John Lionel Berry, (1885-1962) was born in Suva, Fiji. Berry was a practicing architect and he was involved in the establishment of the Architects Association in 1919 and elected as a member of its first council.
John Lionel Berry, (1885-1962) was born in Suva, Fiji. Berry’s father, the Hon. John Berry had been posted to Fiji as Commissioner of Lands and Survey. Around 1900 the Berry family left Fiji and returned to Australia, settling in Sydney. After school, John Berry went on to study architecture and with fellow student William Hardy Wilson, exhibited at the first exhibition of the Students Association of the Institute of Architects of New South Wales in December 1904. Berry received first prize in the architectural sketches category.
In 1906, aged 21, Berry left Sydney and travelled to the United Kingdom, enrolling as an architecture student at the Royal Academy College in London. Berry travelled throughout Europe between 1907 and 1910, meeting up with fellow Australian architects William Hardy Wilson and Stacey Neave, in various cities. During his travels he completed hundreds of sketches and watercolours of architectural sites in England, France and Italy. In 1909 and 1910 Berry participated in several of the Royal Academy School’s architectural drawing competitions. Returning to Sydney aboard the passenger ship The Marathon in 1911, Berry married Hazel Jean Sinclair (of Brisbane) in 1913.
Berry was involved in the establishment of the Architects Association in 1919 and elected as a member of its first council. In the following year, 1920, he joined the architectural firm established by his friends and colleagues William Hardy Wilson and Stacey Neave, Wilson & Neave, which became Wilson, Neave & Berry. The firm attracted mainly residential and small commercial commissions. Of the latter their most important were the Peapes & Co. Ltd menswear store on George Street, Sydney, the four-storey building for Larke, Hoskins & Co. Ltd motor car importers in William Street, Sydney, the Strathfield War Memorial, and the Foster Clark factory in Redfern. In 1923 Wilson, Neave & Berry entered the competition for Gordon Pleasure Grounds, which they won, and were subsequently granted the design rights for the Council Chambers for the Kuringai Municipal Council.
Wilson, Neave & Berry’s most noteworthy residential commission was Eryldene house, in Sydney’s North Shore, designed for Professor Eben Gowrie Waterhouse, a lecturer at Sydney Teacher’s College. Hardy had completed most of the plans for the house himself by 1914, but he and his firm continued designing additional structures for Eryldene until 1936, by which time Hardy had retired from architecture and moved to Tasmania. Berry was himself responsible for the design of the house’s interior study. Eryldene has become one of Australia’s most famous and well-known houses and today the house and gardens are a museum.
In 1921 Berry was appointed as lecturer of Medieval Architecture at the University of Sydney. Becoming a significant figure in the architectural industry, Berry was elected as a member of the Council of Architects in 1926.
After Wilson left the firm in 1927, Neave and Berry continued the practice, now Neave & Berry, designing a number of ‘magnificently detailed’ small residences including Barford for Warwick Fairfax and 12 Ginnahgulla Road for Dr Flynn, both in Bellevue Hill Sydney.
Like his better known associate, Wilson, Berry was an advocate for change in Australian architecture. Berry was particularly influenced by the Australian Georgian Revival style that Wilson had pioneered, as well as designs of early colonial Australian architecture. Berry contributed articles on architecture and design to The Home, Art in Australia and Architecture. In an article published in The Home in October 1930 Berry despaired at what he saw as a proliferation of ‘dark … badly designed, sombre houses.’ Berry’s own architectural practice promoted the use of natural light, colour and a correspondence between design and the specific conditions of the Australian climate.
Berry left architectural practice in 1932, when he retired to Deloraine, Tasmania to establish a sheep farm, ‘Bowerbank’. There he embraced farming and became an active participant in the industry, and was elected a member of the Meat Board in 1937. Berry maintained an interest in architecture and drawing in his retirement. In 1950 he gave a lecture at the monthly meeting of the Workers Educational Association in Deloraine on architecture, illustrated by drawings he had made during his European travels earlier in the century. In 1953, at the age of 68, Berry gave another lecture, this time on the parish churches of England at St Marks Church, Deloraine, and in the same year he travelled to Launceston to attend a private opening of William Hardy Wilson’s exhibition of crayon drawings.
Berry remained in Deloraine until his death in 1962, aged 77.
The Print Collection in the Baillieu Library at the University of Melbourne is a major repository of Berry’s drawings, watercolours, prints and architectural plans.
Mahoney, Jade Sacco, Stephanie Sgro, Romina Clayton-Greene, Kim Print Collection, Baillieu Library, The University of Melbourne