Guilford Bell (1912-1992) was born in Brisbane, grew up on his family’s extensive rural properties in Queensland, and in 1930 was articled to a Brisbane Beaux Arts architect, Lange L. Powell (then president of the Queensland Institute of Architects). At night, he studied at the Central Technical College, from where he graduated in 1935 with a Diploma of Architecture and the gold medall for best student. In 1936, he went to London and began work with Georgian-style architect Professor Albert E. Richardson, head of the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College, London. While working there, he visited the Paris Exposition in 1937 and accompanied the distinguished archaeologist Max Mallowan and his wife, novelist Agatha Christie, on their spring 1938 expedition to Syria and their autumn 1938 expedition to Brak; Belle contributing most of the plans and drawings of the digging sites for Mallowan’s 1947 book, Iraq. Back in London in 1939, one of his drawings was exhibited at the Royal Academy and published in the Architect’s Journal before he returned to Australia when war was declared. He worked in Canberra for Ansett airlines, then in 1943 joined the RAAF as an architect, receiving his officer’s commission in 1944. In 1946, he registered in Melbourne as an architect, working on occasional joint ventures with the chief architect at Ansett, John A La Gerche. In 1948, he completed the ANA Terminal in Sydney and travelled to the United States with Reg Ansett to study resort architecture. On return, he designed the first buildings for Hayman Island Resort on the Great Barrier Reef. In 1952, he set up a private practice in Toorak and began designing grand houses for wealthy clients around Australia, including several on country and suburban sites in New South Wales during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1955, a young graduate architect, David Godsell, began working for him; leading to a strong shift in the work towards the principles of Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra. In 1961, after Godsell left the practice, Bell went into partnership with Neil Clerehan, but the Clerehan and Bell practice was dissolved in 1964 and Bell continued to lead his own firm until he took on a much younger partner, Graham Fisher, in 1983. The work was strongly influenced by his Beaux Arts training in the Classical Orders, but executed with modern materials, technologies and open plan concepts.
—Van Schaik, Leon (ed.). The Life Work of Guilford Bell 1912-1992. Melbourne: Black Inc (Schwartz Publishing), especially Philip Goad’s essay ‘A Very Private Practice: The Life and Work of Guilford Bell’, pp 106-131


Davina Jackson
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