Vale David Yencken AO (1931-2019)

Inspirational in every sense of the word, Melbourne has lost a true visionary. The passing of David Yencken leaves an incredible legacy but also a bewildering vacuum - for over 50 years he championed the Australian environment, the nation’s heritage and excellence in design.

Portrait of David Yencken

Working in industry, politics and academia, he was a staunch advocate and activist, promoting better outcomes for strategic policy, innovation in implementation, design and practice across our cities and landscapes. He was a tireless advocate for good design, maintaining a focus on the power of design to shape our lives. He brought out the best in all who knew him and had a way of making people believe things were possible and that obstacles could and should be overcome. He did everything with integrity and sincerity and with a genuine willingness to help. His energy, his insight and his friendship will be hugely missed, but importantly, he will be remembered for anchoring design as a significant contributor to our cultural wellbeing.

David co-founded Merchant Builders in 1965, but before this he had already run his own gallery in Melbourne devoted to Australian painting (1956-57) as well as building and running one of the first motels in Australia, the Mitchell Valley Motel in Bairnsdale (1957-60). He also commissioned Robin Boyd to design the architecturally significant Black Dolphin Motel in Merimbula, NSW (1960-65). From 1982-87 he was secretary (Chief Executive) of the Ministry for Planning and Environment for the Victorian Government as well as the inaugural Chairman of the Australian Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). He represented Australia twice as a joint leader of the Australian Delegation to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 1980 and 81. He has also participated in numerous government bodies, including as Chairman of the Interim Committee on the National Estate (Commonwealth Government) in 1974-75. He was an author of the seminal Report on the National Estate (1974), which led to the establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission, which he chaired from 1975-81.

Tribute by Professor Alan Pert, Director, Melbourne School of Design

A Celebration of David Yencken’s Life:

The Faculty of Architecture Building & Planning, invite friends and colleagues to join us on Thursday 3rd October to pay tribute to Prof David Yencken. Prof Alan Pert and Prof Graeme Davison will join David’s family is saying a few words in recognition of David’s inspirational life and career.

Click here for further details.