“Allan Coulstock Powell graduated in architecture from the University of Melbourne in 1974 and gained a Master of Architecture degree from RMIT University in 1992. In 1989 he was the designer of the award winning ‘Home Sweet Home’ at the Museum of Victoria, an exhibition of models of historic houses in Victoria (1834-1989). He worked for Guilford Bell (1971-6) before establishing an independent practice under his own name in 1980. Powell is a noted design architect whose practice has made a major contribution to the quality and style of Melbourne residential, commercial and educational buildings. He has designed numerous houses, mainly in metropolitan Melbourne and on the Mornington Peninsula. Each house shows Powell’s interests in understanding the spaces of reception, passage and gracious living, which he learnt from Bell but further combined with a fondness for mass, colour and shadow in architectural form that reveals his deep interest in contemporary art, especially the brooding urban scenes of artists Rick Amor and Jeffrey Smart.


Some of his houses defer to traditions of the Georgian revival, particular to Melbourne’s ‘better’ suburbs, while others engage with the sculptural precepts of modernism. Many combine the two. An early project such as Crigan house, St Kilda, Vic. (1988-9) explored the idea of a house created within the newly constructed walls of a ‘ruin’ while the Di Stasio house and winery, Yarra Valley, Vic. (c2003) demonstrates Powell’s ability to engage with the design of landscape as part of an overall architectural ensemble as well as reinstating timeless notions of the enfilade circulation (the passage from room to room without corridors). His Hill Street Toorak house (2003) deploys high walls, mystery and an acceptance of shadows to create a courtyard house with one of the site’s boundaries forming its fourth wall. There is a sense of the Middle East in this house and also echoes of the studio parti (plan arrangement) of Bell’s houses.


Another aspect of Powell’s practice has been a range of restaurant and hotel projects, which set the design style for Melbourne fine dining throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The restaurants De Chaineux, South Melbourne; Cafe Maximus, St Kilda; Metropole, Armadale; The Latin, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne; Di Stasio, St Kilda; and Circa Restaurant, and Prince of Wales Hotel, St Kilda, revealed Powell’s interests in colour, light and shadow as intrinsic elements in the creation of mood and a deliberate theatre of ambience.


Powell’s aesthetic interests have been demonstrated at a larger scale with two significant educational projects: for RMIT University, Building 94 (School of Art and Design), Cardigan Street, Carlton (1996, with Pels Innes Neilson & Kosloff), a powerful collection of mute forms that in composition echoes the surrealist action designs of 1950s architect Stuart McIntosh; and for Monash University at its Clayton Campus, the Performing Arts Buildings (1995), a deep desert-red coloured L-shaped building with a series of folded planes in front that act a sculptural foil to the De Chirico-like urban space created by the massive building behind.


Powell’s most significant public work to date has been the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Vic (2003, with Irwin Alsop). The result of a limited competition held in 2000, the gallery houses Eva and Marc Besen’s collection of Australian art. The museum was the first privately funded public art museum to be established under the Australian government’s philanthropic rules introduced in 1999. Like Powell’s elegantly minimal residences, TarraWarra is a celebration of walls, and their ability to contain space, frame views and, above all, deliver a sense of spatial surprise, sensuality and intimate engagement with both close and distant landscapes.”


The Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture (2012), Philip Goad, Chair of Architecture, University of Melbourne 


Online Articles:

  • Architecture AU 2013 ‘Trocadero’
  • Architecture AU 2013 ‘South Yarra House’
  • Architecture AU 2013 ‘RMIT Bundoora West Lecture Theatre’
  • Australian Design Review 2012 ‘Trocadero’
  • 2012 ‘Trocadero’
  • Architecture Australia 2102, RAIA Awards Commercial Commendation 1998

Various Print Articles & Books:

  • Architecture Australia January 2013 (Issue 01) ‘RMIT Bundoora West Lecture Theatre’
  • Artichoke December 2012 (Issue 41) ‘Trocadero’
  • Houses June 2012 (86) ‘South Yarra House’
  • Melbourne Review 2012 ‘Trocadero’
  • Architecture Australia 2011, various
  • OVGA 2010, Tarrawarra Museum of Art
  • Guide to Melbourne Architecture 2009, Tarrawarra Museum of Art
  • Leon van Shiak – Exhibition 2009
  • Houses, 2008
  • 100 Dream Houses by Robyn Beaver 2008
  • Stephen Crafti – Article in ‘House & Garden’ 2008
  • Abundant, Venice Biennale 2008
  • Vogue Living December/January 2004 ‘Davies’
  • Vogue Living January/February 2003 ‘Horizon Lines’
  • Architect April 1989 ’1950′s in the 1980′s’
  • Belle No 92, april/May 1989 ‘Streetwise’
  • Vogue Living No 4 May 1989 ‘Kitchens’
  • Architecture Australia No 3 Vol 77, May 1988 ‘Craigan House’
  • Vogue Living No 4 May 1988 ‘Milanese Magic’
  • Vogue Australia No 5 May 1988 ‘Insight’
  • Vogue Living No 6 August 1988 ‘Design City’
  • Interior Design No 13 1988 ‘Caffe Maximus’
  • Architect August 1988 ‘Awards Issue’
  • The Age Monday 24th October 1988 ‘ Tyranny of the Backyard’
  • Interior Design No8 1987 ‘The Latin’
  • Vogue Living No 3 April 1987 ‘ Industrial Relations’
  • Vogue Living No 7 Sept 1987 ‘Room to Move’


  • Blueprint, No 50 Sept 1988 – ‘The Green Indoors’
  • Shortenkenchiku, No 8 1988 – ‘A. A. Schools Designers’