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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Iwanoff, Iwan (1919–1986)

by Duncan Richards

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Iwan Iwanoff (1919-1986), architect, was born on 2 July 1919 at Küsstendil (Kyustendil), Bulgaria, elder son of Nickolai Iwanow, journalist and poet, and his wife Maria, née Schopowa. Raised in an artistic family, Iwan studied fine arts before undergoing military training. On his father’s advice, in 1941 he enrolled in architecture in Germany at the Technische Hochschule, Munich (Dip.Eng. And Arch., 1946). He graduated with high praise for an exceptional final project, a design for a chapel. Known as Iwan Nickolow Iwanow as a child, he changed his name to Iwan Nickoloff Iwanoff during his student years, and soon further simplified it to Iwan Iwanoff. In the difficult postwar years, he lived at Laufen, Bavaria, and supplemented his income by selling caricatures. On 25 October 1947 at the registrar office, Laufen, he married Dietlinde Hildegunde Zenns. In 1948-49 he worked with the modernist architect Emil Freymuth at Munich.

Migrating to Australia as part of the International Refugee Organization resettlement scheme, Iwanoff and his wife arrived at Fremantle, Western Australia, on 2 March 1950. He was offered employment as a draughtsman with Krantz & Sheldon, Perth, a large architectural firm specialising in the design of flats, and in time became senior draughtsman in charge of staff. He also took on private architectural projects. In 1956 he was naturalised. He worked with the Melbourne architectural firm of Yuncken, Freeman Bros, Griffiths & Simpson in 1960. After a visit to West Germany, where he was accepted as a member of the Bund Deutscher Architekten (Federation of German Architects), he returned in December 1961 to Krantz & Sheldon. In 1963 he obtained registration as an architect in Western Australia and Victoria, and immediately established the Studio of Iwanoff in Perth. He became an associate of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1964 and a fellow in 1972.

A gifted architect, Iwanoff had exceptional drawing abilities, an innovative `expressionistic’ approach to design and detailing and, above all, a conviction that architecture was an art. In 1963-86 his small office produced work of high quality, including numerous houses. His creative use of concrete blocks drew richness out of every aspect of the utilitarian. The Iwanoff house, Lifford Road, Floreat Park (1965-67), a combination of architectural office and living accommodation, is a fine example. He also designed shop fronts and interiors in central Perth, and one larger project, the civic administration centre and public library at Northam (1969-74).

Although dapper and charming, Iwanoff displayed many contradictions. He could be cautious with strangers but was outgoing with friends and clients. Architectural students regarded him as a friend and mentor. Despite his commitment to Australia Iwanoff remained a European in spirit, valuing the artistic traditions and standards of excellence that Europe represented and hopeful that Australians would aspire to these values. Survived by his wife and their two sons, he died of pneumonia on 7 October 1986 in Perth and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. In 1991 the Library and Information Service of Western Australia held an exhibition of his architectural drawings, most of which are held by the State Archives of Western Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Nichols and D. Richards, The Art of Architecture (1991)
  • S. Anderson and M. Nordeck (eds), Krantz & Sheldon (1996)
  • Architect, W.A., vol 25, no 4, 1985, p 22, and vol 26, no 4, 1986, p 20
  • D. Richards, `A Temple for Suburban Living’, Transition, no 44/45, 1994, p 48
  • Monument, Aug/Sept 2001, p 104
  • series A446, items 1955/26451 and 1960/35627, series A12014, item 252­253, and series K1331, item Iwanoff (National Archives of Australia)
  • Iwanoff papers (State Library of South Australia)
  • Krantz & Sheldon papers (State Library of South Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Duncan Richards, 'Iwanoff, Iwan (1919–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Iwanow, Iwan Nickolow

2 July 1919
Kyustendil, Bulgaria


7 October 1986
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage