Snelling created more than 70 residential and commercial buildings in Sydney and Noumea. He was born in England, moved to New Zealand (1924), practised design and film promotions in Wanganui and Wellington (1935-1940), worked in Los Angeles (1937-38 and 1947-48), became a leading Sydney architect (registered 1952) and designer (1940-1972) and retired to Hawaii (1977).
Douglas Snelling (1916-85) was born in England and grew up in New Zealand. He taught himself commercial art and window display techniques in the early 1930s, then spent six months in Hollywood (1937-38) as a freelance cartoon illustrator of actors on movie sets. On return to NZ, he became a nationally celebrated Hollywood commentator on radio and in entertainment magazines, then a publicity manager for Warner Bros in Wellington, 1939. In 1940, he toured the Indonesian archipelago by ship, then disembarked in Sydney — where he worked first as a publicist with J. Walter Thompson, then for Otis Waygood and Kriesler, a Newtown electronics factory, where he was involved in designing a new style of surround-sound radio. Near the end of the war, he was commissioned to paint murals and redesign interiors for the Roosevelt restaurant and US Navy Enlisted Mens Club at Potts Point. From the mid 1940s to the mid 1950s, he designed two nationally retailed ranges of furniture called 'the Snelling line’ (chairs and tables) and 'the Snelling module’ (storage), as well as many commercial interiors in the American ‘Googie’ style. In 1947-48, he completed his first building, a factory for Functional Products Pty Ltd, at St Peters, then spent another six months in California, including a few months working for Beverly Hills architects Douglas Honnold and John Lautner and a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West camp in Arizona. On return to Sydney, Snelling continued designing commercial interiors and began private study towards the NSW Board of Architects’ exams. He was registered to practice in 1952 and joined the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1953. His oeuvre of more than 70 projects included several of Sydney’s largest houses of the 1950s and 1960s, two apartment blocks, several notable commercial buildings in central and suburban Sydney, two large houses in Noumea and detailed schemes (unbuilt) for 'indigenous modern’ holiday resorts in Fiji and Vanuatu. He retired to Hawaii in 1977, travelled regularly to the US and Europe as a collector-trader of Khmer antiquities and died on a visit back to Sydney in 1985. His one work of architecture after 1975 was 1979 additions to his own house, designed by Honolulu architect Vladimir Ossipoff. Sources —Original Snelling plans lodged with the NSW State Library by Peter MacCallum and Christopher Snelling. —Sydney: State Library of New South Wales, 'Davina Jackson’s research on Douglas Snelling’ MLMSS 8801, including the PhD thesis 'Douglas Burrage Snelling: Adventures in Pan-Pacific Modern Design and Architecture’. —University of Technology, Sydney B.Arch theses on Snelling by Gary Pemberton, Andrew Kovacs and James Trevillion.