel de Berg, National Library of Australia; A copy is in 'An Oral History of the Building Industry in South Australia: Adelaide 1900 – 1980', compiled by John Gasper, commissioned by the Oral History Association of Australia (South Australian Branch), State Heritage Funding 1979/80, GRG 138/4/00000 Boxes 1-3. State Records of South Australia (SRSA).
Laybourne Smith, L., and Walkley, G. (1964) Reminiscences, 1 sound cassette (ca. 30 min.): mono, Adelaide, held at the University of South Australia Library, City West.
Walkley, G. (1982) Oral History and transcript, South Australian Housing Trust, Interviewer: Averil Holt, SRG 660/1/137, State Library of South Australia.
Walkley, G. (1993) Walkley and Welbourn, Architects and Planners, A Brief History, Mortlock Library of South Australia BRG 252/2.
‘Trust People – Gavin Walkley’, no date, Johnson collection S212/11/23, LLSAM.
‘Gavin Walkley Retires’ SAIA Bulletin, no date, Cheesman collection S209/5/1/19, LLSAM.
Walkley, Gavin collection, Series 177, 293, 300, LLSAM.
Walkley, Gavin (1998) Diary of GW 1911-2005, typescript, private collection.
Walkley, Giles (2005) Text read by Giles Walkley at memorial service held at Christ Church, North Adelaide on 30 Nov 2005 to mark the passing of G.Walkley. CBE (8 Jul 1911 - 25 Nov 2005), LLSAM.

UniSA Library - Special collections, online at
Walkley, Giles (2006) 'Vale Gavin Walkley 1911-2005', Architecture Australia, March/April, vol.95, no.2: 60, online at
Matheson, Hon. R., (2006) St Marks Newsletter – April 2006, online at

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