Modernist Icon

Painted for the Black Swan Prize for Heritage

Exhibited in 2015 at Harvison Gallery, Brisbane St, Perth

Winner of the Black Swan Prize for Heritage 2014

Council House is a striking modernist style building on St Georges Terrace in Perth which was built in 1963.

Watts visited Perth in 1983 and remembers photographing many of the cities tall office towers, including Council House. At the time Watts was studying Building at The University of Melbourne and was fascinated by big cities, tall buildings and brutalist architecture. Watts had love of concrete, especially pre-cast concrete but also liked glass and steel structures so found Council House a very impressive combination of these elemants.

Council House with its stark style is really a significant example of brutalism. It has a concrete encased steel structure and full height glass external wall cladding and is reported as the first building in Perth to have such curtain walling. Most striking are the large external T-sections which alternate powerfully across the buildings facades. These are non-structural elements but none the less they serve a vital purpose in the design of this building as they provide sun shading to the full height windows – fulfilling the brutalist criteria in every sense as being functionalist architecture.

Escaping demolition orders in the 1990s by the State Government, after heritage listing was refused, it is good to see that this building has been renovated and was finally entered on the Heritage Register in 2006.


Council House was an obvious choice for Watts when she was considering what to paint for the Black Swan Heritage Prize. The Prize as artists to depict an aspect of the heritage of Perth city, defining heritage as “those things from the past which are valued enough today to save for the people of tomorrow”

In this work Watts wanted the painting to focus on the the T-sections which give the building its unique character and so removed the lower portion of the building from the composition. Setting the building to one side of the canvas allowed an even stronger emphasis on the T-sections which boldly fill roughly the first third of the work. This is followed by the angled side of the building which gives the T-sections an abstract form, of dark and light receding structural elements, thereby placing a wide, almost monotone, band central on the left third of the composition. A clear sunny blue Perth sky confidently finishes the painting reflecting the buildings now assured future.

Watts was presented with the $20,000 Etihad Airways Heritage Prize at the Awards evening on Friday 17 October 2014 by Wayne, Borland Business Development Manager,Asia Pacific South & Australasia of Etihad Airways. Watts would like to thank Etihad Airways for sponsoring the Heritage Prize and also the organisers Black Swan Prize in partnership with Heritage Perth.

In 2015 “Modernist Icon” was exhibited at Harvison Gallery in Perth along with a number of other previous architecture-inspired works.

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