Peter Grigg interview, 31 October 2014

Dublin Core


Peter Grigg interview, 31 October 2014




Peter Grigg studied architecture at Perth Technical College. He graduated with an Associate in Architecture in 1954. After graduating, he worked in private practice for Cameron Chisholm & Nichol and later, Oldham Boas & Ednie-Brown. During this period he was involved with the design drawings for South Fremantle Power Station.
In 1971, he was invited by Roger Johnson, Reader at the School of Architecture at UWA to lecture part-time. He became a full-time lecturer at UWA in 1975 and taught Professional Practice at the School of Architecture until his retirement in 1985.


Grigg, Peter


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


Peter Grigg


Claremont, W.A.


56 minutes, 52 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Peter John Grigg was born on 7 June 1925. He started his schooling at Darlington State School aged 6 and then went to Hale School. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1942. Peter’s older brother was an architectural student and he had thought that he could do engineering and work with him but he was killed at Kokoda. Peter’s father was a builder. At the end of the Second World War, Peter returned to Perth Technical College to do his matriculation. He got an Associate in Architecture from Perth Tech and became involved with various committees for the Royal Institute of Architects, especially on the practice committee. Because of this involvement, in 1971 he was invited by Roger Johnson who was the Reader and Acting Head of the School of Architecture at UWA, to become visiting lecturer for professional practice in the Fifth year.
06:00 The head of the school at Perth Technical College was Bill Robbie. The course involved construction, the history of architecture, plumbing, wood working, cabinet making, architecture drawing and drafting. Practical classes were held at Leederville Technical College on brick laying, timber work and painting. It was a very practical approach to architecture. Peter graduated in 1954 and started work at Cameron Chisholm and Nichol. Then he moved to Oldham Boas & Ednie-Brown where he remained for some years. He did commercial and residential work. Peter assisted with the drawings for South Fremantle Power Station. It was a strict brief. Structural engineers were involved in the project as well. The drawings were done manually on tracing paper or on fine linen that was used for drafting. All the drawing was done by hand in the days before computers.
11:23 Studio sessions at UWA consisted of a student being set a problem such as designing a 2 bedroom apartment. In those days sketch plans were submitted for the client’s approval. Peter taught the students professional practice in the 5th year and the law in relation to professional practice and contract drawings. This continued when he was a full-time member of staff. He lectured on the responsibilities of the architect at common law and contract law. Parallel to that, Peter taught second year studio work in simple design programmes. He also lectured in building construction. Margaret Pitt-Morison ran a history course; Peter Bruechle taught introduction to engineering problems associated with building. Plumbing consultants were part-time visiting lecturers. Some of the attitudes from Perth Tech were carried over to WAIT and thence to UWA. The studio teaching method was popular around the world. A lot of students liked to build models. A three dimensional model was used to explain to clients how the building would look. Computer design has now replaced the need for models.
17:03 When Peter came to UWA, Roger Johnson was Head of School. There was no Professor as such because Professor Gordon Stephenson was busy doing other things. The department was located in temporary ex-army buildings near the Sunken Garden. In second year, Peter had approximately 15-20 students; often the majority were females. A few dropped off during the course and had to repeat years. It was a demanding course. The students would do their studio work after hours to complete projects. Each student had a work station and a drawing board. The course did not include a practical component but Peter took his 2nd year students to building sites at weekends to reinforce the lectures. He also took students to Rottnest for sketching and he held an art week at York where they did clay modelling, painting and live drawing classes to develop their artistic skills.
23:21 UWA had a number of visiting lecturers as they had a limited staff ratio and budget. The visitors could take subjects that the staff did not have the skill to teach. Peter did not attend staff meetings until he became full-time. John White came from WAIT. Roger Johnson was Gordon Stephenson’s planning assistant in the plan for UWA. Cal Green was a general lecturer. Derek Carruthers brought his expertise in acoustics to the school and headed up building science. Geoff Roy was the computer whizz. Peter did a sabbatical year in Britain and visited offices that were using computers.
27:18 When Peter was teaching at UWA the only architectural courses in Perth were run by WAIT and UWA. When the School of Architecture at UWA started in 1968, it was agreed that they would accept Fourth Year students from WAIT. Peter thought both courses were equally good. David Stanton from WAIT published some good works and Peter consulted with him on issues to do with course work. The courses were similar. Town Planning was not a strongly developed unit at UWA despite the interest of Professor Gordon Stephenson. It would have been covered in the course on professional practice. Planning legislation would have been taught in 5th year. Landscape architecture was taught part-time by the university landscape architect. Roger Johnson devised the colour scheme for the UWA buildings being cream and orange.
33:13 A visiting lecturer who came from Denmark espoused that buildings could claim the site or merge with the site. The students were taught “good mannered” architecture – i.e. to be sensitive to the streetscape. In the days before exhaust fans, designing buildings was quite tricky due to regulations regarding ventilation and light. Designing a building to take account of sunshade and shade was also taught.
39:17 Students sometimes had to work on joint projects. The studio situation took over the role of the tutorial and students got one to one attention. Peter did not enjoy setting exam papers. Most of the students got jobs. They did not necessarily have to become architects but could use the expertise they had learnt to take them into different areas.
43:25 Visiting scholars arrived on a fairly regular basis. Some of the UWA students did a semester in Denmark which exposed them to European architecture. A lecturer from Denmark also visited and taught studio work. The students all wanted to travel to Europe. Some Perth Tech students went to work in London straight after graduating. Architecture trends were taught in architectural history. John White, Ralph Drexel and Cal Green would have all been involved with this.
46:55 Architectural schools in Australia would be inspected each cycle (perhaps every 3-5 years) and the inspectors had to approve the course. The courses did not change much over the 13 years that Peter was teaching. The introduction of computers and building science were the biggest changes. The School was moved to its present location after Peter retired in 1985.
50:12 The School of Architecture was quite self-sufficient although Peter did mix socially with Martin Webb from Geography and Reg Moir from Agriculture. There was no inter-faculty engagement except perhaps with Engineering. Some of the students did extra units in courses outside of Architecture. Peter really enjoyed teaching his students. He often invited them to lunch and showed them the house that he had built in the final year he was at Perth Technical College. It was located at Mosman Park and had a northern exposure and sunlight control.



Grigg, Peter, “Peter Grigg interview, 31 October 2014,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,