Walter Abraham (town planner)


Walter Abraham (town planner)

Walter Victor (Wally) Abraham, BArch, DipTCP, ARAIA, FAPI (1923 — 2006) was an Australian architect and town planner, noted for designing the layout of the campus of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, as well as overseeing the first 20 years of its development.

Early life

Walter Abraham was born in Kobe, Japan, and was descended from a prosperous Jewish family of merchants based in London, United Kingdom.

His paternal grandfather travelled from England to Japan in 1868, where he established an import-export business in Kobe and eventually settled permanently, marrying a Japanese woman. Walter's father was born in Japan, but was educated at Dulwich College in London and, on his return to Japan to join the family business in Kobe, married a German woman from Hamburg.

Walter initially followed in his father's footsteps, completing part of his education at Dulwich College. Mindful of the perils of being foreigners from an enemy state during wartime, in 1941 his parents moved from Japan to Australia and he completed his secondary education at Sydney Boys' High School.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 | language = English. Online version at [http://www.smh.com.au/news/obituaries/the-planning-force-for-macquarie-university/2006/11/03/1162340046775.html http://www.smh.com.au/news/obituaries/the-planning-force-for-macquarie-university/2006/11/03/1162340046775.html] ]

World War II and early career

After leaving school, he joined the Royal Australian Air Force and was seconded to a small intelligence unit which became known as AIRIND, composed of five Australians who could both speak and write Japanese. Their duties involved collecting and examining engines and parts from crashed Japanese aircraft, in order to deduce when and where they had been made. In the latter part of the war, the intelligence produced by AIRIND guided long-range bombing raids to attack factories involved in military production and thus hamper the Japanese war effort. In mid-1944 the unit was transferred to the control of the Pentagon, and was absorbed into the US war effort.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .]

After the war, Abraham studied architecture and town planning at the University of Sydney. He then accepted a post with the now defunct Cumberland County Council. He later returned to Sydney University, where he lectured for five years on town planning. He also assisted with planning Sydney University's post-war expansion, until 1965.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .]

Macquarie University's Architect-Planner

In 1964, Abraham was nominated as Architect Planner by a committee appointed to advise the New South Wales State Government on the establishment of a new university at North Ryde. He had previously written a report entitled "Proposed University Site at North Ryde". Dated 5 June 1962, this is the first written record of his advice on the 135-hectare site, which was to be located around the intersection of Balaclava and Waterloo roads. ["Sirius: Macquarie University Alumni Magazine", Summer 2004, page 13. PDF copy online at: [http://www.mq.edu.au/alumni/pdf/SiriusSUMMER2004.pdf http://www.mq.edu.au/alumni/pdf/SiriusSUMMER2004.pdf] ]

As part of his preliminary work in 1964, Abraham conducted a comprehensive photographic survey of the proposed campus site, which at that time was farmland. He wrote how he found cquote|poultry farms; bare sun-crippled hardwood fences and small forests of tomato stakes; the rise and fall of Waterloo Road into a hazy distance; the slow plod of bowed back and short sleeves behind an iron plough and a white thick limbed horse; and everywhere distance, distance, distance. ["Liberality of Opportunity: A History of Macquarie University 1964-1989", Chapter 4: "Development of the Site", pp.88-9; (Macquarie University in association with Hale & Iremonger, 1992), ISBN 0-86806-474-2. Quoted in "Sirius: Macquarie University Alumni Magazine", Summer 2004, page 12.] In October 1964 it was decided that the university would open for teaching in early 1967, and would have a growth target of 1,000 new students each year for the following decade. The new Macquarie University Council decided that the planning of the campus would be conducted internally, rather than by consultants, and as such, an architect-planner's office was established.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .]

Abraham was one of the first three staffmembers appointed to the university,cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .] and was also one of its first six administrators. ["Vale - Wally Abraham", in "Macquarie University News", No.384 (October 2006), p. 17. ISSN 1327–777. PDF copy online at: [http://www.pr.mq.edu.au/macnews/MUN_PDFS/200610.pdf http://www.pr.mq.edu.au/macnews/MUN_PDFS/200610.pdf] ] He was appointed Architect Planner to the university in April 1965 ["Vale - Wally Abraham", in "Macquarie University News", No.384 (October 2006), p. 17.] and was given professorial status so that he could negotiate the university's development on an equal footing with the academic staff.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .]

Abraham's campus design

At the time of his appointment, very little local information was available in Australia regarding the design and planning of universities, and so Abraham travelled to the United Kingdom and United States to study the works of contemporary university campus planners. Rejecting the perceived inflexibility of "master plans", a concept current at the time, he decided to aim for a balanced and flexible approach to developing the constructed and natural environments of the Macquarie site. ["Vale - Wally Abraham", in "Macquarie University News", No.384 (October 2006), p. 17.]

Abraham established a grid of lots of 300 square feet (approximately 28 square metres) each, aligned to points of the compass, split into three main divisions: West (W), Central (C), and East (E). Most of the principal buildings were to be constructed along or within easy reach of the campus's main west-east pedestrian way, which became known as University Walk. The measure of 300 feet was chosen as it was seen to represent a 1-minute walk, and Abraham wanted to aim for a design where no two points on campus were more than a maximum 10-minutes' walk from each other.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .]

Sizeable parking areas were created on the outskirts of the academic core to the west, south and east, with traffic zones and bus routes running along the north and south of the main southern parking areas W1, C1, C2, and E1. Use of both natural hilly landscape and artificial mounds was made to ensure that the noise of cars and buses did not intrude into the academic area of the campus.

A valley on the north side of the academic area which overlooks the Lane Cove National Park was landscaped and kept free of buildings. The panorama was enhanced with the creation of a lake, and carefully designed planting programmes were commenced across campus. The beautiful grounds of Macquarie University today are essentially a product of Abraham's devotion to the art of landscape development. ["Vale - Wally Abraham", in "Macquarie University News", No.384 (October 2006), p. 17.]

Abraham remained in the employ of Macquarie University for 19 years, overseeing its development and enhancing the development's consistency. He retired in 1983, but remained a regular visitor and observed the continuing development of his creation with great interest. ["Vale - Wally Abraham", in "Macquarie University News", No.384 (October 2006), p. 17.]

Other career highlights

While he was still working at Macquarie, Abraham was involved in other significant projects. In 1968, he was appointed to report on a controversial proposal to widen Jersey Road in Paddington, New South Wales, which was being resisted by the local residents. Abraham added his professional weight to the argument, supporting the residents. This led to the proposal being scrapped.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .]

In 1974, he wrote a report for UNESCO on physical planning at the University of the Philippines, which resulted in that university receiving loans for infrastructure development from the World Bank.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .]

Retirement

After retiring from Macquarie University in 1983, Abraham and his wife Felicity moved to Kiama, New South Wales, 120 kilometres south of Sydney. Here he designed their house, which was sited on the eastern side of Saddleback Mountain. He became a local identity in the Illawarra region, often giving advice to the local authorities and was a constructive critic of the planning policies of the Kiama Municipal Council.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .]

Macquarie University honoured Wally Abraham in 1991, when he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science "honoris causa".

In 2004 he attended the opening of the "Making it New" photographic exhibition, a part of Macquarie University's 40th anniversary celebrations which detailed the development of the campus. ["Vale - Wally Abraham", in "Macquarie University News", No.384 (October 2006), p. 17.] [Dianne Yerbury, "Vice Chancellor's Review", "Macquarie University Annual Report 2004", p. 11. PDF copy online at [http://www.reg.mq.edu.au/Sections/Publications/Homepage/2004PDF/4ViceChancellorsReview.pdf http://www.reg.mq.edu.au/Sections/Publications/Homepage/2004PDF/4ViceChancellorsReview.pdf] .] For a 40th anniversary article in Macquarie University's alumni magazine, "Sirius", Abraham wrote cquote|For its first 19 years, an in-house Architect-Planner’s Office conceived and coordinated Macquarie’s site development. Despite challenging deadlines, our superb site and a supportive Vice-Chancellor’s Office and Council ensured the establishment of an open-ended foundation for growth and change. No university could have been endowed with a more favourable beginning. ["Sirius: Macquarie University Alumni Magazine", Summer 2004, page 13. PDF copy online at: [http://www.mq.edu.au/alumni/pdf/SiriusSUMMER2004.pdf http://www.mq.edu.au/alumni/pdf/SiriusSUMMER2004.pdf] ]

Wally Abraham died around September 2006, aged 82 (his wife Felicity had predeceased him in 1994). They are survived by their children Philip Abraham and Michaela Russell, Michaela's husband Terry Russell, and grandsons Nick and Ben.cite news |author = Don Gazzard |title = The planning force for Macquarie University |work = The Sydney Morning Herald |publisher = Fairfax Ltd |page = 50 |date = 4 November 2006 |accessdate = 2006-11-04 .] A motion put by the mayor of Kiama resulted in Wally Abraham being honoured in Council with a minute's silence on 19 September 2006. ["Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of the Council of the Municipality of Kiama held in the Council Chambers, Kiama, on Tuesday 19 September 2006", p. 2, Mayoral Minute (item C17.11.000). PDF online copy at [http://www.kiama.nsw.gov.au/Corporate-Services/pdf/Business-Papers/Minutes-Council-060919.pdf http://www.kiama.nsw.gov.au/Corporate-Services/pdf/Business-Papers/Minutes-Council-060919.pdf] .]

In early 2006 it was announced that the main west-east pedestrian spine of the Macquarie University campus, formerly known as University Walk, and which had been undergoing extensive renovation and repaving would be renamed "Wally's Walk" in recognition of Dr Abraham, when it re-opened in April 2006. [Pamela Kenny, "from the Chair of the Standing Committee of Convocation: Changing Times", "Sirius: Macquarie University Alumni Magazine", Summer 2006, p. 2. PDF copy online at [http://www.mq.edu.au/alumni/pdf/SiriusSUMMER2006.pdf http://www.mq.edu.au/alumni/pdf/SiriusSUMMER2006.pdf] ]

References

External links

* [http://www.pr.mq.edu.au/macnews/MUN_PDFS/200610.pdf Obituary in "Macquarie University News" (October 2006)] (PDF document), contains photograph of Dr Abraham in 2004.
* [http://www.mq.edu.au/alumni/pdf/SiriusSUMMER2004.pdf Macquarie University 40th Anniversary article in "Sirius" (Summer 2004)] (PDF document), contains some of Wally Abraham's pre-construction photographs of North Ryde in 1964.
* [http://www.fairfaxphotos.com/business/search.php?s=1&ssim=ffxphoto-1155298 Image of Wally Abraham climbing over a dry stone wall on his property at Kiama, in 2001]
* [http://www.lib.mq.edu.au/faq/detKBase.php?ID=666 Macquarie University Library FAQ: "What is Wally's Walk?"]

Persondata
NAME=Abraham, Walter Victor
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Abraham, Wally
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Town planner
DATE OF BIRTH=1923
PLACE OF BIRTH=Kobe, Japan
DATE OF DEATH=circa September 2006
PLACE OF DEATH=Kiama, New South Wales, Australia


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