Manning Clark House Virtual Tour

Welcome to Manning Clark House – the former home of Australia’s best-known historian Professor Manning Clark and linguist and educator Dymphna Clark. Located at 11 Tasmania Circle, Canberra, the house was designed by iconic mid-century architect Robin Boyd in 1952. 

Both Manning and Robin were pre-eminent writers and thinkers in the fields of history and architecture, respectively, and shared similar perspectives. Both sought to explore a uniquely antipodean approach and narrative rather than imitate their international counterparts. Boyd’s design for the Clark home provided an ideal environment to support the principles Manning and Dymphna valued: hospitality, hard work, rigorous debate and a connection to nature. 

This digital hybrid experience, part architectural tour, part oral history, shares over 30 reminiscences, commentaries and observations from Clark family members, academics, historians, biographers, architects, writers, broadcasters, curators, volunteers and visitors. A virtual house filled with stories from the Clarks’ extraordinary life. 

The Manning Clark House 3D tour is a partnership between the Robin Boyd Foundation, Manning Clark House Inc and the Alastair Swayn Foundation and supported by Arup and Phoria. 

The Robin Boyd Foundation, Manning Clark House Inc and the Alastair Swayn Foundation would like to thank the volunteers whose contributions made the 3D tour possible; from the Robin Boyd Foundation, especially Tim Isaacson, Jonathan Russell, and also the many supporters of Manning Clark House.

Manning Clark House by Robin Boyd received the Sir Roy Grounds Award for Enduring
Architecture at this year’s ACT Architecture Awards.

Chapter Award
The Sir Roy Grounds Award for Enduring Architecture
Chapter Jury Citation
Robin Boyd – Designed – 1952; Constructed – 1953

69 years after its completion Manning Clark House remains remarkably intact and embodies many design features which were innovative for its time, but are now accepted as sound design and sustainable features for modern houses.

The site was selected by Manning Clark in 1951 shortly after arriving in Canberra to take up a
position in the History Department at Australian National University. The house was designed in
1952 with construction completed in 1953.

The House
The house is sited along the high side of a north sloping block, taking advantage of the north aspect and outlook to the well laid out garden. The house is of simple masonry construction, with bagged walls painted light grey with charcoal trim, timber framed windows and metal deck roof.

Two separate parallel wings divide the living and sleeping areas, which are connected by a glass
walled passage and entrance. Either side of this passage is a courtyard, one facing north and the
other (the main entrance) facing south. The walls of the south courtyard are brick grills, screening
the windows of the bathroom on one side and the laundry on the other.

Positioned over the entrance is the study, which meets Manning Clark’s original requirements for an isolated work area. Access to the study is by a very steep flight of steps. The study contains a large portion of Manning Clark’s extensive library and is a significant element of the house.
The living room, study and two bedrooms face north and have an outlook through big windows
shielded by white louvred eaves. The living area incorporates the dining room and kitchen under the pitched roof which slopes upwards, following the stepped-up level of the kitchen and adjacent laundry and utility room. The exposed beams of the ceiling were originally painted white against a galah pink ceiling, while the unplastered brick walls were painted grey.

The Grounds

The garden was designed and created by Dymphna and Manning Clark, with the assistance of their family. It may be divided into three distinct, yet related areas including the vegetable patch and chook shed, the garden between the house and Tasmania Circle and the terraced lawns below the house which finish at the japonica hedge, and which is overlooked by the study.
The two courtyards created by the peninsula of the house are each softened by their own distinctive climbers. The courtyard facing the entrance of the house features the ornamental grape (Vitis alicante), and the courtyard onto which Manning Clark’s study looked, is framed by wisteria.


Boyd’s placing of the house pavilions and ancillary buildings along the site contours helped to
minimise site disturbance through earthworks but it did result in some intriguing spaces relating to the house. One such issue lead to the early change of the original garage for its intended purpose and the installation of the carport.

Furniture and Objects

Manning Clark House contains a substantial number of objects from its period of occupation by
Manning and Dymphna Clark and their family. These range from furniture and other household
objects to artworks, books and documents. This remains a part of the functional house.
This is a modest house designed by eminent Australian architect Robin Boyd for an eminent
Australian historian Manning Clark and his 6 children in the 1950s incorporated northern orientation with substantial glass to the north making it solar passive. It integrates well with the landscape and functions well despite the size of the family.

The quality of design has meant few changes over the life of the house with original finishes, colours and even most of the kitchen remaining. Clever ideas such as the sliding door between the dining and living spaces improve functionality enormously.

This house was ahead of its period and remains a quality design and illustrates the fact that quality architecture is enduring and Manning Clark House is a worthy winner in 2022.

Jury for the 2022 Sir Roy Grounds Award for Enduring Architecture consisted of:
Eric Martin LFRAIA (Jury Chair) – Eric Martin & Associates
Nicholas Goodwin RAIA – SQC Group
Anna Leeson – GML Heritage

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