The Grainger Museum at the University of Melbourne is presenting an exhibition that investigates the many achievements of John Harry Grainger, the gifted architect and engineer whose life was largely overshadowed by that of his son, composer and performer, Percy Aldridge Grainger.Trained in London, JH Grainger travelled to Australia in 1877 to take up the humble position of a draftsman with the South Australian Public Works Department. An ambitious young man, Grainger entered into competitions for private commissions with great success. At 25 he won commissions for two bridges: the intricately engineered swing bridge at Sale in Gippsland; and most significantly, Princes Bridge over the Yarra River in Melbourne. The Princes Bridge design was an enormous achievement – a task that would have challenged a practitioner twice his age. It became a major landmark then, as it is now.
JH Grainger’s career took him to every state in Australia as well as Colombo in Sri Lanka and Auckland in New Zealand. He was also employed as senior architect in the Western Australian Public Works Department, during which time he signed off on the designs of numerous public buildings, conceived a very elegant ballroom at Government House in Perth, and designed the displays for the Western Australian Pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle – to much acclaim.
Notable structures that were the result of Grainger’s creative vision were the well-loved ‘Georges’ building in Collins Street, Melbourne and the State Savings Bank and Masonic Hall also in Melbourne (the latter two no longer exist). The impressive French Renaissance Revival style public library and municipal offices in Auckland, as well as the Fremantle Town Hall in Perth, are fine examples of Grainger’s public building commissions.JH Grainger’s cultural interests extended beyond building design and engineering. He was a good water colour painter and executed some fine seascapes. He also had a lifelong love for music and established the first string quartet in South Australia and the Perth Orchestral Society.This exhibition includes a selection of artefacts from the Grainger Museum Collection which show aspects of Grainger’s life, as well as photographs, architectural and engineering drawings, and artworks. The displays include correspondence and ephemera relating to his relationship with his son Percy. It will give Museum visitors a more detailed understanding of Percy Grainger’s early family life and the often forgotten influences of his father.
The exhibition will be open to the public from Thursday 2 February and will be formally launched on Thursday, 8 March by Professor Philip Goad from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Architecture, Building and Planning. Prof. Goad is a highly respected scholar and a prolific writer. He has recently co-edited the Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture (Cambridge University Press, 2011). The opening will be held at the Grainger Museum on Royal Parade, next to University gate 13, starting at 5.30pm for 6.00pm. Refreshments will be served.
The exhibition will continue throughout 2012.
For further information contact Brian Allison exhibition co-curator on 8344 8822
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Next Free Public Lecture:
11 Jun 2013