Winsome Hall graduated from the University of Sydney in 1928, then moved to England in the early 1930s where she worked on several large scale, modernist projects that received major awards.
In the mid 1930s she worked with Eric Andrew on the design for the Manly Surf Pavilion, an elegant, modernist structure which won the Sulman Award in New South Wales in 1939. Her architectural portfolio of over 40 years covered a wide range of public, private and commercial work. Like many of her contemporaries, however, Hall Andrew’s overall contributions to the built environment have not been fully recognised.
Education and early career
When Winsome Hall completed her University of Sydney architectural degree in 1928 she was the sole woman in her year and also the only woman graduate to find employment. With the Depression looming she was fortunate to find work with the architect Clement Glancey, who employed a number of young female architects at this time; she thought perhaps this was for economic reasons in those difficult years as their pay was one-third less than that of men.
There is good evidence however of her talent in this early period of her career, including her signed drawings for a holiday cottage, plans for a block of apartments, and a carefully worked design for Sydney’s Martin Place competition. In 1939, when Rosette Edmunds published her history of world architecture illustrated with her own drawings, she included Winsome Hall’s design for a ‘Modern House’ as one of only four illustrations of modern architecture.
When Winsome Hall moved to England in 1934 she had no trouble finding senior positions in leading firms including the offices of Robert Atkinson and of Stanley Livrock. Among other commissions, she worked on a large block of luxury flats and a residential Section House for Scotland Yard, both of which designs won the firms medals from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Winsome Hall also worked during this period with Eric Andrew on the plans for a Surf Pavilion at Manly. The Pavilion’s modernist design was much admired and won the prestigious Sulman Award of the NSW Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1939 . The award however cites only Eric Andrew and was presented to him. Bronwyn Hanna has commented that women architects from this period were often overlooked in terms of appropriate attribution for their contributions to architectural design.
Running an architectural firm
After five years of practice and further study overseas, Winsome Hall returned to Australia in the late 1930s, working initially in Canberra with Malcolm Moir and Heather Sutherland, contributing to detailing for the new American Embassy buildings.
In 1939 Winsome Hall and Eric Andrew set up their own architectural partnership shortly before Eric Andrew joined the war effort, being sent North to design landing strips for the planes; they married in 1941. Although their firm’s business name, Eric W Andrew and Hall, gave greater prominence to Eric Andrew, it was Winsome Hall Andrew who ran the Sydney architectural business for the duration of the war.
A Sydney Morning Herald article titled “Girl Architect Runs a Business”, rather belittled Winsome Hall Andrew’s role - by this time she was in her mid-thirties and already had considerable professional, award-winning experience, both in Australia and overseas.
The formal recognition of Winsome Hall Andrew’s contribution was reduced further, both in terms of monetary rewards and in the business name, once Eric Andrew returned from his war service. Another reduction in apparent status occurred in 1963 when a third member, Robert Bland was admitted to the firm.
Body of work
According to Bronwyn Hanna Winsome Hall Andrew produced a substantial body of work in the course of a 25-year business partnership with her husband. Apart from the work in England and on the Manly Surf Pavilion in the ‘thirties, she was largely responsible for a design for the ANZAC House competition in 1949 which won second prize. Again her contribution was not remarked because the name of the firm at this time was ’Eric W Andrew’.
In the 1950s Winsome Hall Andrew’s designs included the Australian Institute of Builders Headquarters (1956) and various buildings for the University of Sydney, such as the Merewether Building. Another major project at this time was for a public housing group of about 50 dwellings for the Ryde Housing Scheme. In an interview for the Sydney Morning Herald in 1954, Winsome Hall Andrew noted herself that she had ‘been through the whole gamut’ of architectural design, mentioning shops, factories and a swimming pool as well as detailing for the Chancellory of the American Embassy in Canberra.
In spite of her talent and earlier successes, Winsome Hall Andrew found it difficult to combine work and family life beyond the 1950s. This may have been due partly to wishing to be more involved with raising her daughter, Chalice, and partly because of her strong commitment to the Moral Rearmament movement and its principles. Her decision to withdraw from the practice meant effectively the end of her career as a practising architect.
In the 1970s Winsome Hall Andrew suffered a serious brain aneurism which left her severely incapacitated; she remained an invalid until her death in 1997 at the age of 92 years.
Born in Woollahra in 1905, Winsome Hall was the fifth of ten children, all encouraged by their parents to aim for higher levels of education. At Sydney Girls High School she was an outstanding student both academically and on the sports field. Her final examination results enabled her to gain the scholarship that took her to the School of Architecture at the University of Sydney. Much later, in 1962, Winsome Hall was invited back to her old high school to design its beautiful new gates.
Contributed by Pamela Harris
Edmunds, Rosette Architecture, an Introductory Survey
Hanna, Bronwyn “Australia’s Early Women Architects: Milestones and Achievements” FABRICATIONS, 12 (2001) 1, 27-57
Hanna, Bronwyn ”An interpretative biography of Winsome Hall Andrew” Architectural Theory Review 6 (2001) 1, 48-62
“Girl Architect Runs a Business” Sunday Times (Perth) 12 January 1941, p.19
“Practising Women Architects” Sydney Morning Herald 14 May 1954, p.13
Willis, Julie and Bronwyn Hanna, Women Architects in Australia 1900-1950, Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Canberra, 2001