Ronald Jack (Gus) Ferguson: A concrete regionalism

By Andrew Murray

This research project is an historical investigation into the practice of Perth architect Ronald Jack (Gus) Ferguson (1931- ).

This thesis will explore more specifically his use of concrete, focussing on the period circa 1960-1980.  The practice of Ferguson is well known and established, having completed a series of celebrated projects across Western Australia. However, the work is yet to be subject to any kind of formal analysis and critique, or inserted into a broader postwar architectural discourse in Australia.

Between the years 1960 and 1980, Gus Ferguson, and the practice Ferguson Architects, was a significant presence in both Western Australia and Australia. The work represents a considerable oeuvre, including: key buildings across four major university campuses; a large volume of school work; the complete redevelopment of Rottnest Island; and numerous large scale multi-unit residential developments.

Within this practice, Ferguson has remained committed to the continual experimentation and refinement of a single material, concrete, and his use is exceptional in Australia. This thesis does not address the tectonic qualities of concrete, but rather focuses on the treatment of it. As Adrian Forty suggests, these treatments act as a medium to communicate ideas, both architecturally and other; thus revealing methods within the work that make a meaningful contribution to Australia’s postwar Architectural discourse.

A structure which can carry the title Architecture will, of necessity, have something to say about Australia R.J. Ferguson, The Architect WA, March 1963, 40.

The thesis will focus on four major campus projects: Hale School; The University of Western Australia; Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University); and Murdoch University, using these to interrogate the medium’s ability to adapt and engage with different contextual environments.

The research project aims to contribute to a growing body of knowledge about postwar architecture in Australia through its focus on a key West Australian practice, and through demonstrating the significant role that concrete played within this period.