The architectural practice best known as Begg, Barrack & Douglas developed from an earlier partnership that was formed in 1971 by one-time university classmates Andrew "Andy" Begg (1937-2015) and Bruce Douglas (1938-2005).
Born in Korumburra on 25 September 1937, Andrew Shannon Begg attended Scotch College and commenced architectural studies at the University of Melbourne, where his fellow students included such luminaries as John Reid, John Brine and Jeffrey Turnbull, as well as Begg's future partner Bruce Douglas. Born on 13 September 1938, Bruce Gordon Douglas was the son of an engineer who died when he was barely six years old. Bruce and his younger sister Ann, who also became an architect, may well have been steered towards the profession by their stepfather, an art teacher, whom their widowed mother married in 1952. Completing his secondary education at Melbourne High School, Bruce entered the university in 1956.
Andy Begg and Bruce Douglas excelled themselves during their architectural studies. In 1959, Douglas's second-year design project, for a country house, was published in a newspaper. Two years later, Begg was joint winner (with Claire Lewis) of a Building Centre Prize for the best model submitted by an architectural student. Douglas also received a Building Centre Prize as well as the James Hardie Prize, the Sisalkraft Scholarship and an industry award for "the best all round final year Melbourne University student". Most notably, when Douglas needed complete work experience before graduation, he travelled to India and achieved the enviable feat of landing a position in Le Corbusier's office, where he stayed for six months. Back in Melbourne, Begg's work experince included stints with Horace Tribe, Brian Lewis and the PWD. While still a student, he furthered his practical knowledge by working in the engineering workshops of Smorgons Pty Ltd, as a builder's labourer with Clements Langford, and as a roof ganger on the construction of the new Myer Music Bowl.
After graduating in March 1961, Andrew Begg worked for Doug Alexandra and Les Treloar before becoming registered as an architect in October. His former classmate Bruce Douglas, who was a year behind due to taking a full year off in 1957 for overseas travel, graduated in early 1962 and secured his own registration in December. Little is known of the pair's professional activity during the decade. In 1962, Begg designed a house for his father on the new Raheen Estate at Kew; this project garnered some press attention and brought the young architect at least one subsequent commission. In 1965, the former classmates travelled to London together to further their professional experience, and both obtained employment in the same office: the partnership of Norman & Dawborn, then in the throes of designing buildings at Belmopan, the new capital city of Belize. Each of the two Australians had a major hand in the buildings there, with Begg working on the Belmopan Hospital and Douglas designing the National Assembly Building (1970-71), which, in a rare honour for any young architect, later featured on a postage stamp.
Returning to Melbourne in 1971, the two men entered into partnership as Begg & Douglas. Initially focusing on small-scale residential projects, the practice quickly flourished. Around 1973, it expanded with the addition of two new partners: successful sole practioner John Adam (1932-1986) and recent graduate Richard Barrack. Re-badged as Adam, Begg, Barrack & Douglas, the office began to embrace larger projects for government departments. In 1974, it was one of four leading Melbourne practices (along with Andrew Reed, Keith & John Reid and Baird, Cuthbert & Partners) appointed by the Housing Commission of Victoria to work on a "new and unique urban rehabilitation project". In that capacity, the office prepared redevelopment proposals for Nelson Road, South Melbourne (1974) and Brooks Crescent, Fitzroy (1975). The firm also prepared a masterplan for the future development of the Noble Park High School (1977), which was followed by further works at many other Victorian state schools, often undertaken in association with the PWD.
In the later 1970s, John Adam left the office to focus on his parallel career in academia. The three remaining partners carried on, initially under the name Begg, Barrack & Douglas Pty Ltd and then as Begg, Barrack, Douglas & Company. Coinciding with this name change, the practice moved into new premises in a converted bakery in Liddiard Street, Hawthorn. Towards the end of the decade, the firm's name was further abridged to Barrack, Douglas & Company following the departure of Andy Begg, who went on to establish the ArchTeam Co-Operative in 1992. His former partnership thrived into the 1990s, with several of its projects nominated for the RAIA Awards (Victorian Chapter) in the year 2000.
In 2004, Bruce Douglas retired from practice and moved to a rural property in Tasmania, where he died on 16 November 2005, following a stroke. Andy Begg, who embraced a similarly bucolic retirement near the Victorian town of Malmsbury, died of cancer on 26 April 2015. Richard Barrack remains in practice under the banner of Barrack International Architects.
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Begg & Douglas
Adam, Begg, Barrack & Douglas
Begg, Barrack & Douglas
Barrack, Douglas & Company