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Dictionary of Unsung Architects   return to DUA index
LAWRENCE E WARNER (1904-1990)

Biographical Overview

Lawrence Eugene Warner was born in North Carlton in 1904.  He began his architectural career in 1919 when, at the age of fifteen years, he entered the office of Arthur W Plaisted (1890-1965) as an articled pupil.  Completing his articles in 1923, Warner attended the Brunswick Technical College, where he studied Architecture and General Building Practice under Percy Everett, who was then principal of the college.  In 1925, while still a student there, Warner obtained his first architectural commission: a new church for the Baptist congregation at Ivanhoe, of which he was a member.  The finished building, officially opened in December 1925, was published in the Argus newspaper, which noted that it "departed from the accepted design of Baptist churches in having a spire".  After completing his studies, Warner returned to Arthur Plaisted's office, where he was admitted as junior partner in the firm known thereafter as Plaisted & Warner.

In 1931, Warner left to start his own architectural practice.  For the next decade, he maintained his prior association with the Baptist Union of Victoria, for whom he designed buildings including churches at Glenbervie (1934) and Balwyn (1937) and a Sunday School at Moonee Ponds (1934). One of Warner's most striking and well-known ecclesiastical projects, however, was undertaken for a rival denomination: the new premises of the Melbourne Apostolic Church in Punt Road, Richmond (1939), which was designed in an idiosyncratic Gothic-flavoured style that recalled the work of American church architect Barry Byrne.  During the 1930s, Warner also served as official architect to one of Australia's leading footwear retailers, Ezywalkin Pty Ltd.  In that capacity, he designed or remodelled several of the store's suburban outlets, including those at Footscray, Richmond, Coburg and Malvern.  In 1939, he also designed a house at Toorak for the company's managing director, Leslie Brumby, who had then only recently moved to Melbourne from Perth (where Ezywalkin Shoes was originally founded in 1901).  Warner's association with the local footwear industry saw him design several shoe factories, including one at Fitzroy North for W A Spicer (1938) and another at Abbotsford for Austin Shoes Pty Ltd (1939).  

By 1941, Lawrence Warner had re-established his earlier partnership with Arthur Plaisted.  That same year, the firm garnered considerable press when one of its designs, a castellated block of flats in South Yarra known as Castle Towers, was awarded the maligned "Blot of the Month" in the Melbourne University student broadsheet Smudges - a circumstance that saw Plaisted & Warner issue a writ against the journal's editor, a young Robin Boyd.  

A few years later, the name of Plaisted's firm changed following the elevation to partnership of a prodigious young architect named Norman Brendel (1918-1997).  Known thereafter as Plaisted, Warner & Brendel, the practice undertook a broad range of commissions that included houses, factories, Baptist churches (no doubt due to Warner's prior contacts) and shops.  Stylistically, the office was no less varied, with a somewhat hybrid approach based on the respective preferences of its three principals.  While Norman Brendel invariably adopted a progressive modernist mode, Arthur Plaisted and Lawrence Warner each to work in the revivalist styles that had characterised their pre-war output.  This is typified by a small house that the firm designed at Mont Albert in 1947, which was published in the Argus under the prescient heading: "The Georgian Style will always be popular".  After Brendel left in 1955 to start his own architectural office, the firm resumed its original name and, as Plaisted & Warner, remained active for more than three decades thence.  Well into the post-war period, the firm continued to design new buildings in old-fashioned historicist styles, typified by the large and striking Georgian Revival residence that was erected on the Raheen Estate as late as 1961.  

In addition to his long and distinguished architectural career, Lawrence Warner was a church organist of considerable repute in Melbourne.  As early as 1928, he was Assistant Organist to the Collins Street Independent Church and, some years later, took a superior position at the nearby Baptist Church (where, in 1938, he oversaw the installation of a new pipe organ).  That same year, Warner became a founding member of the Victorian Society of Organists.  Over a period of several decades, Warner regularly gave organ recitals at the Collins Street Baptist church and also performed at special events at other churches including Scots' Church and St George's, East St Kilda. He also performed secular concerts at the Melbourne Town Hall and even the Exhibition Building where, in 1936, he accompanied visiting American tenor Richard Crooks.

Remarkably, Lawrence Warner was still in practice as late as 1985, when Neil Clerehan related the story of Plaisted & Warner's Castle Towers flats in the pages of the Bulletin.  Of Warner's long career, Clerehan quipped: "Lawrence Eugene Warner had designed buildings since his student days.  At eighteen [sic], he designed the red-brick Gothic Baptist church in Ivanhoe, Melbourne. At 81, he still practices."  Warner died five years later, on 28 April 1990.


Select List of Projects

Lawrence E Warner
1925
1934

1935

1936
1937




1938

1939

Baptist Church, 108-110 Waterdale Road, Ivanhoe
Baptist Mission Church, corner Napier and Morton streets, Glenbervie
Baptist Church Sunday School, Eglington Street, Moonee Ponds
Residence for Dr Hadley, Upper Road, Ivanhoe
Shops for Ezywalkin Pty Ltd, 93-97 Nicholson Street, Footscray
Alterations to shop for F Elmes, 257 Hawthorn Road, Balaclava
Baptist Church, 517 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn
Homeless Men's Hostel for the Melbourne City Mission, Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Residence for F E Moore, Doncaster Road, Balwyn North
Residence for M M Kennedy, Florizel Street, Burwood
Factory for John Perry Pty Ltd, Fairfield
Alteration to shops for Ezywalkin Pty Ltd, 214-218 Bridge Road, Richmond
Factory for W A Spicer, Queens Parade, Fitzroy North
Melbourne Apostolic Church, 231-233 Punt Road, Richmond
Residence for L A Brumby, 70 St Georges Road, Toorak
Shops for Ezywalkin Pty Ltd, Malvern
Factory for Austin Shoes Pty Ltd, Johnston Street, Abbotsford

Plaisted & Warner [first incarnation]
1930
1941
Scout Hall, Alphington
Residential flats (Castle Towers) 11-21 Marne Street, South Yarra

Plaisted, Warner & Brendel
1945


1946


1947


1949
1951


1953

1954
1955
Residence, Edithvale
Residence, Preston
Factory, Preston
Residence, Glen Avenue, Croydon
Residence, Alphington Street, Alphington
Residence, Carne Street, Ivanhoe
Factory for Frito Company, Warrigal Road, East Malvern
Residence, Langs Road, Ascot Vale
Residence, The Boulevard, Ivanhoe
Rosanna Baptist Church, 5 Waiora Road, Heidelberg Heights
Residential flats (Riveraire), Alexandra Avenue, Toorak
Residence for W Smith and A J Wallace, Balwyn
Holiday Residence for F L Berger, Mount Eliza
Shopping arcade for Footscray Food-Mart Pty Ltd, 210 Nicholson Street, Footscray
Flats, Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra
Residence, 196 Orrong Road, Toorak
Shopping arcade, Burke Road, Camberwell
Residence for A M Matear, 252 Orrong Road, Toorak

Plaisted & Warner [second incarnation]
1956
1957
1958
1961
Office building for Hartnell of Melbourne Pty Ltd, 60-70 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Supermarket for Dominion Secondary Industries Ltd, Burke Road, Balwyn North [project]
Residence for C L Downey, Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury
Residence, Kensington Road, South Yarra
Residence for A Katranski, Raheen Drive, Kew
Ivanhoe Church by Lawrence E Warner
Baptist Church, Waterdale Road, Ivanhoe (1925)
(photograph by Simon Reeves, Built Heritage Pty Ltd)


Ezywalkin Shop by Lawrence E Warner
Shops for Ezywalkin P/L, Nicholson St, Footscray (1935)
(photograph by Simon Reeves, Built Heritage Pty Ltd)


Brumby House by Lawrence E Warner
Residence for L Brumby, St Georges Road, Toorak (1939)
(
source: Australian Home Beautiful; Reeves Collection)


Brumby House by Lawrence E Warner
Residence for L Brumby, St Georges Road, Toorak (1939)
(
source: Australian Home Beautiful; Reeves Collection)


Apostolic Church by Lawrence E Warner
former Apostolic Church, Punt Road, Richmond (1939)
(photograph by Simon Reeves, Built Heritage Pty Ltd)


Georgian House by Plaisted Warner and Brendel
Residence, Mont Albert (Plaisted, Warner & Brendel, 1947)
(source: Argus, 10 July 1947)


Five Ways Supermarket by Plaisted and Warner
Five Ways Supermarket, Burke Rd, Balwyn North (1957)


Katranski House by Plaisted and Warner
Residence, Raheen Estate, Kew (Plaisted & Warner, 1961)

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