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Archive relating to Pettit & Sevitt project homes

Despite its ubiquity, suburban living has always attracted critics. For many years the cultural and aesthetic consequences of suburban living formed the focus of criticism. Many of Australia's best architectural minds struggled with the problem of creating pleasing and functional houses from limited budgets, space and materials. The project home industry was founded from this struggle.

The interface between professional design and popular buildings is one of the most contentious areas of …


Object No.


Object Statement

Design archive, Pettit & Sevitt project homes, Ken Woolley / Ancher Mortlock Murray & Woolley, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1962-1977

Physical Description

This archive comprises design material relating to Pettit & Sevitt project homes, and Ken Woolley of Ancher Mortlock Murray & Woolley, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1962-1977.

The archive includes specifications and drawings for a range of Pettit & Sevitt houses, as well as records of interviews between clients and Ken Woolley and other Ancher Mortlock Murray & Woolley architects.



Ken Woolley (b.1933) is one of Australia's most influential architects, leaving his mark across the range of building genres. His work is distinguished by its combination of high-profile projects and designs affordable and popular within the mass housing market.

Woolley attended Sydney Boys High School before studying architecture at the University of Sydney. While an undergraduate he worked as a trainee at the NSW Government Architect's office. Employed there as a Design Architect from 1955, Woolley was responsible for some major projects at an unusually young age, among them the University of Sydney's Fisher Library (1958-1962) and the State Office Block (1960-1965; demolished 1998). Fisher Library won the RAIA Sulman Award and an RIBA Bronze Medal in 1962.

In 1958 Ken Woolley and Michael Dysart, another young architect employed by the Government Architect, won a national competition for the design of a low-cost house; this house was later constructed at an exhibition village at Cherrybrook. The competition helped create Woolley's reputation in the housing field, as did his 1962 success with the RAIA Wilkinson Award for his own house at Mosman. In 1961 Woolley and Dysart designed three exhibition houses for Lend Lease, which had recently entered the project house industry. The same year Woolley and Dysart designed the Split Level, the first of many designs for Pettit & Sevitt over a period to 1975.

In 1964 Woolley and Dysart parted ways and Woolly became a partner in Ancher Mortlock Murray & Woolley, a practice founded in 1946 by Sidney Ancher, However he continued his work for Pettit & Sevitt. In addition to project homes, Woolley also designed public housing (at Woolloomoolloo and Macquarie Fields) and numerous apartment projects for the private market. Among the latter is The Penthouses (Darling Point, 1968), a terraced townhouse complex much imitated on harbour side and hillside sites across Sydney and elsewhere. Woolley has designed numerous public buildings, including Sydney Town Hall House and Sydney Square (1974), the Park Hyatt Hotel, Campbells Cove (1990), ABC Centre, Ultimo (1990), RAS Showground Exhibition Halls, Olympic Park (1998) and extensions to the Sydney Convention Centre, Darling Harbour (1999). Woolley was also a participant in perhaps the most contentious development of Australian urban history, redesigning the apartments proposed for Victoria Street, Potts Points during the 1970s.

Ken Woolley remains active, his current work including designs for the reborn Pettit & Sevitt.



Brian Pettit and Ron Sevitt worked during the late 1950s for Sunline Homes, a pioneer of architect-designed project homes. In 1961 Sunline was rendered insolvent by the 'credit squeeze' of the early 1960s. Sevitt, a Dublin-born salesman and Pettit, an accountant, organised the completion of Sunline's outstanding contracts before forming their own building company. Between 1961 and 1977 Pettit & Sevitt produced about 400 homes per year, 3,500 in total.

The first Pettit & Sevitt houses were designed by Ken Woolley and Michael Dysart: the Split Level and the Lowline. The relationship with Woolley continued throughout the company's life although other architects, including Harry Seidler, also produced Pettit & Sevitt designs. Each client was interviewed by the architect to choose interior fit outs and other details although sometimes the basic designs would be modified to the extent of adding gabled roofs to the flat-roofed Lowline. However the vast majority of Pettit & Sevitt houses preserved Woolley's deceptively simple 'Sydney school' Modernism, a meeting of designer style and contemporary building industry practise.

This last element made Pettit & Sevitt houses widely affordable. Brick veneer construction, Gyprock interior wall cladding, Monier concrete tiles, Stegbar windows and other components and methods typical of 1960s cottage building were successfully adapted to state of the art domestic architecture. This was a notable achievement given that the small house had gained an unprecedented popularity with name architects in the USA and elsewhere, with practitioners including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Richard Neutra revolutionising the genre.

As well as the architectural quality of its products, and the influence given to clients, Pettit & Sevitt was notable for the quality of its marketing. Its press advertisements are regarded as advertising classics. Memorable for their deadpan humour, these took the form of a scripted dialogue between Pettit and Sevitt. Arthur Holland and Dennis Everingham were the admen responsible for this campaign.

Another main element of Pettit & Sevitt marketing were display villages, usually built in new subdivisions and later sold to individual buyers. One of these, at Richmond Avenue, St Ives, has in recent years been the subject of controversy due to Kuringai Municipal Council's heritage listing of the former display houses.

Pettit & Sevitt was purchased by a Perth development company during the late 1960s. However the new owners quickly went out of business, and the last few years of Pettit & Sevitt were plagued by uncertainty and financial problems. However there were also broader forces at work, notably the 1970s middle-class trend towards inner-city living in restored terrace houses or apartments. In Ken Woolley's words, the company failed because of 'a combination of the financial difficulties of companies which had brought the original people out, the downturn in the housing economy and the exhaustion of suitable land for the kind of people who bought these houses, who turned to renovation and inner suburb gentrification in response to the crucial issue in housing - locality'. (Ken Woolley with Jennifer Taylor, Australian Architects: Ken Woolley, Canberra, RAIA, 1985, p. 32.).

Moves are currently underway to relaunch the Pettit & Sevitt company, with a new range of project home designs.

Charles Pickett, curator Design & Society.


Credit Line

Gift of Ken Woolley, 2008

Acquisition Date

27 October 2008

Cite this Object


Archive relating to Pettit & Sevitt project homes 2023, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 1 June 2023, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Archive relating to Pettit & Sevitt project homes |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=1 June 2023 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


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