Centre for Architecture Theory Criticism History
School of Architecture

Exhibition: From the Precise Hand of Ronald James Voller

From the Precise Hand of Ronald James Voller

Selected Student Work 1932–1937


The selected works brought together in this exhibition were executed by Ronald James Voller (1915–2006), over the course of his education at the Brisbane Central Technical College (CTC), and during a brief interlude of study at the University of Queensland. Many were produced as submissions for examinations. Voller’s architectural education began in 1932, whilst articled to his cousin Roderic Voller. He subsequently accepted an Architectural Cadetship with the Architecture Branch of the Queensland Department of Public Works (1933–1936). At the age of twenty-one, he completed his CTC Diploma (1936), and was the recipient of the Queensland Chapter of the RAIA’s Student Gold Medal.


In 1933, the Brisbane Courier published a succinct account, in defence of the Diploma course that gives some insight into the course behind the production of these works.


Before entering upon this course, which takes four years to complete, an applicant must have passed the Junior University examination in the following subjects: English (including questions in English History and Geography), Arithmetic, Algebra, and Geometry. In the first year work of an elementary nature is undertaken, the subjects being Freehand and Perspective Drawing, Building Construction, Drafting, and Clay Modeling. The second year's work is of a similar nature but of a higher standard, with History of Architecture, Elements of Design, and Rendering as additional subjects. In the third year a still higher standard is reached, and the Mechanics of Building Construction is added. The student has now reached a stage where he must turn his knowledge to some practical use, and in the fourth year the Principles of Architectural Design are introduced. With the addition of the Technology of Building Materials, Specifications, and Professional Practice he has a very difficult task ahead to prepare for the final examination, success in which brings him to the goal of his dreams—his Diploma in Architecture.[i]


Voller was witness to significant changes in architectural education and the profession over the course of his studies, triggered after the CTC failed in its bid for university status in 1933. This provided the impetus for the establishment of the university Diploma in Architecture in 1937. Voller was one of two students in the first intake, whilst working as an architectural draftsman with Hall and Cook. He was accepted into the third year, perhaps with an eye to upgrading to a Degree in Architecture, before a decision to move to Sydney to register, where he accepted a position with Robertson, Marks and McCredie Architects, in 1938.[ii] After completing registration Voller moved to Western Australia to work for the Commonwealth Works Department for the duration of the war.


Two of the selected works in the exhibition were products of his year of study at the University of Queensland. “A Private Swimming Pool,” (1937), a water colour for third year sketch design, and “The Geometry of the Human Figure,” (1937), an ergonomic study indebted to Architects’ Data compiled by Ernst Neufert, published in the english speaking world in 1935.[iii] Most of the earlier works are historical studies of Greek, Roman, Gothic and Renaissance exemplars. Renderings of a modest stone-clad office building, and houses in various styles are perhaps outcomes of the second year Rendering subject. Design ideas are explored in “Addition of Entrance Vestibule and Two Rooms to a Hall Building“ (1934), “Design for a Small Suburban Home Suitable for Southeast Queensland” (1935), and “A Tourist Bureau” (1935), with its intricately detailed wall mural representations of modern life.


The proposal for a “War Memorial Olympic Swimming Pool, Maryborough,” (1952) included in the exhibition is the only non-student work. It is a water colour produced by Voller of a design by the Architects’ Group collective, attributed to Ronald Voller and Heimann (Heinz) Jacobsohn. All the works selected display a high level of precision, skill, and care in their execution, serving as a testament to Ronald Voller, and portant for the significant contribution he would make to architectural culture and practice.


** This exhibition will be held at BVN Studio, 12 Creek Street, Brisbane and will run from 24th October - 7th November 2017 **



[i] “Training the Architect. Requirements of the Diploma Course,” Brisbane Courier, August 4, 1933, 4.

[ii] Jon Voller, “Vale Ronald James Voller 1915-2006 [Obituary],” Architecture Australia 95, no. 3 (May-June 2006): 44; Donald Watson and Judith McKay, A Directory of Queensland Architects to 1940 (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Library, Fryer Memorial Library Occasional Publication no. 5, 1984), 196.

[iii] Neufert, E., Architects’ Data (London: Blackwell Science, 1935).