Ross Thorne


Ross Thorne graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Sydney in 1955. His graduation thesis was on acoustic design. He went into private practice, taking time off for the NSW Board of Architects Bursary (1955) and Byera Hadley Traveling Scholarship (1956), traveling overseas in 1957-58.

He carried out private practice commissions in architecture and acoustics until 1980. He was employed as a lecturer at the University of Sydney from 1961, being promoted to senior lecturer (1966), and associate professor (1973) after obtaining a Masters degree for research into Australian theatre buildings. He experimented with new methods of teaching architecture to first year in the 1960’s and fourth year in the early seventies, but from that time to retirement in 1998, he concentrated on administration as well as research into a number of areas, including theatre and cinema buildings and their audiences, office, recreation and housing. For many of these years he worked jointly with environmental psychologists.

Ten of his publications were examined internationally and resulted in his being awarded the higher doctorate in architecture in 1997.


Ross was born in Sydney in 1931 and spent most of his youth living in a variety of houses on the north shore of the city. It was still a time when the milkman delivered raw, unpasteurised milk from a horse and cart. Sewers were rare: the middle class had septic tanks but the rest of the population had their waste taken away every week in a small, open drum.

“My family lived four miles from Turramurra Station, amongst market gardens and orchards and we had to dig a hole in the back yard every week to bury the waste contents of our ‘pan’. In one house we collected cow pats from a neighbouring field to make ‘liquid manure’ for my mother’s war time vegetable garden. It was a time of food and petrol rationing.”

As a student of architecture Ross designed a house in Fox Valley Road Wahroonga for his parents. It was selected for exhibition at the 1956 Olympic Games Arts Festival in Melbourne.

Since the 1960’s Ross has lived in a house at Palm Beach he designed himself and has added to over the years to accommodate developing academic interests.

Ross has also been an active film maker since the age of 16, mainly on topics related to architecture, cinemas and theatres. One of his early efforts at film-making was to record the architecture 1950s models of buildings designed by architecture students for exhibition downtown in 1951 and 1954.

He continues to do consultancy work on select heritage cinema and theatre projects, If they interest him.


Ross Thorne in the late 1970's in Turkey

Ross Thorne with video camera 2005

Ross Thorne aged 15

Ross Thorne and car aged 10