The son of a well-respected Anglican clergyman, Geoffrey Francis O'Donnell Danne was born in Kew on 4 July 1920. He originally set his sights on a career as a professional footballer with the Collingwood Football Club, but his ambitions were thwarted by a severe injury during a practice match. Opting instead for a career in architecture, he joined the Melbourne office of H W & F B Tompkins in 1938 and remained there for twelve months. Further professional development was interrupted by the Second World War; Danne enlisted with the Royal Australian Navy in September 1940. Serving aboard HMAS Lonsdale, “he saw active service in most theatres of the war in which our navy was engaged” and was discharged in 1946 with the rank of Lieutenant. Amongst the men serving under him on that ship were two young Able Seamen who also went on to become leading Melbourne architects: Bruce Marshall (later of A K Lines, MacFarlane & Marshall) and David Chancellor (later of Chancellor & Patrick).
After the War, Danne commenced the Bachelor of Architecture course at the University of Melbourne under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, which provided (and funded) tertiary placements for returned service personnel. However, Danne's grant expired after three years, and he was obliged to complete his fourth year of study at his own expense; as he was by then married with a child, he could not afford to complete his fifth and final year. Whilst undertaking his university studies, Danne gained two years' experience in the office of Best Overend (1946-48), followed by three months with Bates Smart & McCutcheon (1948-49). During this period, Danne also undertook at least one private commission under his own name, which was a house at Vermont for his father, the Reverend Noel Danne (1890-1969).
Danne eventually completed his Bachelor of Architecture degree, which was conferred in February 1951. At that time, he was employed with the leading Melbourne firm of Yuncken, Freeman Brothers, Griffiths & Simpson. Also working in that office at that time were Danne's former HMAS Lonsdale cohort David Chancellor, and Chancellor's soon-to-be partner, Rex Patrick; another colleague was Stuart McIntosh (1925-2007) who, in 1953, left to take charge of the Architectural Division of the English, Scottish & Australian (ES&A) Bank. Within a year, Danne had transferred there as well. McIntosh was responsible for a string of striking modernist bank buildings across Victoria; one notable example, erected at Ringwood in 1954, was published in the Herald property column, credited jointly to both McIntosh and Danne. The extent of Danne's contribution is unclear; by his own admission, McIntosh was responsible for the design of new ES&A bank branches at that time, leaving the tasks of documentation and contract administration to other architects within the division.
Whilst employed with the ES&A Bank, Danne also maintained a limited private practice that, according to one source, was “chiefly residential and industrial design”. While little is known of this private work, Danne designed two houses in the mid-1950s that attracted considerable press attention. The first of these was a brightly-coloured and boldly modernist split-level residence for himself and his family, erected in 1954 on a challenging hillside site in Yarra Street, Studley Park (Kew). At virtually the same time, he designed a similarly striking elevated house in nearby Carnsworth Avenue, this time with a lively chequerboard facade. Both houses were published in the Australian House & Garden, and the weekly property column of the Herald newspaper. Danne and his family resided in the Yarra Street house until 1958, when they moved to Hawthorn.
By the later 1950s, Danne had left the ES&A Bank and taken a position with Buchan, Laird & Buchan, as it is recorded that he was worked on the new Collins Street headquarters of the Shell Oil Company (1957-59), which was designed by Buchans in association with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Danne transferred thence to another large corporate firm, the office of Stephenson & Turner. Evidently rising to a senior and lucrative position, he was earning the princely salary of £2,300 by January 1960, when he applied for a job with Grounds, Romberg & Boyd. When his application was assessed by the principals of that firm, an internal memo noted that “I do not think that men of his calibre can be suitably accommodated in the office until alterations have been completed” - to which Roy Grounds glibly responded, in a scribbled amendment: “He was one of my students, and a bit full of himself! I suspect that at £2,300, S&T are overpaying him!”. Needless to say, Danne did not get the job, and the Gromboyd office was thus deprived of the input of one of Melbourne's most talented young architects.
Instead, Danne evidently transferred to the office of Leslie Perrott & Partners, as it is recorded that he was involved in the design of the Southern Cross Hotel (a model of which was published in early 1961, although he building itself was not opened until August 1962). In 1961, capitalising on his wealth of experience in the ES&A Bank, Danne was appointed as Assistant Chief Architect (under Robert Cousland) in the Buildings Department of the State Savings Bank of Victoria (SSB). Following Cousland's retirement around 1970, Danne took over the top position of Chief Architect, in which capacity he was responsible not only for the design of new branches, but also the extension or renovation of more than 600 SSB branches then existing across Victoria. He was also involved in the valuation of work that was carried out under SSB housing contracts. Danne retired from the Chief Architect's position in 1982, and died three years later.
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