Roger Pegrum—architect, town planner and writer—was born in Malaya in 1938, the son of a British Admiralty civil engineer. The family settled in Canberra in 1948, and he graduated in Arts from the Australian National University and Architecture and Town Planning from the University of Sydney.
Pegrum worked as an architect with the Commonwealth Department of Works from 1960-63 and 1965-67, where he designed the light fittings on Anzac Parade, primary schools at Hughes and Garran and various alterations and additions at Old Parliament House, including the entrance portico on the front façade.
In 1968 he set up in private practice with twin brother Anthony (1938-2001). His Wilson House in Aranda (1972) won the RAIA (ACT) C S Daley Award in 1974 and the 25 Year Award in 2005. It is one of the finest Sydney School houses in the ACT.
Pegrum left Canberra to become Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Sydney (1974-86). He returned to Canberra to take up the position of Commonwealth Government Architect (1986-88), responsible for architectural design standards. Pegrum continued to make a significant contribution to Canberra’s built environment. Later commissions included the Faculty of Asian Studies at ANU (1994) and the Chancery at Government House, Yarralumla (1995). His own house in Reid (2005) won the 2006 Canberra Medallion.
Pegrum’s contribution to Canberra’s suburban environment is significant, with over 40 private commissions spanning five decades. No other architect in Canberra is more closely associated with the late 20th century Sydney School, and certainly no other individual architect has had such an impact on the character of Canberra’s bush suburbs such as Aranda.
Pegrum’s houses are characterised by the use of site-sensitive form, scale and materials to complement their surroundings. They typically use a limited palette of materials:
- walls often bagged and painted brick or Bowral facebrick flush jointed
- western red cedar windows and sliding doors
- dark stained timbers
- flat metal roofs with concealed gutters or steeply pitched tiled roofs
- deep overhang for sun protection
- the use of split-level planning on sloping sites
- planning formed around courtyards
In 1970 Pegrum was approached by local builder John Ainscough to design a range of project houses that would compete with the offerings of Sydney company Pettit & Sevitt. They called the venture Manor Homes, and four exhibition houses designed by Pegrum were built in Hoseason Street, Mawson. The range included a modest split-level house, a homestead-style house with deep verandahs, and a modern, open-plan design. Dozens of these houses were built throughout Woden Valley, inner Belconnen and Weston Creek in the early 1970s.
Words by Martin Miles of Canberra House.