Built Heritage Consultants Melbourne
Dictionary of Unsung Architects   return to DUA index
JOHN C GRIFFIN (1920-2008)

Biographical Overview

Born in Lynfield (New South Wales) on 7 June 1920, John Colahan "Jack" Griffin was a nephew of the well-known Australian painter Colin Colahan (1897-1987), whom, as a youngster, he would regularly accompany on landscape painting expeditions.  Educated at Caulfield Grammar School, he left in 1936 to take up a position on a naval shipyards in Williamstown.  Not finding it to his liking, he left after only three days.  Taking the advice of a naval architect who suggested that he might be better suited to a life as a designer of buildings, Griffin subsequently enrolled in the architecture course at the Melbourne Technical College.  

In August 1942, Grififn enlisted with the Australian Army; he served with the 1st Australian Sound Ranging Battery and the 2/3 Australian Flash Spotting Battery before being discharged in early 1946 with the rank of Sergeant.  Returning to Melbourne, he initially took a position with the
architectural partnership of Meldrum & Noad before tranferring to the office of hospital specialists Leighton Irwin in 1949.  The following year, he became registered as an architect in Victoria.  Remaining in Irwin's employ for a decade, Griffin was involved in a many of the firm's major hospital projects, including Prince Henry's Hospital in St Kilda Road.  During that time, Griffin also designed an open-planned modernist house at Brighton for himself and his wife Prudence, whom he married in 1947.  He would remain living there for virtually all of his life.

In 1960, Griffin left Irwin's office to establish his own sole practice.  During this period, he was also a member of academic staff in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Melbourne, lecturing in Free Drawing.  In 1970, after a decade in private practice, he returned to Irwin's office (Irwin himself having since died, in 1962) and remained there until his own retirement in 1982.  In the early 2000s, Griffin briefly came out of retirement to undertake a couple of renovation projects for family members, including work on a block of flats that he had designed at Brighton, four decades earlier, for the Mullany family.    

Select List of Projects



Residence for self, 836 Hampton Street, Brighton
Residence for J Clarke, 8 Leura Grove, Hawthorn
Residence, Tramway Parade, Beaumaris
Flats, The Espalande, Brighton
Residence, Bent Parade, Black Rock
Residence, Haydens Road, Beaumaris

House by John C Griffin
Exterior of Clarke House in Leura Grove, Hawthorn (1963)

House by John C Griffin
Interior of Clarke House in Leura Grove, Hawthorn (1963)

Select References

Sally Griffin, 'Specialist in the Art of Hospital Design', Age, 30 July 2008.