Built Heritage Consultants Melbourne
Dictionary of Unsung Architects   return to DUA index

Biographical Overview

Born in Carlton on 18 November 1928, Theodore Tolly Berman was a second-generation Polish migrant whose parents, David Berman (1894-1971) and the former Freda Waxman (1904-1980), were both born in Warsaw.  Freda, the youngest of eleven children of Jankel and Chana Waxman (originally Waksman), migrated to Australia with her parents in 1924; her future husband David arrived, via London, in 1926.  The couple met in Melbourne the following year, and married in early 1928.  They initially resided in the pre-war Jewish heartland of Carlton, where David was the proprietor of a successful knitwear factory.  His wife Freda later established her own handkerchief-making business in Flinders Lane that, styled as F Theodore Pty Ltd, was evidently named after the couple’s only child, the future architect.

In the early 1930s, the family relocated from Carlton to St Kilda, where a young Theodore Berman attended Elwood Central School and Caulfield Grammar School before entering Melbourne High School.  He studied architecture at both RMIT and Melbourne University but, due to a paperwork glitch, did not receive his Bachelor of Architecture degree: it would be belatedly conferred more than four decades later, in March 2001. Concurrently with his studies, Berman gained experience as an architectural draftsman in the Public Works Department, transferring thence to the War Service Homes Division.  In 1952, he took a position as a building co-ordinator with a timber company, where he recalls gaining valuable experience in building construction. 

Registered as an architect in 1954, Berman established private practice under his own name. Initially, his output focused on small-scale apartment developments (mostly in the inner southern suburbs, in and around where he lived in Elwood) as well as retail fitouts.  The latter, which he recalled as a field in which few architects specialised at that time, saw him become regular architect to several leading clothing chains including Beverley Lee Knitwear, Portmans and Sussan Lingerie. Around 1957, Berman transferred his home-based practice to larger office premises in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, where he was able to take on additional staff.

In the early 1960s, two significant developments emerged that would sustain Berman’s practice for some time.   In 1959, he was engaged to design Melbourne’s first purpose-built tenpin bowling alley, located at Glenferrie Road in Hawthorn, and went on to design almost twenty others across Victoria before the sport’s popularity began to flag towards the end of the decade (at which point, ironically, he gained further work by converting several of his former bowling alleys for other purposes such as hotels).  In parallel, Berman was also commissioned to design the stylish new Parkroyal Motel on Royal Parade (1962), which proved so successful that it launched a nationwide chain, with Berman retained to design its motels in Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane. During this decade, Berman trvelled frequently to the USA to keep up with the latest trends, particularly in regard to the design of motels and bowling alleys.  

Around 1970, Berman designed a large and grand residence for himself in Toorak, which ushered in a new era that as commissions  flooded in for similarly palatial dwellings in that same exclusive neighbourhood.  These high-end residential projects, which would sustain Berman’s practice well into the 1980s and beyond, were invariably lavish in scale and luxurious in fitout, with wine cellars, sunken bathtubs, home cinemas, multi-car garages and expansive entertaining areas.

Ted Berman died 3 April 2017, aged 88 years.

Select List of Projects









Block of flats, Southey Street, Elwood
Maisonettes, North Road, Brighton
Block of flats, Brighton Road, St Kilda
Retail fitout for Sussan Lingerie, Hay Street, Perth
Remodelling of Tivoli Theatre, Bourke Street, Melbourne [with Dudley Ward]
Factory for Artknit Creations, Claremont Street, South Yarra
Residence, 25 Studley Avenue, Kew
Bowling alley, Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Retail fitout for Sussan Lingerie, Chadstone Shopping Centre, Chadstone
Block of flats, Hotham Street, St Kilda East
Factory for Acme Knitting Mills, Chapel Street, South Yarra

Bowling alley, Irving Street, Footscray
Bowling alley, Bell Street, Heidelberg West
Converstion of cinema into bowling alley, Sydney Road, Coburg
Parkroyal Motel, 441 Royal Parade, Parkville
Bowling alley, Maroondah Highway, Ringwood
Bowling alley, , Nepean Highway, Moorabbin
Factory for Craig & Seeley Pty Ltd, Hope Street, Brunswick
Factory, Chapel Street, St Kilda
Additions (George Krauss Wing) to Montefiore Home for the Aged, St Kilda Road
Office building (Dairy Industries House), 576 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Parkroyal Motor Inn, Alice Street, Brisbane
Block of flats, Dandenong Road, Caulfield North
Parkroyal Motor Inn, Adelaide
Residence for self, Heymount Close, Toorak
Residence, Hopetoun Road, Toorak
Residence, 13 Heyington Place, Toorak
Residence, 45 Cascade Street, Balwyn North
Residence, 1 Glendye Court, Toorak
Residence, 29 St Georges Road, Toorak

Theodore Berman flat interior Elwood
Interior of block of flats, Elwood (1954)

Theodore Berman Sussan showroom
Showroom for Sussan Lingerie, Perth (1956)

Theodore Footscray Bowl
Footsceray Bowl, Irving Street, Footscray (1961)

Theodore Berman Parkroyal Melbourne
Parkroyal Motel, Royal Parade, Parkville (1962)

Theodore Berman Chef factory
Craig & Seeley (Chef) Factory, Brunswick (1963)

Theodore Berman Parkroyal Brisbane
Parkroyal Motor Inn, Alice Street, Brisbane (1969)