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

Biographical Overview

The long-running Melbourne architectural firm of Smith & Tracey was formed in 1949 by recent graduates Des Smith (1918-2003) and Dan Tracey (1916-1992).  Shortly afterwards, they were joined by Eric "Ric" Lyon (1918-2006) and Les Brock (1920-2006), and the firm re-branded as Smith, Tracey, Lyon & Brock.  It operated as such until Lyon and Brock both left around 1960, whereupon it reverted to its original name.  The office continues today as Smith+Tracey.  

Born in Benalla on 4 March 1918, Desmond Francis Xavier Smith attended a local Catholic school, St Joseph's College, then completed his secondary schooling at Assumption College in Kilmore.  Between 1939 and 1942, he attended the University of Melbourne Architectural Atelier. He was also attached to the university's officer training unit, the Melbourne University Rifles, from 1940 until it disbanded in 1942.  That same year, the final year of his course, Smith briefly crossed paths with Daniel Noel Francis Tracey, who only attended the atelier that one year. Two years his elder, Tracey was born in Malvern on 2 December 1916 and educated at De La Salle College.  United by their shared Catholicism, the two men decided that they would one day enter into partnership.  This plan, however, was delayed by the increasing gravity of the Second World War.  In June 1943, Tracey enlisted with the Australian Army and served with the Royal Australian Engineers, attached to the works division of the 2nd Australian Combat Engineer Regiment, based in Brisbane.  Smith, meanwhile, completed his education at the University of Melbourne, with a Bachelor of Architecture conferred in March 1944.  By the time he applied for registration as an architect, four months later, he was employed in the Engineering Division of the Ordnance Production Depot at 401 Collins Street.  

Little is known of the subsequent professional activities of Des Smith and Dan Tracey until they formally entered into partnership in 1949, with an office at 709 Sydney Road, Brunswick.  One of their first projects was a new building at Smith's alma mater, St Joseph's College in Benalla.  This was not only the first of many commissions that they would receive from the Roman Catholic Church in Victoria, but also the first of many for schools for the Christian Brothers.  Business boomed, and, around 1950, the office expanded with the admission of two further partners, Eric Donald Lyon and Leslie Thomas Brock, to become Smith, Tracey, Lyon & Brock.  Both newcomers had attended  Gordon Institute of Technology in Geelong, but completed their studies at the atelier
in Melbourne, around the same time that Smith and Tracey passed through.  Lyon was there from 1939 to 1942, and Brock in 1940-41 and 1943.  Brock knew Des Smith through the Melbourne University Rifles, of which he was a fellow member.  In the later 1940s, Eric Lyon and Les Brock had each spent an extended period overseas.  By Lyon's own account, when he returned  in 1950 (after having worked for Maxwell Fry in London), he was greeted at the wharf by Des Smith, who offered him a job.

The new firm of Smith, Tracey, Lyon & Brock thrived; by 1953, it had relocated from Brunswick to a city office at 379 Collins Street, and thence to premises in Bromby Road, South Yarra. During the 1950s, the practice fostered its prior association with the Roman Catholic church in Victoria, designing not only churches and denominational schools, but also related projects that included convent buildings, a homeless men's shelter and, in one notable case, a demonstration house built to raise funds for the Franciscan Mission in New Guinea (to a design that had won first prize in an 'Ideal Home' competition held by the Herald newspaper).  Private residential work  provided a mainstay for the fim during this period; chief amongst these were the houses that Eric Lyon and Les Brock designed for themselves, respectively in Beaumaris (1953) and Blackburn (1958).  Around 1960, Lyon and Brock left the partnership to take up positions in the office of Leighton Irwin & Company; the former remained there for the rest of his career.  

Re-badged once again as Smith & Tracey, the firm continued under Des Smith and Dan Tracey. Around 1960, they secured an important new client in Bowl-o-matic Pty Ltd, one of the first companies established in Australia to exploit the fad for American-style tenpin bowling.  Over the course of several years, Smith & Tracey designed bowling centres for the company at
Geelong, Dandenong and Frankston, and two others in Tasmania.  Otherwise, ecclesiastical projects continued to underpin the firm's output during the 1960s.  Revisions to liturgical procedures as a result of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) not only brought Smith & Tracey a number of new church commissions, but allowed the architects to experiment with bold new forms, including centralized plans of square or polygonal form.  Notable churches completed during the decade included one for the Ukrainanian Catholic congregation in North Melbourne, designed in an Immigrant Nostalgic style with domes and arcade.  A new Presbyterian church at Rosebud, which represented a rare foray into Protestant church design, was noted for its unusual hyperbolic paraboloid roof.  Such was the extent of the firm's ecclesiastical, education and industrial projects that residential commissions, which had proliferated in the earlier years of the practice, were seldom undertaken during the 1960s.

The office of Smith & Tracey thrived into the 1970s and '80s, maintaining its reputation for highly-regarded church and school architecture, as well as developing expertise in the newer field of aged care facilities.  Following the retirement of both founding partners in the early 1990s, the practice continued under Des Smith's son, Gerald.  Dan Tracey died on 27 January 1992, and Des Smith on 11 April 2003.  Former directors Les Brock and Eric Lyon followed in 2006, respectively on 26 March and 30 June.  

Select List of Projects

Smith & Tracey #1 (1949-50)

St Joseph's Christian Brothers College, Benalla
St Joseph's Christian Brothers College, Warrnambool
Holy Family Church and School, St Mary's Rural Settlement, Tynong North

Smith, Tracey, Lyon & Brock (1951-1960)





Olympic Stadium, Royal Park  [competition entry; not built]
St Joseph's Christian Brothers College, Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
St Joseph's Christian Brothers College, Springvale
Residence for Eric Lyon, 10 Valmont Avenue, Beaumaris
St Joseph's Christian Brothers College, Grandview Avenue, Pascoe Vale

Residence, Malvern
Residence, Portland
Residence, Nar Nar Goon
St Bede's College, Mentone
Shopping centre, Springvale Road, Mount Waverley
Chapel at Convent of Mercy, Mansfield
Shelter for homeless men (Ozanam House), Flemington Road, North Melbourne
Residence, Hepburns Road, Beaumaris
Shopfront for Galvin's Pharmacy, 27 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
Supermarket for Purvis Stores, Buckley Street, Morwell
Residence, Hartlands Road, Ivanhoe East
Residence for Franciscan Hospital Appeal (Ideal Home), Whitehorse Road, Mitcham
Residence for Les Brock, 39 Laburnum Street, Blackburn [demolished]
Residence, Brewster Street, Essendon

Smith & Tracey #2 (1960-)




Senior School Building, Christian Brothers College, Essendon
Tenpin bowling alley for Bowl-o-matic, Corio Street, Geelong  
Tenpin bowling alley for Bowl-o-matic, 141 Thomas Street, Dandenong [demolished]
Ukrainian Catholic Church of SS Peter & Paul, Canning Street, North Melbourne
Tenpin bowling alley for Bowl-o-matic, Davey Street, Frankston  
Roman Catholic Church of St Raphael, Hardy Street, Preston West
Roman Catholic Church of
St Francis Xavier, High Street, Prahran
Factory for H H Hilbert Constructions, Parer Road, Airport West
Factory for Albion Metalware Pty Ltd, Grosvenor Street, Abbotsford
Presbyterian Church, Murray Anderson Road, Rosebud
Roman Catholic Church of
St Mary, Star of the Sea, Constitution Hill Road, Sorrento
Roman Catholic Church of St Clement of Rome, Egan Road, Bulleen
Winery and restaurant, Seymour
Des Smith and Dan Tracey
Founding partners Des Smith (left) and Dan Tracey

Holy Name Church Tynong North
Holy Family Church, Tynong North (1950)

Eric Lyon and Les Brock
1950s partners Eric Lyon (left) and Leslie Brock 

Christian Brothers College Pascoe Vale
St Joseph's Christian Brothers College, Pascoe Vale (1954)
(source: Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)

Herald Ideal Home, Mitcham
Herald "Ideal Home", Whitehorse Road, Mitcham (1956)
(source: Photograph by Built Heritage Pty Ltd)

Tenpin bowling alley Dandenong
Tenbin bowling alley, Thomas Street, Dandenong (1962)

Ukrainian Catholic Church North Melbourne
Ukrainian Catholic Church, North Melbourne (1963)
(source: Photograph by Built Heritage Pty Ltd)

Presbyeterian Church Rosebud
Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church, Rosebud (1967)