About Sydney Ancher

About Sydney Ancher

Sydney Ancher

Ancher House Architect

Celebrated Australian architect Sydney Ancher designed two major components of the Emu Plains for Gerald and Margo Lewers – the Loungeroom addition (1955), and Ancher House (1962).

Sydney Ancher (1904-1979) trained as an architect at Sydney Technical College (1924 to 1929), and was awarded the Australian medallion and traveling scholarship of the Board of Architects of New South Wales in 1930.

Traveling to London in 1930, he worked for leading British architects including Cyril Farey, a perspectivist, and Joseph Emberton, a modernist. On seeing, in Europe, the work of Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, both became his idols.

Returning to Sydney in 1936, Ancher worked with Reginald A. de T. Prevost, in designing an avant-garde house at Bellevue Hill in 1937. It was a rare Australian example of the radical International Style – and indicates his style of architecture post World War II.

In 1939, Ancher again traveled to Britain and Europe and was deeply impressed by lectures by Frank Lloyd Wright; and influenced by modern Scandinavian architecture.

At the outbreak of war Ancher returned to Australia. In 1940 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the Middle East (the influence of which would later reveal itself in his design aesthetic and philosophy of which Ancher House at Emu Plains is a perfect example).

After resuming private practice in 1945, Ancher became well regarded for his specialty – ‘modern’ housing designs. In 1945 his home at Killara was awarded the Sulman Medal. However, his work was not without controversy, and frequently faced challenge and obstruction from conservative local councils.

In 1952 Ancher formed the partnership Ancher, Mortlock & Murray, and was joined by Ken Woolley in 1964. Ancher retired from the firm in 1966, and was awarded the Royal Australian Institute of Architects gold medal in 1975.

Sydney Ancher is considered a pioneer of modern Australian domestic architecture. His houses of the late 1940s and 1950s became widely known and demonstrated the possibilities of a new approach to architecture. The appeal of his houses lay in their subtlety, their suitability for Sydney’s temperate climate and their encouragement of a freer life-style for their occupants.

Many of Ancher’s designs evolved from a response to simple functional demands. For instance, his house and building extension for artists Gerald and Margo Lewers at Emu Plains has the quality of ‘hard-edged’ abstract painting’, and clearly demonstrates his conviction that the beauty of the natural environment could be sensitively complemented by man-made structures and artistic collaboration.

Like all of Ancher’s architecture, the rigorous simplicity of the work at Emu Plains is characterised by understatement, and a relaxed quality that expresses something of the Australian ethos.

Ancher House (and its setting designed in association with Margo Lewers) demonstrates the attributes of a particular way of life and the principle characteristics of the post war international style by great post war Australian designers; and represents a change in attitude to design and residential living.