Sydney Ancher (1904-1980) was a pioneer of the modern movement in Australia.
Ancher’s houses and buildings were designed to adapt to the conditions of their Australian bushland sites. He made extensive use of open planning, pergolas and wide terraces, opening the interior of his white painted houses to the landscape.
After graduating from Sydney Technical College in 1930 Ancher won the Board of Architects of New South Wales Travelling Scholarship. He then worked in London and travelled throughout Europe, where he was exposed to the architecture and ideas of Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and other Bauhaus architects prior to the Second World War. Ancher had not been exposed to modernist ideas in his formal education and his travels in Europe had a great influence on his architecture.
His houses were described by Robin Boyd as being
in the best Australian tradition of horizontally bleached colours and decorative shadows…a line of development, unaffected, uncomplicated and an undeviating search for simplicity.
Ancher designed the modernist, ‘liner’ style Prevost House in Sydney (1935) before making another short trip to Europe before the war. The Prevost House is regarded as one of the most important of its style and period in Australia. In 1989 the NSW Land and Environment Court ruled to disallow major alterations to the house due to its heritage significance.
The post-war work of Ancher concentrated on houses in the Sydney area and his designs led him into frequent battles with local councils. Ancher’s own house at 3 Maytone Avenue, Killara won the RAIA Sulman Medal in 1945, despite the local council requiring restrictive aesthetic modifications. In 1947 the Warringah Council objected to his flat roof design for the Farley House at North Curl Curl, Sydney. The court ruled in Ancher’s favour, finding that the house did not have to have parapets: a landmark decision.
Ancher was a founding and senior partner of what became one of Sydney’s most important architectural firms, Ancher, Mortlock, Murray and Woolley (1946-1976). Many of Sydney’s young designers worked in the firm at one time or another, including Glenn Murcutt. Ancher had a great influence on the generation of Sydney architects that followed him. At the time of the Northbourne Housing Group commission, Ancher was considered by Sir John Overall, Head of the NCDC, as
the most outstanding domestic architect in Sydney
Sydney Ancher was awarded the RAIA Gold Medal in 1975.