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Derek Wrigley - architect and solar energy activist

The Australian National University, Emeritus Faculty Inc.

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CollectionsANU Emeritus Faculty Oral History Project
Title: Derek Wrigley - architect and solar energy activist
Author(s): Wrigley, Derek
Stewart, Peter
Keywords: Derek Wrigley
Emeritus Faculty
oral history
Publisher: The Australian National University, Emeritus Faculty Inc.
Derek Wrigley was born in 1924 in Oldham near Manchester, UK in 1924. He excelled in architecture and design at the Manchester School of Art and Science then enrolled for postgraduate study in structural engineering and town planning at Manchester School of Science and Technology, and Manchester University. With little opportunity for architects in post-war England, Derek bought a boat ticket to Australia in 1947 to explore the greater options he had heard about from contacts there. After practicing and building in Sydney, he returned briefly to England to visit his sick father and on the way back took a ‘study tour’ in the USA and Japan to explore the new architecture movements in those countries, including visits to Bauhaus exponents such as Walter Gropius in Harvard and Mies van der Rohe in Chicago. Back in Sydney in 1951 he was appointed to Sydney Technical College to teach design and construction. STC became the University of Technology and then the University of NSW in the time Derek spent teaching there. In 1957, Derek was invited by ANU Architect Fred Ward (founder of the Society for Designers in Industry) to join ANU’s Design Unit (the UDU). Derek succeeded Fred Ward as head of UDU on Ward’s retirement in 1961 and was appointed ANU Architect. As head of UDU Derek was responsible for all aspects of design within the campus – site planning, architecture, interior design, furniture, landscape, graphics and signage. In its time the Design Unit was unique in having responsibility for all aspects of university design. Disillusioned by the inclination of senior administrators to meddle in structure and design, Derek resigned from ANU in 1977 and returned to private practice. Since then he has built and retrofitted a number of private houses with an emphasis on design aimed at conserving energy, material and water use. He has written a number of books and pamphlets as technical guides in house building for owners and builders. Most recently he has designed and is supervising the building of an EcoSolar housein Chifley ACT which will provide a model for testing best practice in domestic housing. Derek is also writing a biography of his mentor, the late Fred Ward.


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