• The Birch House, 3 Arkana Street, Yarralumla (1967)
  • The Birch House elevation
  • The Birch House south elevation

The ‘Birch House’, 3 Arkana Street, Yarralumla

3 Arkana Street, Yarralumla is a large six bedroom house designed by Noel Potter of Bunning and Madden in 1967 for Professor and Mrs A J Birch. Professor Birch was the Dean of the Research School of Chemistry at the Australian National University. The house was later owned by Romaldo Giurgola, one of the design architects for Australia’s New Parliament House (1988).

The house is an example of the post-war international style, with its cubiform overall shape and large sheets of glass.


3 Arkana Street is listed on the ACT Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture. It is regarded by the RAIA as being an important example of the post-war international style and was awarded the 1968 C S Daley medal for architectural merit.

The plan of the house is innovative and detail throughout the house interesting and unique, reflecting the freedom given to the architect Noel Potter by his clients. The client’s desire for privacy and outdoor living was well met by the battle-axe site and the siting and design of the house itself.

The firm of Bunning and Madden have designed a number of public buildings in Canberra, including the Woden Valley High School (1967), the National Library of Australia (1968) and the Indian High Commission (1981). Noel Potter played a prominent role in the design of the most important of these buildings, the stripped classical style National Library of Australia.


The house was designed to represent a modern version of an Australian homestead—but with the verandas facing inward to a private enclosed courtyard with outdoor living areas and swimming pool, rather than the street. The design takes advantage of the Australian climate and a lifestyle based around outdoor living. Maximum privacy is provided by the U-shaped plan of the house and the battle-axe site, which does not have a street frontage.

The entry to the house is located on the bottom and south side of the ‘U’ with living areas and bedrooms located on either side of the ‘U’. To the left of the entry is a large living area, dining, kitchen, laundry, music room and garage/workshop area. To the right of the entry is the study, main bedroom and five remaining bedrooms and two bathrooms which are located off a gallery style games room which is 9.45 metres long and 2.14 metres wide and looks out on to the courtyard.

All rooms facing the tiled courtyard have access to it through double cedar framed glass doors. The house has simple lines and few windows in the exterior walls. The living and dining area are open plan, with heavy cross beams lending a feeling of space to the living room, the end of which is a redwood and glass curtain wall with a view over the Brindabella Ranges to the west. Internal and external brickwork was originally painted white, with Canadian redwood timber trim and windows. Pierced brickwork is used to screen some windows on the exterior walls.


  • Royal Australian Institute of Architects RSTCA Citation No. R44
  • A Winner All The Way’, Australian House and Garden, August, 1969