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Biographical Overview

Based in Warrnambool in Victoria's outer west, the office of Walter & Auty was not only the sole architectural firm in that town in the 1950s and '60s, but also the leading exponents of modernist architecture in the state's entire western district.  Founded in 1951, the partnership traced its origins back to an office established in Warrnambool the mid-1930s by W J T "Tag" Walter (1909-1987), who practised under his own name for fifteen years before admitting Bruce Auty (1928-1974), a young recent graduate from Melbourne, into partnership.  

Born on 13 December 1909 in
Penshurst (north of Warrnambool), William John Taggart Walter was the son of builder, sewerage contractor and property developer James Dingwell Walter (1879-1970) and the former Ellen Taggart.  Tag Walter qualified as a plumber and obtained his early professional experience under his father, for whom (by this own admission) he designed and supervised various projects.  Finally, in January 1934, Walter opened his own architectural practice in Warrnambool, working from the house that he had designed for himself at 49 Henna Street.  By the end of the decade, he had moved the practice to Walter House, a purpose-built office/retail complex of his own design, at the prominent corner of Lava and Liebig streets in the town centre.  Walter's other commissions encapsulated small-scaled residential, retail and institutional projects, most of which were located in Warrnambool.  In 1947, he became involved in one of his largest, best-known and most enduring Warrnambool projects - the ambitious new factory for clothing manufacturer Fletcher Jones - which would provide his office with a steady stream of ongoing work into the 1970s.  
It was in 1951 that Tag Walter entered into partnership with Bruce Auty.  Born in Richmond, Auty competed his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Melbourne in 1951.  He studied design under Douglas Alexandra (who later endorsed Auty's application for registration as an architect), and his fellow students included Kevin Borland, who became a lifelong friend.  By September of that year, Auty had already settled in Warrnambool and was working in Tag Walter's office in Walter House.  Other members of the practice at that time included Don Hunt, who had been there since 1948 and would remain until 1961.  

During the 1950s and '60s, Walter & Auty became the leading architectural firm in Victoria's western district.  The office, which served as official architects to the Warrnambool municipality, not only undertook repeated projects in that city, but also in outlying townships such as Tabor and Port Fairy, and regional centres as far afield as Heywood, Hamilton and Horsham.  Projects included several local hospitals, churches, community buildings, and series of motels for two regional motel franchises - the Mid-City and the Western.  These motels, together with the firm's contemporaneous designs for slick American-style car showrooms and diners, encapsulated the eye-catching Googie style that characterised much of their commercial output at that time.  This influence also spilled into their residential projects, which, with "f
acades of square proportions topped with a flat or low-gabled roof, angled fascia and a bold geometric feature, such as a high brick or slate chimney or entry wall", were said to be "reminiscent of American-influenced suburban dream homes, complete with high quality stylish fittings."  This was perhaps best represented by Tag Walter's own house at 47 Henna Street, erected in the mid-1950s alongside its rather more old-fashioned pre-war counterpart.  

When Tag Walter retired in 1969, Bruce Auty assumed control of the office and continued to practice under his name.   During the early 1970s, he carried out numerous large-scale projects, including several churches and the initial masterplanning for Flagstaff Hill, the mock-historical maritime village at Warrnambool. In November 1973, Auty was on a fishing trip at Peterborough, with his wife and two friends
, when the boat was overturned by a freak wave.  The three others swam to safety, but Auty didn't make it; his body was retrieved the following day.  The news of the death of Warrnambool's much-respected resident architect made the front page of the local newspaper; the Mayor, Cr J P Daffy, paid Auty this tribute: "He was the only architect in the city, and will be hard to replace.  Mr Auty played a major part in keeping a good style to the city and residential areas of Warrnambool.  His designs have helped to enhance the beauty of the city."  Following Auty's death. his old friend Kevin Borland rushed out to Warrnambool to help complete some of the firm's outstanding projects.  The practice then continued under the name of Auty, Griffin & Associates, with Nicholas Griffin as the principal, and Geoffrey Umbers and John Perry as associates.  Tag Walter, despite retiring in 1969, remained registered as an architect until as late as 1983; he died four years later.  

Select List of Projects

W J T Walter


Residence for self, 49 Henna Street, Warrnambool
Nurses' Home, Warrnambool Base Hospital, Warrnambool

Parking garage, Warrnambool
Residential flats for P Price, Warrnambool
Tattersall's Hotel, Liebig Street, Warrnambool [demolished]
Office building for self (Walter House), 165 Liebig Street, Warrnambool
Factory for Fletcher Jones, Warrnambool
Mack's Snacks, 77 Liebig Street, Warrnambool
Freezing Works for Port Fairy Fishermans' Co-Operative, Port Fairy

Walter & Auty







Public Hall, Heywood
Manse for Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Tabor Road, Tabor
Heywood Memorial Hospital, Barclay Street, Heywood
War Memorial Hall and Library, 13 McLennan Street, Glenthompson [remodelling]
Office building (Walter House), 169 Gray Street, Hamilton
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, cnr Thompson & Martin streets, Hamilton
Residence for Tag Walter, 47 Henna Street, Warrnambool
Eventide Lutheran Homes, Ballarat Road, Hamilton
Western Motel, Glenelg Highway, Hamilton
Hopkins River (later Western) Motel, cnr Simpson & Verdon Streets, Warrnambool [dem]
Western Highway (later Western) Motel, Western Highway, Horsham
Primary School for Good Shepherd College, Macarthur Street, Hamilton
Showroom for Warrnambool Motors Pty Ltd, 765 Raglan Parade, Warrnambool
Residence for B Auty (Clifton), Verdon Street, Warrnambool
Mid-City (now Country Comfort) Motel, 525 Raglan Parade, Warrnambool [altered]
Mid-City Motel, 19 Doveton Street North, Ballarat

Kermond's Burger Bar, 151 Lava Street, Warrnambool

Bruce Auty (later Auty, Griffin & Associates)

Library for Portland South Primary School, Portland
Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church, 32 William Street, Port Fairy
Maritime historical village (Flagstaff Hill), Warrnambool [original masterplan]
Municipal offices for the Shire of Warrnambool, Warrnambool
Catholic Church of Our Lady Help of Christians, Selby Road, Warrnambool East
Walter House by W J T Walter
"Walter House", Warrnambool (W J T Walter, c.1939)
(photograph by Simon Reeves, Built Heritage Pty Ltd)

Macks Snacks Warrnambool
 Mack's Snacks, Warrnambool (W J T Walter, 1948)
(photograph by Simon Reeves, Built Heritage Pty Ltd)

Walter House Warrnambool
Walter's own house, Warrnambool (Walter & Auty, 1956)
(photograph by Simon Reeves, Built Heritage Pty Ltd)

Western Motel by Walter & Auty
Western Motel, Hamilton (Walter & Auty, 1959)

Car showroom by Bruce Auty
Car showroom, Warrnambool (Walter & Auty, 1964)
(photograph by Simon Reeves, Built Heritage Pty Ltd)

Catholic Church by Bruce Auty
Catholic church, Warrnambool East (Bruce Auty, 1973-74)
(photograph by Simon Reeves, Built Heritage Pty Ltd)

Further Reading

M Alexander, "Architect leaves his tag on a booming
    city", Warrnambool Standard, 12 July 2008.

Simon Reeves, "Remembering Walter & Auty",    
    Architect Victoria
, Autumn 2010, p 23.