Nino Sydney, famous for making Modernist architecture accessible to all Australians, sadly passed away earlier this month at the age of 89.

Holding the position of Chief Architect at Lend Lease Homes for 12 years (1961-1973), Sydney is famous for creating designs for the Beachcomber and Pan Pacific houses, which became mainstays of Australian suburbia. 

nino sydney

Born in Zagreb, Croatia, Sydney moved to the city of Sydney in 1955 after completeing his Degree in Architecture at the University of Zagreb. After completing another architecture degree at the University of Sydney in 1958, he relocated to Europe, working in a number of studios in Germany and Luxembourg.  

Approximately 100 of the original Beachcomber homes, built in the 1960s, are still found within the harbour city, with their influence on modern homes clear to see throughout Australian streets today. The rectangular designs, open-plan layouts, full height glazing and full length verandahs have become mainstays of Australian residential architecture, of which Sydney was the pioneer.

Highlighting Sydney’s desire for practicality and affordability, many of the homes featuring his designs were built as part of a £2000 package, and were the first houses to come with insulation as standard.

“Nino wanted people to be able to buy a home for the cost of two family cars,” says artist and Beachcomber owner Billy Gruner in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. 

“Today, they’d cost over 100 cars, and you’d never be able to pay them off. But it was revolutionary at the time to be able to afford to live in a beautiful designer project home instead of a horrible little house.

“It was completely democratic, and it was a game-changer for our suburbs, and for everyone to have better buildings. The Beachcombers still look fantastic today, and they have so many green credentials with almost zero impact on a site. There’s now a real cult around them.”

It is estimated Sydney designed more than 50 house styles by biographer Davina Jackson. The architect was awarded the NSW RAIA Project House design award for his work creating the Casa Blanca model in 1967.

After leaving Lend Lease Homes in 1973, Sydney headed up his own practice, delivering a number of custom-designed homes, where he finished up in 1997. Sydney was an avid squash and water polo player, playing both sports at a high level. At the time of his death, Sydney was working on an updated version of the Beachcomber, aiming to address a number of issues including the nature of modern living and sustainability.

Sydney is survived by his wife Vera, as well as their children Mark, Maya and Danny.


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Image 2: Domain