Built Heritage Consultants Melbourne
Dictionary of Unsung Architects   return to DUA index
JOHN ADAM (1932-1986)

Biographical Overview

Born in Melbourne on 1 December 1932, John Lawrence Adam was the son of dentist Dr William Adam (1894-1973) and his wife, the former Nancy May Barber (1902-1986).  Adam studied at the University of Melbourne and completed his Bachelor of Architecture in 1956.  During 1955, he spent three months in Queensland, working for the eminent Brisbane firm of Conrad & Gargett. Returning to Melbourne, Adam gained further experience as an architectural assistant in the offices of J F W Ballantyne (1956) and Mockridge, Stahle & Mitchell (1956-57).  In 1959, Adam married Joan Perry and the couple spent the next sixteen months overseas.  Adam worked in architectural offices in London and toured across Continental Europe and the USA, visiting buildings and architects.

Returning to Melbourne in 1960, Adam established his own architectural practice with an office in East Melbourne (later relocating to Kew and then to Hawthorn, where he worked from a studio in the backyard of his house).  He focused on private residential commissions; a notable exception was a boatshed designed in 1962 for the Port Melbourne Yacht Club (of which he was a member), which was conceived as "an impressionistic representation of a ship".  Otherwise, Adam's output in the 1960s was characterised by individual houses, mostly in the developing outer eastern and north-eastern suburbs of Eltham, Doncaster, Templestowe and Croydon.  A compact flat-roofed house in Balwyn, designed in 1967 for Adam's mother and recently-retired father, was selected by the Australian Women's Weekly as a 'House of the Week'.  He went on to design a few project houses, namely the K House and the K Twenty for Koorool Constructions Pty Ltd (1967) and the Satellite for Inge Brothers Pty Ltd (1970). 

During this same period, Adam also achieved noted success in the annual competitions sponsored by the RAIA Housing Service, winning first prize in 1968 and 1969.  His prize-winning design from 1968 was erected as part of the Trend 71 display village at Templestowe, and was subsequently introduced into the service's range as standard plan V435.  
More plaudits followed.  In 1970, a house that Adam had recently designed in Box Hill North was included on the ballot paper for that year's Victorian Architectural Awards; although it was ultimately unplaced at the awards, it went on to receive the inaugural Age/RAIA Citation for 'House of the Week' in October 1971.  Over the next few years, Adam would receive the same acknowledgment for houses at Flinders (1972) and Mount Martha (1974).

In 1974, John Adam merged his sole practice with a partnership formed a few years earlier by former university classmates Andrew Begg (1937-2015) and Bruce Douglas (1938-2005).  With the addition of a fourth partner in recent graduate Richard Barrack, the new practice was styled as Adam, Begg, Barrack & Douglas.  Over the next few years, it undertook a range of projects, including inner-suburban redevelopments for the Housing Commission of Victoria, and the masterplanning of state schools for the Public Works Department.  

Towards the end of the 1970s, Adam became dissatisfied with working in a larger office, and he resigned from Adam, Begg, Barrack & Douglas to embrace a career in academia.  Having previously served as 
a part-time lecturer at Melbourne University between 1969 and 1974, he now took up a position as visiting lecturer in professional practice at RMIT, which he held from 1977 to 1983.  In 1978, he enolled in a diploma teaching course and, after graduation, worked full time at Box Hill TAFE and Moorabbin TAFE for the rest of his life.  His sudden death on 17 March 1986, caused by severe coronary atherosclerosis after swimming at the Moorabbin pool, was a shock to all who had known him.

Select List of Projects

John Adam




Residence, Kent Hughes Road, Eltham
Residence, Lydia Court, Balwyn
Residence, Florida Avenue, Beaumaris
Boatshed for Port Melbourne Yacht Club, Bay Street, Port Melbourne
Residence, Metery Road, Eltham
Residence, Dempster Avenue, Balwyn North
Residence, Crown Avenue, Alphington
Residence, Somerset Crescent, Croydon
Residence, Gallaghers Way, Glen Waverley
Residence, Stanhope Street, Eltham
Project house (K Twenty), Manningham Road, Doncaster
Project house (K House), Zeus Court, Doncaster
Residence, Foote Street, Templestowe
Residence for Dr W Adam, Millah Road, Balwyn
Residence, Shrimpton Court, Box Hill North
Project house (Satellite), Williamsons Road, Templestowe Lower
Residence, Spindrift Avenue, Flinders

Adam, Begg, Barrack & Douglas


Residence, Marguerita Avenue, Mount Martha
Rehabilitation area redevelopment for HCV, Nelson Road, South Melbourne
Rehabilitation area redevelopment for HCV, Brooks Crescent, Fitzroy
Residence, Brucedale Crescent, Park Orchards
St Dominic Savio Child Care Centre, 19 Donald Street, Clayton
Residence, Malvern
Residence, Glen Waverley
Masterplan for development, Noble Park High School
Community Centre, Frankston Primary School

John Adam architect
Portrait of John Adam, architect
(Source:courtesy Adam family)

Dr William Adam House Balwyn
Dr William Adam Residence, Millah Road, Balwyn (1967)
(photograph by John Stevens)

RAIA Housing Service plan V435 by John Adam
Prize-winning entry in RAIA Housing Service competition (1968); subsequently introduced into plan range as V435

Satellite House by John Adam
"Satellite" house for Inge Brothers, Templestowe (1970)

Satellite House by John Adam
"Satellite" house for Inge Brothers, Templestowe (1970)

Special acknowledgement to Stuart Adam, who generously provided further biographical information as well as the portrait photograph reproduced above.