Better the Devlin You Know

Geelong & Surf Coast Living Magazine, Provincial Media.

As a former Geelong school rises from ruin, Kristie Hayden meets its namesake, Dr Stuart Devlin, and pays homage to the career of one of Geelong’s most remarkable sons. Photo by  Patrick Lichfield. Geelong & Surf Coast Living magazine. Winter 2016.

It’s 1965, and Ford of Britain celebrates the launch of the Mk IV Zodiac and Zephyr in a short film now archived in the British National Motor Museum. As creator of the cars’ fine-silver “marks of distinction”, Stuart Devlin is pronounced, “a brilliant young silversmith designer, combining the skill of a craftsman with the creative imagination of a sculptor,” drawing a comparison between Stuart’s sophisticated artistry and exceptional car design.

Stuart was born in 1931 and raised in Kilgour Street Geelong. Educated at Moorabool Street’s then Gordon Junior Technical School, he practiced a craft that would send him to London in 1964 to become one of the greatest living goldsmiths of his time, designing treasures for corporations, celebrities and royalty alike. The Queen’s jewellers at Collingwood’s described Stuart as, “the greatest designer in gold and silver since the incomparable Paul de Lamerie in the 18th century.”

His most patriotic accolade came in 1966 when he won a competition to design the ‘tails’ of Australia’s newly minted decimal coinage, his sketches soon bulging the purses of all Australians. Fifty years on, Stuart is honoured as his former school rises from disrepair to grandeur and named in honour of its most notable graduate. The Devlin Apartments epitomise Stuart’s personal adage of heralding the future while respecting the past.

Now in his early eighties, from his home in Chichester England, Stuart says: “I am surprised and delighted that my old school has been redeveloped in such a pleasing way and flattered that the building has been given my family name.” Fondly recalling his school days, Stuart credits teacher, Mr “Mini” Malott who encouraged his creative side. And headmaster, Rex Cutter, who persuaded Stuart, then head prefect, to pursue a technical path rather than university.

A metalwork scholarship at just 13-years-old commended Stuart to his art and over the following seven decades he would enrich lives through exquisite craftsmanship.

The Gordon Junior Technical School, built in the mini-boom of post-war 1926, was hailed a progressive public educational facility. Despite a chequered history that saw a jerry-built post WW2 extension, sporadic vacancy and certain ruin, the building never lost its majesty.

Thanks to the vision of developer Phil Petch of Integrated Development Solutions and a local consulting team (BDH Constructions, architect Mark Gratwick, engineer John Gumienik and talented joiners), the heritage-listed school was reborn in March this year as Geelong’s first 4.5-star accommodation.

The Devlin Apartments sit proudly in our city as a truly beautiful architectural masterpiece. A self-confessed history buff, Phil says: “What we bought was an old u-shaped 1920’s building and what we found was fascinating.” Wading through the tumble littered by decades, over the course of a year his team had painstakingly unveiled the historic beauty of the structure, quadruple-brick walls and all.

As part of the 2016 National Trust Heritage Festival, The Devlin Apartments received a heritage award; the once rowdy classrooms now a remarkable testament to a time when Geelong eagerly trained boys for its thriving manufacturing sector.

Photo 18-03-2016-2

Georgian Revival meets contemporary chic across 37 luxurious self-contained short-stay apartments and rooms. Loft ‘New Yorker’ apartments boast meticulously finished original high ceilings and statement arched windows. Elegant soft furnishings and sheer curtains add a luxury unsurpassed in Geelong. ‘The Industrial’ apartments feature utilitarian design softened by chic neutral colour palettes. In ‘The Modernist’ apartments, expansive balconies merge with relaxed interiors and statement artworks.

So next time you call “tails”, remember the boy from Geelong whose prized collection jingles in our pockets and whose life’s work propelled goldsmith design into the future adorning motor cars, Australian wildlife and a queen along the way.

And now standing proud in central Geelong, an honour for Stuart’s twilight years. The Devlin’s in the detail. The memories in the corridors.

Unsung Hero Stuart Devlin’s Biography