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Meet AAA Vice President Ben Gerstel

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By Ben Gerstel

As an architect and resident of Castlecrag, I feel I am very lucky. This luck is three fold for the following reasons, I live in the suburb, I am an architect and I am surrounded by domestic architecture which I love.

To give an example of the wealth of domestic architecture in Castlecrag, we have Burley Griffin and Eric Nicholls houses, houses by Harry Seidler, Philip Cox, Allen Jack and Cottier, Peter Muller, Bill Lucas, Bruce Rickard, Alex Popov, Virginia Kerridge, Hugh Buhrich, Theodore Fry, Hugo Stossel, Arthur Baldwinson, Neville Gruzman, Robert McClurcan, Gordon M Jenkins and Engelen and Moore to name a few. Castlecrag is soon to have new houses by Marsh Cashman Kooloos and Koichi Tadaka.

There are lots of other architect designed houses but these have to be researched at Willoughby City Council.

I grew up in Castlecove, so I have not moved very far from home. As a child, I loved this suburb for all the red textured brick 1960’s houses with massing at obtuse angles. These houses had wild designed balustrades and garage doors. . Little did I realise that these houses may not of been designed by an architect!

I am sure with these houses and my Lego blocks (not in kit form) were my inspiration to become an architect, but let’s not mention receiving a book on Frank Lloyd Wright at the age of 13

When I started my practice, I introduced myself to the local real estate agents with the view that when people buy a house in the suburb, may want a local architect, me! This happened. These are clients who I would never had otherwise.

I also joined Archicentre, an organisation (no longer in NSW, pity) that connected registered architects with people looking for an architect in their area. One of my first projects was to renovate one of these Castlecove 1960’s houses. It was an experience. I loved it but also very challenging being at the beginning of my solo career.

Unfortunately Castlecove is being gentrified like lots of other Sydney suburbs. Houses are being knocked down, renovated or replaced with project homes. We have lost these wonderful time pieces of architectural domestic history. Unfortunately this happened to my family home.

Another source of learning about the houses in Castlecrag is I write a column for a local periodical called The Crag, which is produced by the Castlecrag Progress Association. There are four issues a year and I started writing in 2010. I was asked to write about one house located in Castlecrag for each issue. This has allowed my into some fantastic houses which I would never of seen otherwise.

Through my walks in the suburb for the association (AAA Castlecrag Walks 1 and 2), these have also opened some doors again to houses which I never would of seen either and this makes these walks special for the attendees.

As a local resident, I get to know a lot of the residents who live here and from them, I hear what is happening in the suburb. Which houses are being demolished and who is the architect. This is how I keep my finger on the pulse.

Since becoming an architect, I have learnt of all the other wonderful architect designed houses in the surrounding suburbs of Middle Cove and Northbridge. From this knowledge I have developed these walks for the AAA.


Want to experience a AAA Castlecrag Walk? Join the next tour in March.


Location: Quadrangle Shopping Village, 100 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag NSW 2068
Date: Saturday 9 March 2019
Time: 2.00pm - 4.00pm
Tickets: $30 (Public) / $25 (Concession) / Free (AAA

Numbers are limited. Click here - to secure your place on the tour.

  • Article: Ben Gerstel
  • Image: Ben Gerstel with tour group attendees on the Castlecrag Walk.
  • Photographer: Annette Dearing

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AAA Partnering in Sydney Design Festival 2019

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It's time to celebrate all things creative with the annual Sydney Design Festival 2019. Taking place 1-10 March, the Australian Architecture Association (AAA) is once again partnering in the festival. Join one of our special tours taking place during the festival:

  • The Sydney Observatory Tour, and
  • AAA Ultimo Walk


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Experience a unique architectural tour developed in association with MAAS (the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences). AAA trained volunteer tour guides will help you to discover Sydney Observatory, a significant historic site in Millers Point, The Rocks.

Built in 1858, Sydney Observatory is one of the most significant sites in the nation’s scientific history. It is recognised as an item of ‘state significance’ by the New South Wales Government and is heritage listed.

Beginning as the centre of scientific research for the colony of New South Wales, the Observatory has a seminal role in the history of timekeeping, meteorology, navigation and astronomy in Australia.

Now known as Observatory Hill, the site was previously known as Windmill Hill, Citadel Hill, Fort Phillip and Flagstaff Hill. Each name indicates the site’s function over time, all of which relied on it being the highest point over Sydney Harbour.

The Observatory buildings, built from stone with distinctive copper telescope domes, were built between 1857 and 1859 in the Italianate style. They combined the practical needs of an observatory with those of an astronomer’s residence. The Observatory grounds recreate the original layout and vegetation of formal gardens cultivated in the 1880s.


Sydney Design - Architectural tour of Sydney Observatory. Presented by the Australian Architecture Association in partnership with Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS).

Location: Sydney Observatory, 1003 Upper Fort St, Millers Point NSW
Tour 1: 11.00am - 12.30pm
Tour 2: 1.30pm - 3.00pm
Date: Sunday 3 March 2019
Tickets: $30 (Adult) / $25 (Concession) / $25 (MAAS or AAA Member)

Click here to book your tickets.

Accessibility: Please note there is no wheelchair access to many of the Sydney Observatory spaces due to narrow and steep staircases in the heritage-listed buildings.  Strollers must be cloaked on arrival.


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Want to know more about the history of the area surrounding the Powerhouse Museum? Explore architecture and history on the AAA Ultimo Walk.

Colonial settlement of the inner city urban village of Ultimo began in 1803, when 34 acres was granted to surgeon, John Harris, on lands traditionally inhabited by the Gadigal clan of the Eora nation.

Harris built a grand two storey residence on the property (demolished in 1932) called Ultimo House. Ultimo House remained one of the colony's premier addresses well into the 1890s, while it's surroundings became increasingly industrial in nature including slaughterhouses, rental properties and quarrying operations.

In the 1890s Sydney Technical College was established - putting Ultimo on the cultural map. Twentieth and twenty-first century additions of educational buildings have reinforced Ultimo's reputation as a centre for learning.

Over the two hour walk you'll discover some of the suburbs architectural gems and open spaces, including the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre, Sydney Technical College (TAFE NSW Sydney Institute), the Powerhouse Museum, and the Goods Line.


The Ultimo Walk was developed by the Australian Architecture Association.

Location: Powerhouse Museum Forecourt, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo NSW 2007
Time: 10.00am - 11.30am
Date: Saturday 9 March 2019
Tickets: Adult $30 / Senior, Student & MAAS Members $25 (ID required to join the walk) / AAA Members Free

Accessibility: Please note the tour encompasses climbing stairs and walking over uneven surfaces.

Click here to book your place on the tour.


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The Sydney Design Festival 2019 is now in its 21st year. This annual contemporary design festival creates a platform for a convergence of people, ideas and activities across creative industry sectors.

This years theme - ACCESSING DESIGN, seeks to promote responsive design that gives voice to diverse Sydney communities, and asks designers to broaden the definition of design and expand the dialogue between creative practice, access and inclusivity.

With an emphasis on the democratisation of design, the Sydney Design Festival is seeking a broad representation and involvement from both established and emerging design practitioners and interdisciplinary creative practices. ACCESSING DESIGN asks the design community to question and contemplate their creative practice:

  • Who are they designing for and how can audiences access this?
  • What is the role of design in creating a more accessible world? How can we all be more open and inclusive with our approach to design?

Click here to explore What’s On over the festival calendar.

  • Article: Vanessa Couzens
  • Image 1: Sydney Design Festival logo - New Armor Stool (detail), designed by Kwangho Lee, South Korea, 2014. MAAS Collection
  • Image 2: An image of Sydney Observatory tour attendees (Photo: AAA)
  • Image 3: An image of Ultimo Walk tour attendees (Photo: AAA)
  • Image 4: Sydney Design Festival logo - ‘Marilyn’ sofa (detail), designed by Studio 65, made by Gufram, Italy, 1970. MAAS Collection


Memorable AAA Residential Tour


What a memorable and wonderful last residential bus tour held on 8th December, an amazing finish to 2018.  We visited four very different residential projects from Balmain to Manly and attendees were given the opportunity to see and hear first-hand about the design process from the architects and designers.  Of course, the day wouldn’t be as successful without the delicious lunch at Marthas where we share good food, stories with like-minded people and the architects.

Thanks to MM + J Architects, Carter Williamson Architects, Anderson Architecture and Ben Gerstel Architecture for participating and adding to the success of the day.  





  • Article: Annette Dearing
  • Photographer: Vanessa Couzens


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

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The Australian Architecture Association would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

We have had another eventful year and remain committed to increasing the public’s awareness and appreciation of architecture.  In 2018 we added 2 new walks to our tour programme, one in Ultimo and one in Chippendale. Look out for these tours in 2019. 

The AAA would like to thank our financial supporters, Natspec and Universal Publications, as well as the architects, designers and clients who have kindly opened their homes this year.  To everyone who donated to our annual fundraising campaign, your support ensures that we can continue to help people understand the value of architecture and how it shapes our cities.

A very big thank you to our AAA volunteers, who are the backbone of the Australian Architecture Association and committed to sharing architecture with the general public.

Best wishes and look forward to seeing you on one of our tours in 2019.