Architect Robin Dods

Queensland Federation style Architect and
Pioneering Arts and Crafts Architect

Robert Smith (Robin) Dods

 

Very few Queensland architects had contributed to the architectural advancement of their State.

  • Of these few, the work of Robin Smith Dods must be acknowledged the most original and vital. [1]

  • Robin Dods ‘produced some of the finest, most gracious and sophisticated buildings this country has seen; inventing a language that was locally responsive and internationally admired.

  • During his 20-year tenure with Hall & Dods, the firm he joined with Brisbane Grammar School chum Francis Hall in 1896, Dods designed about 650 residential, commercial and religious buildings. [2]

 

Robin Dods was a home-grown designer who “built" Brisbane, according to leading local architect and historian Robert Riddel.  [1]

 
 

Biography of Robin Dods

 

Robert Smith (Robin) Dods was a New Zealand-born Australian architect.

Dods was born in New Zealand in 1868,

  • educated in Brisbane 

  • trained as an architect in Edinburgh and London,

  • returned to Brisbane to join a practice in 1896.

  • His most visible remaining Brisbane building is St Brigid's Church on Musgrave Rd at Red Hill (pictured at left).


Dods visited his mother in Brisbane in 1894 and while there completed designs which subsequently won a competition for a nurses' home at Brisbane Hospital.

  • The hospital proved a valuable client over the next decade.

  • He was offered a partnership with John Hall & Son and, returning to Brisbane in 1896, started practice with Hall's son Francis as Hall & Dods.

Above: Robert Riddel on architect Robin Dods' substantial legacy

ABC 2RN Download audio Broadcast: Wednesday 25 July 2012 

By 1900 Dods had designed a handful of houses, including his own at New Farm (demolished), and several small commercial buildings in the city.

  • His domestic work adopted many local techniques in wood but had a sophisticated discipline and a common-sense response to climate which were radically new.

  • Influenced by C. F. A. Voysey, and like contemporaries in Britain including Lorimer and Lutyens, his early work was full of the romance of an arts and crafts philosophy which he never completely lost.

  • During his 20-year tenure with Hall & Dods, the firm he joined with Brisbane Grammar School chum Francis Hall in 1896, Dods designed about 650 residential, commercial and religious buildings. 

  • Robin Dods had a body of work from a career that spanned hospitals, houses, churches, civic works, commercial factories, offices and furniture. [4]

Robin-Dods-Selected-Works.jpg

Above right: The building that now houses the Pink Piano bar was designed by Dods in 1906 as a combined residence and surgery for his brother Espie Dods, who was a doctor.

 

Dods moved to Brisbane in 1879 where he remained until leaving for Edinburgh in 1886 to commence his studies in architecture.

  • Dr Robert Riddel said Dods arrived in Scotland during an architectural 'golden age', where well educated young designers were drawing their influence from the world around them.

  • “Britain was then sending architects to the colonies where they were encouraged to find a 'regional response' – to look at where one is in the world and apply it to design,” he said.

  • “This is what Dods brought to Brisbane.” [2]

"[Dods] produced some of the finest, most gracious and sophisticated buildings this country has seen; inventing a language that was locally responsive and internationally admired." – Elizabeth Farrelly, Sydney Morning Herald  [3]

Robin Dods Selected Works by Riddel
1/8

Dods himself combined immense charm, wit, and natural ability with discriminating and impeccable taste.

  • He was passionate about his work and derived great pleasure from it, seeking, in both his buildings and writing, an appropriate Australian architecture.

  • He contributed several times to the premier English journal the Builder.

  • He was interested in politics, literature and the arts generally; he read essays and especially Robert Louis Stevenson.

  • He encouraged then unknown figures, such as Dorothea Mackellar, Jesse Hilder and Hardy Wilson.[6]

 

Left: Webber House, 439 Ann Street as it appears today.

 

  • “He had a new voice, an authentic voice, and the personality to influence people,” Riddel said.

  • “There were other influential architects before him, but Dods was the first home-grown one.”

  • "A lot of architects well-known in Australia at that time just did houses or just commercial buildings, but Dods did everything,'' Riddel says from rural homesteads such as Nindooinbah at Beaudesert to office buildings, churches and hospital facilities.

  • "I've worked on a few of these buildings and the quality of resolution on them is not just ordinary, it is extraordinary,'' he says. [2]

  • Some of Dods' most impressive creations, among them his family home in New Farm, the substantial Littledike House (pictured below) in Clayfield and the NZ Insurance building in Queen St have disappeared. [2]

Dod’s Influences

 

Dods drew from many sources, fully exploiting what he saw as the regional tradition and sensible climatic controls.

Within a confident vocabulary of style he emphasized certain elements to achieve proportions of rare quality and an architecture of distinction.

 

Norman Shaw, who already had a considerable reputation as an architect when Dods was a student, later became his friend.

  • Shaw was an architect of great inventiveness, and he introduced many new motifs adapted from past styles into English architecture.

  • Dods’ work in face brick-work and stone may have had its origin in the buildings of Shaw, for Shaw, as well as other architects of the modern movement, favoured these materials, and used them to good effect.”

    • Shaw's early country houses avoided Neo-Gothic and the academic styles, reviving vernacular materials like half timber and hanging tiles, with projecting gables and tall massive chimneys with "inglenooks" for warm seating.

    • Shaw's houses soon attracted the misnomer the "Queen Anne style".

    • As his skills developed, he dropped some of the mannered detailing, his buildings gained in dignity, and acquired an air of serenity and a quiet homely charm which were less conspicuous in his earlier works;

    • half timber construction was more sparingly used, and finally disappeared entirely.  [1]

 

Shaw was an architect of great inventiveness, and he introduced many new motifs adapted from past styles into English architecture.

  • Dods' work in face brickwork and stone may have had its origin in the buildings of Shaw. 

  • Shaw's simplified "Brick Gothic"​​ is echoed in Dods' St. John's School and Diocesan Offices. [1]

 
 

Above: Richard Norman Shaw

Right: Gallery of Architecture by Richard Norman Shaw from Wikipedia

Below: Charles Rennie Mackintosh 

(1868 – 1928), a Scottish architect, designer, water colourist and artist

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

In London, as in Edinburgh, Robin Dods soon became a fashionable "man-about-town."

He possessed great natural charm, ready wit, and an ability to gain the friendship and acquaintance of a large number of people in the world of art and architecture.

Numbered among his friends were architects Giles Gilbert Scott, Robert Lorimer, John Belcher, G. F. Bodley, Norman Shaw and H. B. Creswell, and a theatrical trainer and Shakespearean reciter, Patrick Kirwan.

The association with Creswell (author of the humorous "Honeywood File") helped to foster an interest in writing, for Robin Dods later did write many articles on architecture and furniture.

 

Dods visited the Continent in 1891 for a study tour of Italy.

  • It was in Naples that he met Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who was also travelling to fulfil the terms of the Alexander Thompson Scholarship which he had won the previous year.

  • Mackintosh was destined to be recognised as one of the pioneers of the Modern Movement, and this meeting could also have influenced Dods' architectural outlook. [1]

 

Pictured below: Left to Right: Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh's Hill House, Dod;s House for Espie Dods

Dods made no great excursion into the realm of Art Nouveau, but in much of his work can be seen similarity to the work of Mackintosh.

  • Dods' simple, bold use of timber may have been inspired by Mackintosh, as was the heart-shaped motif which was a much-used feature in Art Nouveau decoration.

    • Dods' roof lantern, bay windows and the Georgian-type windows are similar to those used by Mackintosh, and the simple wrought iron work and the concrete cantilever balcony suggest the north facade of the Glasgow School of Arts.

  • The house that Robin Dods designed for his brother Espie at 97 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, has a character distinctly similar to Mackintosh's "Hill House" at Helensburgh, designed in 1902.

    • The rough-cast finish, a technique then new to Brisbane, may have been inspired by this and similar Scottish work.

  • The tall-backed chair was a Macintosh innovation, and probably influenced Dods' furniture design.

    • Dods' chairs, though similar in character, are less graceful and possess little of his contemporary's decoration and form. [1]

 

Dod's Queensland Architectural Practice

 

A desire to see his mother brought Dods back home to Brisbane in 1894.

This visit proved to be the turning-point in his career, for during his stay he entered for and subsequently won a competition for a new Nurses' Quarters at the Brisbane General Hospital.

He returned to England via America the following year, but was only to stay a short while.

He accepted an offer of partnership with a Brisbane architect, Mr. Francis Hall, and thus, with the Nurses' Quarters yet to be built, the practice of Hall & Dods was commenced.

  • The partnership proved to be a fruitful one.

  • Francis Hall was primarily administrator and business man, so that the majority of the design work was left entirely in the hands of Dods.

 

Commissions were not slow in coming in the growing city, and the firm soon established a good reputation in all fields of building.

  • Following on the Nurses' Quarters, the firm designed and supervised many more buildings for the Brisbane and South Coast Hospitals Board, and when the new Mater Misericordiae Hospital was to be built, Hall and Dods, as acknowledged hospital specialists, were commissioned to design it.

  • Lady Lamington Nurses’ Home (named for the wife of the then Queensland Governor) was the first of Dods' Queensland buildings and established the practice of Hall & Dods (1896-1916), which quickly became the leading architectural firm in Queensland undertaking numerous residential, commercial, ecclesiastical, and hospital works.

  • The firm’s hospital work included the Mater Misericordia Hospital’s Private (1908-10) and Public (1909-11, extended 1913) components and its Nurses’ Quarters and Kitchen (1913).

  • Dods has been acknowledged as ‘one of the most significant early 20th century Australian architects'[3] and one of few Arts and Crafts-influenced practitioners  in Queensland.

 

In 1904, Hall and Dods were appointed Diocesan Architects for the Brisbane Diocese of the Church of England.

  • In this capacity, they were responsible for the Church Offices and St. John's School, adjoining the Cathedral, in Ann Street, Brisbane, the supervision of the building of the Cathedral itself (a very fine processional cross in the Cathedral is a memorial to the Cathedral's supervising architect, Robin Smith Dods), and the Archbishop's Chapel at Bishopsbourne.

  • Commissions were undertaken for private chapels and churches, and these buildings must be included as some of Dods' best work.  [1]

Above: Lady Lamington Nurses Home (1896)

 

Below: Edith Cavell Memorial Block for Nurses (1921)

 
Old-Bishopsbourne-Chapel-image-credit-Mi
Old-Bishopsbourne-and-Chapel-of-the-Holy

The Chapel at Old Bishopsbourne

233 Milton RoadMiltonCity of Brisbane

 

The stone chapel at Old Bishopsbourne (St Francis' Theological College) was erected in 1912, replacing an earlier timber building of exposed studs designed by diocesan architect Richard George Suter and constructed about 1870.

  • Anglican Archbishop Donaldson, arriving at Bishopsbourne in December 1904, recognised the need to replace the original chapel, which had fallen into disrepair.

  • In 1912 Donaldson commissioned diocesan architects Hall and Dods to design a chapel which would harmonise with the house and grounds. 

  • Robin Smith Dods produced the design, and the chapel was constructed under his supervision by builders Hall and Meyers. It was dedicated in 1912.[5]

 

With this Chapel alone, Robin Dods' reputation as an architect would have been secured.

  • He created a masterpiece with a small building, which is ruggedly simple and in complete harmony with the fine, dignified old building which it adjoins.

  • There has been no attempt made in this building at ostentatious decoration. Even the limonite facing to the stone has been allowed to remain, and these patches of reddish-brown give colour and texture to the buff coloured stone and enliven the brown-stained timber work.

  • Nowhere else in Dods' work have supple materials been so expertly and adequately expressed. Indeed, the whole Chapel is an object lesson, demonstrating that character and atmosphere can be obtained in a building which is devoid of elaborate construction and finish, and unadorned by rich trappings.  [1]

Above: Myendetta Homestead near Charleville

Dod's Domestic Works

 

His architectural works include:

For a more complete list go to
Robin Dod's Wikipedia page [9]

Dod's Domestic Works

 

Robin Dods achieved early recognition of his domestic work.

  • His houses, when built, were soon noticed and admired.

  • His clients were evidently people with means, since a great bulk of his Brisbane houses were in the wealthy suburbs of Clayfield and New Farm.

  • There is also a Dods house in Charleville and another(?) in Reynella, South Australia.

  • In two known cases only did he design cottage-type houses. These were two groups of three, and evidently designed for clients who were investing in real estate.

 

Designing to suit the climate was a primary consideration with Dods.

  • Planning suited the prevailing north-east breeze, and a generous area of wide verandah shaded the living and bedroom areas of his houses.

  • His belief that an insulating layer of air over the house was essential gave rise to the characteristic high-pitched roof ventilated by gablets and neat lanterns.

  • The vertical adjustable louvre, that now-familiar cliche of contemporary architecture, was introduced by Dods to control sun and breeze some forty years ago.

    • They appeared on at least a section of the verandah and extended from the top of the hand-rail of the balustrade to the soffit of the bressumer.

    • The blades were lozenge-shaped, pivoted top and bottom, and controlled by a central bar linking each blade.  [1]

​​

  • To hide what he described as "an ugly forest of bare poles" under a house, Dods hid the stumps from view.

    • This was achieved by sheeting the stumps in with boarding matching the external sheeting of the house.

    • The boarding, mitred on external angles, extended from the ground to the underside of the metal ant caps on top of the stumps and allowed a continuous ventilating strip some three inches wide all round between top of sheeting and bottom plate.

    • Enclosing the stumps thus helped in appearance to tie the house to the ground and materially helped to offset what might have been an overpowering roof. The treatment is unique, and perhaps more than any other establishes positive identification of Dods' houses.  [1]

Kitawah, 59 Heath St, East Brisbane

 
 
 

Below: Killara, 92 Windermere Road, Ascot Qld

  • Dods showed his masterly handling of timber detail on verandahs and this gives much of the charm and appeal to his houses.

    • Timber sections used were large but always in scale.

    • Verandah posts usually finished 6 in. by 3 in. and top plates 12 in. by 3 in.

    • Corner verandah posts were formed out of a 6 in. by 6 in. length of timber with a solid 3 in. by 3 in. section cut out to form the angle.

    • Timber balusters were either plain rectangular in section or l i in. by H in. with a simple turned length towards the top of the baluster.

  • The general construction followed closely that of the conventional timber dwelling.

    • It would seem that lack of finance prevented a better finish than the ubiquitous T. & G. V.J. wall sheeting internally, for a very few houses showed timber panelling or other enrichment.

    • Fireplaces were neat and plain, with a simple facing of marble round the opening, surmounted by a bold timber mantel.  [1]

 
Carew Cottage 03_BHA2003.jpg
Carew Cottage 01_BHA2003.jpg

Carew Cottage,  38-44 Panalatinga Road  Old Reynella SA

Carew Cottage Reynella SA.jpg
 

Feniton 388 Bowen Terrace, New Farm

 

The "tin" roof of the Queensland home was retained, but usually took the form of flat and roll, although corrugated iron was occasionally used.

  • A slight bellcast at the eaves lightened the massive roof structure, and the open-boarded eave projecting some three feet beyond the wall was something that was not to be used generally until after World War II.

 

The architect's own home, was at the corner of Sydney and Abbot Streets, New Farm, is now demolished. All the characteristic features were there, 

  • the high roof, louvered verandah, weatherboard base.

  • The front door had a heart-shaped cut-out, and this decoration, which invariably appears in some form or other on all of Dods' work, acts almost as his signature.  [1]

 

Myendetta Station Quilpie Highway, Charleville

As one of only six Queensland homesteads designed by acclaimed architect Robin Dods, Myendetta is a rare and intact example of his homestead designs.

Myendetta (1910) is important in illustrating the contribution of notable architect, Robert Smith (Robin) Dods, to the evolution of Queensland architecture.

The homestead is also important in demonstrating the evolution of climatically adapted timber housing in Queensland. It is an exceptional example of design responses to extreme climatic conditions and originally incorporated hydro-electric power.

Myendetta was a gracious homestead that was architecturally designed by Robin Dods and built in 1910.

  • It consists of 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, dining, drawing, sewing and dressing rooms.

  • The kitchen, laundry and office were all renovated in 2007 and include reverse cycle air-conditioning. The kitchen is of commercial standard with modern appliances and cold-room.

  • A wrap around veranda surrounds the home on all sides.

  • Other buildings include meat house, 2 room store shed, 3 bay car shed, fuel shed, 7 bedroom shearer’s quarters with kitchen complex and 5 stand shearing shed

It is a highly intact, representative example of the substantial homesteads built on pastoral land in Queensland.

  • Myendetta was built by Gibbs Brothers, Charleville builders and contractors who also constructed the FDG Stanley-designed Charleville School of Arts.

  • Myendetta Station's vegetation was mulga scrub, unsuitable as a building material, so all building materials had to be brought in. 

  • Weatherboards and framing were hardwood while the v-jointed walls, floors and ceilings were Hoop Pine.

  • When completed in 1910 Myendetta was a "state of the art" home complete with electricity generated by its own generator powered by water flow from the artesian bore. 

    • Hydro-electricity powered by artesian flow was a new technology pioneered at Thargomindah in 1898 (the first town in Australia to have hydroelectric power). This preceded the electrification of Charleville by 13 years.

  • The house was fly-screened and well ventilated.

  • An outbuilding was equipped with a cold room, insulated with charcoal and sealed with a layer of cork then cooled by air forced through water-soaked hessian curtains by an electric fan.

  • It was was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 2 December 2013.

 

Between 1901 and 1913 Dods designed and built six homesteads for rural properties -

  1. Langlo Downs, Augathella (1903, destroyed by fire);

  2. extension to Nindooinbah HomesteadBeaudesert (1908);

  3. Ringsfield, Nanango (1908); 

  4. Wyambyn, Beaudesert  (1909);

  5. Myendetta, Charleville (1910); and

  6. Kengoon, Kalbar (1913). 

These were large dwellings that often formed the centre of groups of outbuildings. Their garden layouts were also an important feature.

Read More:

 

Rangemoor, 165 Adelaide St East, Clayfield

The above house 'Rangemoor' at 165 Adelaide Street E, Clayfield, (once occupied by Dr. P. Earnshaw) is perhaps one of Dods' best.

  • A few planning alterations have been made and colour schemes changed, but basically the house remains as designed.

  • A broad flight of steps, flanked by tall, elegant balusters. leads up to a verandah which shows Dods' timber detailing at its best.

  • Between the verandah posts a most delightful and rhythmic infil is attained by a flowing curved timber member.

  • Each curve is formed by two pieces of 5 in. by 3 in. timber halved and bolted together at the top.

  • A vertical infilling of open slats closely spaced between the shaped timber and the top plate completes this graceful feature.

  • The front fence is worthy of mention, as it echoes the same careful attention to detail that was lavished on the house.

  • It is a picket fence with a difference, wherein Dods showed that, with a little thought, the cattle-proof barrier of the locals could be made decorative. The gate posts have tall, urn-like finials, and the small front gate was chosen to display a heart, cut out of the mid-rail.  [1]

 

Below: Narallan, 41 Abbott Street, New Farm, Qld

Robin Dods built this house for his mother.

 
 

Gallery of Robin Dods' House Designs

Defining Features of Robin Dod's Homes:

  • Feeling of solidity, of substance, using heavy timbers

  • Well ventilated, from eaves to roof ridge

  • Clear cross-ventilation using breezeways

  • Verandahs used as informal living spaces and to shade the timber walls

  • Steep roof pitches usually of 40 degrees

  • Verandah roofs joined to main roof, but with a flattened pitch

  • Rear roof skillion attached to the main roof, often over the wash-house at the rear

  • Roofs were usually tiled, and only rarely used corrugated iron

  • Bold dark colours were used to contrast with white or cream fascias

  • Entry porches often used heavy timber brackets

  • Undercroft areas (eg around stilts) were concealed with sheeting or timber slats

Unfortunately, many of Dods' houses have undergone considerable alteration.

  • The acute housing shortage that existed in Brisbane after 1945 made the large home much sought after for conversion into serviced rooms, flats and convalescent homes, and many houses suffered in this connection.

  • The spacious open verandahs have been closed in with ugly casements, and the large airy rooms subdivided to provide the maximum of accommodation.

  • Queenslanders seem to have a passion for closing themselves in, and even in many cases where the houses are still preserved, all manner of blinds and infilling are used to defeat the purposes that Dods intended.  [1]

  • Some of Robin Dod's Queensland houses are detailed on the Arts and Crafts Houses of the Regions page.

 
References
  1. Robin S. Dods - The Life and Work of a Distinguished Queensland Architect By Neville H. Lund

  2. The man who 'built' Brisbane by Katherine Feeney April 8, 2011 (SMH)

  3. They went their own way, to a late acclaim - Elizabeth Farrelly April 7 2012 (SMH)

  4. Wikipedia - Robin Dods

  5. Old Bishopsbourne Chapel- Wikipedia

  6. Biography - Robert Smith (Robin) Dods - Australian Dictionary of Biography

  7. Robin Dods: Selected Works by Robert Riddel, on sale at SLQ Shop  <libraryshop@slq.qld.gov.au>

Day9_Myendetta_2007_12