The breadth of the work that was uncovered in such a short period of time [12 weeks] told us that there was still more out there, lots more. By bringing this work together, including drawings, specification documents, contracts, interviews, marketing material, photographs and a variety of other evidence, we can better understand the significance and breadth of the work and what it says about the built environment context of Melbourne, which Merchant Builders worked so hard to change.” Exposing material, which has been lying dormant and un-scrutinized for a number of years, provided the opportunity to review the material and see it as a collection and a larger prolonged experiment rather than a set of stand-alone residential prototypes. The collection makes us consider what lies ahead for how we live and how we relate to our landscape, our suburbs and our cities. We are able to provoke thought on the relevance of Merchant Builders today and in the future.

Alan Pert – University of Melbourne

In 2015 the first Critical & Curatorial Practices in Design Studio was launched by Alan Pert and Philip Goad at The University of Melbourne as part of Melbourne School of Design celebrating the fifty-year legacy of Merchant Builders.

The students started with a single box of Merchant Builders archival material assembled by Anne Gartner as part of her PhD Thesis at Monash University in 1991. The material was passed on to Adam Mornement and then onto Graeme Gunn before it arrived at the MSD in August 2015.

At the end of the 12 week studio, an exhibition took place in the Melbourne School of Design with material collected by students, staff and key individuals connected to one of Australia’s most important project house builders from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The curatorial approach unpacks the story of Merchant Builders (1965-1991) through a chronological understanding of its origins, its houses, its architects, its clients, its design philosophy, its approach to landscape, policy and planning, its graphics and advertising, and its photographic documentation, and through the rediscovery of the breadth and diversity of the individuals involved. It is a story about rethinking about how one might live in Melbourne that is as relevant today as it was when David Yencken and John Ridge founded the company in 1965.

While the exhibition and studio unearthed a great deal of material, it quickly became clear that 12 weeks would not cover the investigative research needed  into the full body of Merchant Builder’s work and so began a 4 year research study. The outcome from this 4 year research project will be published in a book later this year.


This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!