Hungarian architect Ervin Graf oam (1924–2002) was sent to a German labour camp during World War II. After the war, his initial application to enter Australia as an architect was rejected, and he successfully reapplied as a bricklayer, arriving in 1950.

In 1952 Graf subdivided a poultry farm in Sefton and built 19 houses, doing much of the labour himself. Meeting the postwar demand for low-cost housing, Graf expanded his projects and, with partner Albert Scheinberg, formed the Stocks & Holdings development company in 1952, later to become Stockland. In the next decades the company diversified into commercial and retail development, becoming one of Australia’s largest property groups.

Graf pioneered a number of Australian innovations, including medium-density housing; Australia’s first drive-in shopping centre, in 1961; and Sydney’s first underground pedestrian link, in the Imperial Arcade. The Park Regis tower (1968), on Park Street, Sydney, designed by Stockland’s architectural department (headed by Hungarian Frank Hoffer), was the tallest residential tower in the Southern Hemisphere at the time of its construction.

Below: Park Regis apartment tower, corner Park and Castlereagh Streets, Sydney. Max Dupain, 1968. Max Dupain & Associates Archive: 7779, State Library of NSW. ©Rio TintoGrafDupain

Posted by:Rebecca Hawcroft

Researcher of architecture and design history, Rebecca curated the 2017 Museum of Sydney exhibition The Moderns: European designers in Sydney and edited the book The Other Moderns (New South Press, 2017)

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