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Tuxen, Saxil (1885–1975)

by David Nichols

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

This is a shared entry with Saxil Ian Tuxen

Saxil Ian Tuxen (1919–1986), surveyor and town planner, was born on 22 August 1919 at Sandringham, Victoria, second of three children of Victorian-born parents Saxil Tuxen (1885-1975), surveyor and engineer, and his wife Eva Cuthbert, née Stedman. He was the third generation of the Tuxen family to achieve prominence in Victoria as a town planner. Saxil senior was born on 11 December 1885 at Kew, Victoria, son of Danish-born August Martin Julius Tuxen, surveyor, and his Victorian-born wife Elizabeth Julia, née Tuxen. August Tuxen, who immigrated to Victoria in 1867, had shown an early interest in the reform of land subdivision policy in Melbourne’s municipalities. Educated at University High School, Saxil trained as a surveyor and in 1909 co-wrote with his father a paper on ‘Subdivision of Land’ for the Institute of Surveyors, Victoria. On 24 December 1912 at St Paul’s Church, Euroa, he married Eva Stedman. He attended the town-planning lectures of C. C. Reade and W. R. Davidge in Melbourne in 1914 and became a founding member of the Town Planning Association of Victoria.

Beginning with the Hilltop Estate at Mont Albert (1916), Saxil Tuxen senior’s planning work for private developers displayed a responsiveness to landscape in preference to the grid pattern. He designed the extensive Merrilands Estate (1919) in Reservoir for the developer T. M. Burke, with distinct zones for business, recreation, education and governance, none of which eventuated. Nevertheless, the estate was a financial success and led to contracts from other developers. In 1924 Tuxen formed a partnership with George Miller and their firm surveyed Ranelagh, Mount Eliza, designed by Walter Burley Griffin. Tuxen and Miller also designed Park Orchards (1925) for the same developer.

In 1919 Tuxen had presented a paper on ‘Suburban Subdivisions’ at the First Victorian Town Planning Conference and Exhibition in Ballarat. This led the chairman of the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission, Frank Stapley, to invite him to serve on the commission as a technical expert (1923-29). He worked assiduously to promote the MTPC’s agenda. In 1925 he travelled to Canada and the United States of America, photographing examples of important urban features. Returning to Melbourne, he shared his findings in public lectures, radio broadcasts and newspaper articles.

Tuxen was president (1932-33) of the Institute of Surveyors, Victoria, during which time he wrote a series of articles for the Australian Surveyor titled ‘Design of Sub-division in Victoria’. He became disillusioned, however, by the Depression and the related failure of the MTPC to effect change. His business suffered a slump, but his interest in social causes flowered. He joined the Brotherhood of St Laurence soon after its inception. Working with F. Oswald Barnett, in 1936 he prepared maps indicating the locations of substandard housing in Melbourne for the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board. In 1938 he and Miller won a competition to design a housing commission estate at Fishermens Bend, Port Melbourne, known as Garden City.

Saxil Ian Tuxen, who preferred to be known as Bill, was studying to follow in his father’s footsteps when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 7 June 1940. Posted to the 2/1st Corps Field (later Army Topographical) Survey Company, he served in the Middle East in 1941-42 and Papua in 1942-43. During the latter deployment, he executed survey work on the Owen Stanley Range, rose to sergeant (1943) and contracted malaria. He was discharged from the AIF on 13 September 1945 in Melbourne. While working for his father, he gained a surveyor’s licence in 1948 and studied town planning at the University of Melbourne (DTRP, 1951). For the next seventeen years father and son worked together; in 1954 they jointly designed the concourse plan for the seaside suburb of Beaumaris. In 1953 Bill married Patricia Mavis Chinnery.

Eva Tuxen died in 1967 and Tuxen senior retired a short time later. Bill joined the Commonwealth Department of the Interior, where he executed cadastral surveys and, later, subdivision designs for Defence Service Homes estates. He contributed to the Institute of Surveyors’ journal Traverse; his article on ‘Subdivisional Design and Procedure’ (December 1976) reflected three generations of Tuxen experience in urban planning. With Leo Rivett of the University of Melbourne, he also became interested in the field of terrestrial photogrammetry. Retiring in 1984, he built a yacht and a cabin cruiser, and continued with his interests in painting and woodwork. Saxil Tuxen senior had died on 23 February 1975, survived by his second wife, Olive Elizabeth, née Birtchnell, whom he had married in 1970, and the daughter and two sons of his first marriage. Saxil Ian Tuxen died of acute myocardial infarction on 6 September 1986 at his Beaumaris home and was cremated. His wife and their two sons and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • E. W. Russell, The Slum Abolition Movement in Victoria (1972)
  • D. Nichols, `Saxil Tuxen Goes to America’, in R. Freestone (ed), The Twentieth Century Urban Planning Experience (1998), p 665
  • Traverse, no 49, 1975, p 12
  • D. Nichols, Leading Lights (PhD thesis, Deakin University, 2001)
  • B884, item VX23694 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

David Nichols, 'Tuxen, Saxil (1885–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tuxen-saxil-14890/text26079, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 23 July 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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