Elina Emily Mottram, a Brisbane trained architect, opened her own practice in 1924, the first woman architect to do so. At the time of her retirement in 1975 she had become the longest practising architect in Queensland.
Elina Mottram also studied landscape architecture, in 1967 enrolling at Queensland Institute of Technology in the state’s first such course.
Elina Mottram was born in Sheffield, England in 1903 and arrived in Brisbane in 1906 with her parents. In the 1920s she worked for architect FR Hall in Brisbane while studying Architecture at Brisbane Central Technical College, graduating with a Diploma in Architecture in 1925.
When in April 1924 Elina Mottram opened her own practice in an office in the T&G Building on the corner of Queen and Albert Streets in Brisbane. The Architectural Building Journal of Queensland announced
‘Brisbane has at last a lady architect…we trust that she will get her fair share of public support’.
By August that year she was designing a block of four flats at Moray Street New Farm for her client Frank Elliott and had called for tenders for construction of the buiding, in reinforced concrete. She seemed to have had the support wished for her; she designed many buildings in Brisbane, Rockhampton and Longreach.
Of the many interwar Brisbane buildings Elina Mottram designed, only two survive - a two-storey block of flats in Scott Street Kangaroo Point and ‘Monkton’, a house built on Ardoyne Road at Corinda in 1925 for newlyweds William and Margaret Dunlop.
As well as running her own architectural business in Brisbane, in 1926-28 Elina Mottram also taught building construction at the Brisbane Central Technical College. As noted in the local paper:
In addition to her professional work ..Mottram …is a teacher of building construction and architectural drawing, etc, at the Central Technical College. Considering her youth, Miss Mottram has had a very successful career—some of her pupils at the Technical College were her school friends—but the strain of her professional and teaching work was telling on her, hence her parents’ wish that she should spend a quiet 3 months in Longreach.
She practised in Rockhampton in 1927-29 and 1935-41 including the reconstruction of the SCD premises from 1935 -37 and in Longreach in 1926-28 and again in1938 -41, when she was foreman of works for her builder and stonemason father at the first stage of construction of the Longreach Motors building she designed.
Miss Elina Mottram, ARAIA, architect for the new premises of the Longreach Motor Co. Ltd. and one of the few practicing lady architects in Australia, accompanied by her mother was reported arriving in Longreach in February 1938.
Elina Mottram again acted as foreman of works for her father during the first stage of construction of the Longreach Hospital in 1940, where she designed several buildings such as the Masonic Temple, Longreach Motors, the office of Winchcombe Carson Ltd and remodelled the Australian Worker’s Union building and the School of Arts in Longreach. Mottram worked on plans for a proposed Isisford Shire Hall in the Longreach area, initially accepted by Council in January 1939, and which she altered in May 1939.
During World War II Mottram worked as a draftswoman for the American Army’s north Rockhampton Engineering Office. After the war she became the first woman architect with the Queensland Railways and designed Eagle Junction Station; some employees considered her a tough manager.
In 1967 she enrolled in Queensland’s first course in landscape architecture at Queensland Institute of Technology, though she seems to have re-enrolled as a first year in 1970 and it appears she did not complete the course. In 1970 she was a founding partner with Mike Kearney of Peninsula Architects in Scarborough. She retired in 1975.
Elina Mottram died in 1996 aged 93 years.
Contributed by Pauline McDonough
Butterworth, Lee ‘Mottram, Elina Emily’ Australian Women’s Register
Gregory, Helen and Ross Johnston Women of the West, Central Queensland University Press 2004
Hanna, Bronwyn ‘Australia’s early women architects: milestones and achievements’ Fabrications 12.1, 2001, pp 27-57
McKay, Judith ’Designing women: pioneer architects’, Journal of Royal Historical Society of Queensland, v. 20, no 5, February 2008, pp 169 – 177
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McKay, Judith ‘Elina Mottram’ in Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture Cambridge University Press, 2012
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Willis, Julie and Bronwyn Hanna, Women Architects in Australia 1900-1950, Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Canberra, 2001
Architecture List of Foundation Members Queensland Chapter 1930, p 52
Brisbane Courier 4 April 1925 p 14; 5 April 1927 p 16
Courier Mail (Brisbane ) 3 May1995, p 9
Longreach Leader 26 February 1938 p 11; 21 January 1939 p 24
Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 12 December 1935 p 1; 8 May 1939 p 12
Peninsula Post June 30 1994 p 1
Betty E Preston private correspondence October-November 2011
Queensland Board of Architects correspondence 2 November 2011
Queensland Railways historian correspondence November 2011