Brian Suters AM honoured for architectural legacy

23 Mar 2022

An architectural legacy that spans more than half a century has earned Brian Suters AM the city's highest honour.

The award-winning architect has been named a Freeman of the City in recognition of his significant contribution to Newcastle's built form and enduring commitment to mentoring the next generation.

Fittingly, the honour was conferred within the walls of the updated Civic Playhouse, which Brian designed for City of Newcastle in 2004.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Brian's work had helped shape the way we see Newcastle today and would continue to be appreciated for generations to come.

"The mark Brian has left on our built form, and our cultural landscape, has quite literally defined part of the city’s look and feel," Cr Nelmes said.

"His legacy is evident throughout the city, from our striking Brutalist former City Administration Centre, which has recently been reborn as Newcastle' first five-star hotel, to the modern surrounds of the Civic Playhouse and the remarkable Bauhaus-influence design of his own former family home on Wolfe Street, which won the prestigious Blacket Award for Architecture in 1980.

"Naming Brian a Freeman of the City is a well-deserved honour that recognised the significance of his many architectural contributions to Newcastle and his ongoing commitment to mentoring younger generations of architects."

Born in Sydney in 1937, Brian and his family returned to his mother's home city of Newcastle during World War II when he was aged five.

Educated at Hamilton Primary School and Newcastle Boys High School, he later studied at Newcastle Technical College and graduated from the University of NSW, having been awarded the University Medal on the completion of his architecture studies.

After winning the Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship, he moved overseas with his wife Kay and lived in London and Europe for two-and-a-half years before returning to Newcastle to pursue his architecture career.

Brian acknowledged the role City of Newcastle played in his career and said he was thrilled, more than half a century later, to be honoured as a Freeman of the City.

“Newcastle has been the main spring of my success as an architect and the basis of my community participation," Brian said.

"Back in 1964 when I returned to Australia from living overseas, my wife and I chose to return to Newcastle to pursue our careers and family life. It was a critical decision and now this honour vindicates that decision.

“My career took off with the architectural work on the Civic Fountain where I worked with the competition winner, sculptor Margel Hinder and her artist husband Frank Hinder.

“He strongly emphasised the need in architecture for collaboration - from concept to completion.

"It marked the beginning of a long period of major works for City of Newcastle and on the back of this our practice acquired many other significant commissions.

"At the time of my retirement in 2010, Suters Architects had offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns, and associations with international practices in Malaysia, UK and France.

"Our practice would not have achieved this recognition without my beloved Newcastle, so I am honoured and delighted to be named a Freeman of the City."

Brian joins an esteemed list of 14 other Novocastrians to be awarded the City’s highest honour including writer, philanthropist and historian Vera Deacon, community volunteer Howard Mole and Surfest co-founder Warren Smith.