Nino Sydney, architect of affordable Australian modernism, dies at 89

Nino Sydney, the man behind the famous Beachcomber house and long-time chief architect of Lend Lease Homes, has died at the age of 89.

Born in Croatia, Sydney arrived in Australia – to the city whose name he shared – in 1955, completing his study of architecture at the University of Sydney from 1956 to 1958.

After working in architecture practice in Germany and Luxemburg, he was appointed chief architect of Lend Lease Homes (Lend Lease’s project homes division) in 1961, a position he would hold until 1973.

His very first design for the firm was the iconic Beachcomber, an elevated, Le Corbusier-inspired house that has become synonymous with an affordable, laidback Australian modernism. Around 200 Beachcombers were built during the 1960s, and a website dedicated to the house design has identified around 40 still standing, along with another hundred copycats.

A biography of Sydney by Davina Jackson relates that he designed more than 50 house styles for Lend Lease, along with a house in Tahiti for Lend Lease founder Dick Dusseldorp. In 1967, he won the NSW RAIA Project House design award for his Casa Blanca model.

1962 magazine clipping about the radical new Beachcomber house.

Sydney’s Beachcomber and Pan-Pacific designs were first built on a property at Carlingford, and promoted as part of the historic 1962 Carlingford Homes Fair, which included 19 project homes designed by leading architects such as Ken Woolley, Harry Seidler, Clark Gazzard, John Ley, Towell Rippon and Michael Dysart.

Sydney’s son, Mark Sydney, told the Sydney Morning Herald that his dad was passionate about “making good things.”

“If you asked him for his proudest achievement, it was that he could develop modern architecture for Australians and still keep it affordable,” he told the paper. “He loved the work of Harry Seidler among others, but felt their homes were often within the remit of very wealthy people who had the money to pay for them.”

From 1973 to 1997, Sydney directed his own practice delivering custom-designed houses – many of them elevated like the Beachcomber. His biography notes that he was also a keen sportsman, competing in squash and water polo at a high level.

Sydney is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Vera, and their children Mark, Maya and Danny.

Source: Architecture - architectureau

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