Raymond Berg (ne Schmerberg) was born in South Melbourne on 25 October 1913 and was educated at the Brunswick Technical College, where the principal, Percy Everett - later to become Chief Architect of the PWD in Victoria - initially encouraged him to study architecture. The young Schmerberg became articled to E J & K B Keogh and commenced study at the University of Melbourne Architectural Atelier, where he won the Perrott Prize for Architectural Rendering (1934) and the Grice Bronze Medal for Design (1935). After completing his Diploma of Architecture, he was offered a position in the private practice of atelier director Leighton Irwin, where he remained until 1941. During that period, he rose to the position of Chief Designer; he was mostly involved in the design of modern hospitals (which formed the mainstay of Irwin's practice) and is known to have worked on the Heidelberg Military Hospital, the Portland Hospital and the Royal Women's Hospital. Other staff members in the office at that time included a young Roy Simpson (later of Yuncken, Freeman Brothers, Griffiths & Simpson), who became Schmerberg's assistant, and Hub Waugh, office manager, with whom Schmerberg would later form a brief partnership.
It was also while in Irwin's employ that Raymond Schmerberg entered the design competition for the 1939 Robert & Ada Haddon Travelling Scholarship; he won second place (after Allan R Love) with his scheme for "a rural education centre in the Wimmera". In April 1939, Schmerberg left the office to travel and work overseas, although it was reported that "while abroad, he will inquire into recent developments connected with the firm's business". While in London, Schmerberg gained further experience in the offices of Louis de Soissons and Brian O'Rourke. He spent a total of 18 months overseas, spending time in both Europe and the United States.
In November 1942, Schmerberg enlisted with the RAAF and was discharged with the rank of Flying Office in 1946. On his return to Melbourne, he resumed private practice and anglicised his surname. In 1949, he was offered a position as Senior Lecturer in the newly reorganised Faculty of Architecture at the University of Melbourne. Although he retained the right of private practice, Berg undertook very few commissions during his university tenure; sadly, many of these (including Berg's own house in Kew) have since been demolished. During the early 1950s, Berg was briefly in partnership with fellow academic (and former Leighton Irwin colleague) Hub Waugh, who was by then sub-dean of the School of Architecture. Together, they designed an extraordinary house at Clayton on a triangular plan (since demolished) and also served as consultants to their former employer, Leighton Irwin, on the design of International House, the new Melbourne University overseas students' hostel on Royal Parade.
Ray Berg retained the position of Senior Lecturer in the faculty of Architecture until 1962, when he went into partnership with fellow staff member Douglas Alexandra (1922-2000). The two men established their offices in Chelsea House, on Flemington Road, North Melbourne – a building designed a few years earlier by a former student of theirs, Harry Ernest. The new firm, styled as Berg & Alexandra, went on to design a string of major municipal projects in regional Victoria, including art galleries at Hamilton and Mildura and civic centres at Shepparton and Traralgon. Both men maintained their long association with the University of Melbourne, remaining as part-time lecturers as well as collaborating with the University's Staff Architect, Rae Featherstone, on major campus projects such as the Raymond Priestley Building (1967-70) and the completion of the South Quadrangle (1970). Berg & Alexandra also undertook projects for the Commonwealth Bank, the Church of England Home for the Aged and the Mildura Base Hospital. There were relatively fewer residential commissions during this period, although standout examples included Alexandra's own house on the Boulevard at Ivanhoe East (1963), overlooking the Yarra River flats.
During his long career, Raymond Berg remained an active member of both the RVIA and the RAIA. He served on various committees and advisory boards, with tenures as President of both the RVIA (1957-59) and RAIA (1964-65). He was elected as a Life Fellow of the latter in 1970, and was awarded its Gold Medal three years later. Berg retired in 1983 and died five years later.
Select List of Projects
Berg & Waugh
Berg & Alexandra