Robin Gerard Penleigh Boyd was born on 3 January 1919 in Australia. He was a descendant of a Boyd artistic dynasty in Australia. Boyd was a dominant Australian architect, social commentator, teacher, and writer. The Australian Ugliness, an influential book based on a critique of Australian architecture, was written by Robin Boyd.
Boyd got most of his popularity through designing small innovative houses as he was had few opportunities to design major buildings like his American contemporary John Lautner.
Robin Boyd was the younger son of Theodore Penleigh Boyd and his wife Edith Susan Gerard Andreson. Robin’s mother was a water-colorist and miniaturist. Famous author Martin Boyd was Robin’s uncle. Boyd was a first cousin of famous painter Arthur Boyd and his second cousin Joan Lindsay who married with Daryl Lindsay was an author of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Her mother’s eldest sister completed her graduation from the University of Sydney became the first women to graduate in Arts.
Robin’s early childhood was spent at ‘The Robins’ with his older brother Pat. ‘The Robins’ was built by his father at Warrandyte near Melbourne. In 1922 his family moved to Sydney. Robin’s father was appointed by Sydney Ure Smith, organizer of contemporary European art exhibition. He took his family to England to pick some paintings. On June 1923, he returned to Sydney to set up the exhibition which was held in Melbourne and Sydney during July and August. He returned there without taking his family.
On 23 November 1923, his father died due to the accident. Edith got financial support by selling his husband’s 40 paintings, ‘The Robins’, and an annual allowance from her father in law at the time of depression. Edith with her sons started living in upper-class Toorak on rent. At Glamorgan Preparatory School, Robin studied for two years. In 1927, her mother bought a new and modest house in East Malvern, there Robin was admitted to the nearby school Lloyd Street State School. He completed his schooling from Malvern Church England Grammar School in 1930.
Robin Boyd’s architectural work was mainly residential designs; however, he also designed some big size buildings, containing the John Batman Motor Inn in Melbourne, Domain Park residential tower block and Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Australian headquarters in Canberra. From 1947-53, Robin was the director of the Royal Victorian institute of Architect Small Homes Service. He was the editor of The Age newspapers for many years from 1948.
Boyd provided homes to the public for a small fee, Boyd became a household name in Victoria through this work. Boyd was the receiver of the Ada Haddon Travelling Scholarship and RVIA Robert. This scholarship provided him a first opportunity to travel Europe. This opportunity proved to be a profound influence on his later work. With Roy Grounds and Fredrick Romberg, Boyd formed a partnership contract in 1953.
Their firm became popular in Australian architecture and they developed so many important houses in regional design during the 1950s to 1960s. He also designed a house for Australian historian Mann Clark, “Canberra House”, in 1952. He was a creative architect with 200 designs in his short career. Most of the projects were solely designed by him although some early commission projects were jointly designed with his unofficial partners Frank Bell and Kevin Pethebridge and other projects were designed with his partners Roy Grounds and Romberg. As well as Boyd was also a famous influential as an educator, public speaker, writer, and commentator.
At the University of Melbourne, Boyd was also a prominent lecturer. Mark Strizic and Wolfgang Sievers, photographers, documented and promoted Boyd’s work. Boyd was the director of The Age Small Homes Services from 1947 for many years. He wrote weekly articles and influenced so many people. Walter Gropius, director of MIT and Boyd’s friend, offered him for teaching in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Boston. He accepted the offer and start teaching in 1956 to 1957. For Humphries’ first commercial recording, a close friend of Boyd, he wrote liner notes, the EP Wild Life in Suburbia in 1958.
Robin Boyd was working on the Winston Churchhill Memorial Trust in Canberra at the time of his death. Before that, he traveled overseas where he caught an infection and after admitting in the hospital it was discovered that he has interstitial pneumonia. The condition worsened in early October 1971 and he was admitted to Royal Melbourne Hospital. Robin Boyd underwent an operation and while recovering from it he had a stroke, three days after which he died in the hospital on 16 October 1971.
In his memory, a not-for-profit Robin Boyd Foundation was established in 2005 by the RMIT University, Deakin University, AIA (Australian Institute of Architects), University of Melbourne and his family.