E.H. (Eddie) Oribin

Oribin House IV

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House IV


E.H. (Eddie) Oribin

Designed and built


Design Architect

E.H. (Eddie) Oribin


E.H. (Eddie) Oribin


2816 Bates Road, Torrington


2/3 Bedroom, Study, 1 Bath, 1 Car

Internal area (approx.)

170 sq m / 1,830 sq ft

Land area (approx.)

3,055 sq m / 32,884 sq ft


© Tamara Graham



Torrington, a small former hard-rock tin mining town in the NSW Northern Highlands, is today a quiet hamlet that still attracts fossickers searching for beautiful topaz, tourmaline and quartz crystals.

Torrington also houses a small architectural gem, a linear crystalline house designed and built by the Queensland architect Eddie Oribin in 1997, his seventieth year. Oribin is an astounding architect, best known for his earlier work in tropical Cairns, but also an inventor, pilot, musician, explorer and adventurer. After living in Stanthorpe for a decade, the raw beauty of Torrington’s granite-strewn landscape attracted Oribin to hand-build this house for himself and his wife Joyce in time for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

The house is a genuine retreat, set back from the road, with only two doors to the exterior and no conventional windows visible. From the driveway there is an indirect arrival sequence, along carefully fashioned timber paths, between granite outcrops to the southern balcony.

Doors lead into the very internalised dining and kitchen spaces. The battened ceiling volume drops to a long, low, angled bay where a vertical side wall would normally have been expected. This lowered space transforms abruptly into a steeply gabled central living room; a space flooded with light on both sides from north- and south- facing clerestory windows. From this six metre high volume the roof and ceiling drops again as one moves through the bath and dressing spaces to the spacious bedroom, returning to the polygonal form of the southern rooms. The bedroom leads out into a small northern solarium shaped like tube in order to catch the winter sun from dawn to dusk.

The raw beauty of Torrington’s granite-strewn landscape attracted Oribin to hand-build this house for himself and his wife.”

Viewings by appointment

Modern House Estate Agents
Telephone toll-free: 1300 814 768
Email: viewings@modernhouse.co



Edwin H Oribin, born in 1927, is one of the most remarkable and inventive of Australian architects.

Eddie’s childhood and schooling in Cairns was interrupted by World War II. In the war effort he started work as a youth at Allison Aircraft factory in Brisbane, sparking a life-long passion for flight. From 1944, the young Eddie had an intense introduction to architecture and construction as the articled pupil of Sid Barnes, Chief Architect during the war of the Allied Works Council for North Queensland. On completing his articles with Barnes, Oribin moved to Brisbane with his wife, Joyce. Working in the Commonwealth Department of Works by day, and studying by night, Oribin passed at his first sitting in 1952 the nine architectural practice exams designed to test five years of study.

In 1953, after registration as an architect, Oribin formed a partnership with his earlier mentor, practicing as SG Barnes and Oribin. Following Barnes’ death in 1959, Oribin continued sole practice from his own studio in Cairns producing a remarkable series of churches, public buildings and houses across Far North Queensland over the next twenty years.

The church commissions allowed Oribin an opportunity to experiment with structural and spatial geometries. The Proserpine Church of England (1959) is Australia’s first parabolic laminated timber arch church. The Mareeba Methodist Church (1960) is an intricately screened square building, planned and dramatically roofed on the diagonal. The Innisfail Presbyterian Church (1960) is a lofty A-frame structure with triangulated trussing and details. The Mareeba Shire Hall (1959-61) is an arched laminated timber portal vault. The landmark Hides Hotel (1967-69) has since been substantially altered, and in the Cairns Civic Centre (1972-74) only the interiors reflect Oribin’s strong design input.

The private houses of Oribin’s practice are also remarkable for their spatial and formal variety; ranging from Carnes’ hexagonal house (1960), the lightweight vaults of the Tanner House (1962), both ordered and rustic garden houses for Lavers (1972, 1981), the radial form of the Parker House (1973) or the poly-centric cylinders of the Cserey House (1979).


The greatest record of Oribin’s development as an inventive and original architect is seen in the progression of four houses that he built for himself and his family between 1957 and 1997. During this period he also undertook substantial alterations and additions to older residences he occupied in Melbourne and Brisbane, and created marvelous houses for his clients, but his four original houses are of particular significance.

The first Oribin House built in 1958 in Whitfield, Cairns, was strongly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses and particularly his use of the triangular planning grid, the highly-innovative concrete slab on ground and pursuit of a pervasive spatial and decorative order. In 1960 Oribin built the adjacent Studio, based on Wright’s diamond plan geometries, with a louvre-shaded inclined prow recalling Wrights First Unitarian Society Meeting House of 1949-51. Oribin’s most particular innovation is adapting these principles for application in the wet tropics.

The third Oribin House was built in Stanthorpe in 1986-87 as three pavilions arranged in the landscape in a Japanese mode. The intriguingly concave roof line and concave and convex ceiling linings are achieved by an inventive laminated plywood construction portal system. As the first new building by Oribin for a colder climate, the house incorporates innovative insulation and heating strategies.

Modern House: Oribin House IV by E.H. (Eddie) Oribin

Modern House: Oribin House IV by E.H. (Eddie) Oribin

The fourth Oribin House at Torrington draws together many of the themes of Ed’s architecture. Constructed in 1997 when the architect was seventy, the house draws together many of the themes that had influenced the architect through his life in a way that is quite distinctive.

The house is built directly on a large flattish granite outcrop. The underfloor posts are bolted directly to the rock. The huge boulder forms a prominent base; the smaller surrounding boulders providing a strong setting for arrival at the house.

In 2013, the house and studio was presented the Queensland Award for Enduring Architecture by the Australian Institute of Architects. The second Oribin House in Edge Hill, Cairns, of 1973-75, was an even more radical approach to tropical living. A slightly elevated living room floor sits beneath a spreading timber shingle roof and opens directly, without walls, to an encircling landscaped garden screened under a roof of mesh.

Viewings by appointment

Modern House Estate Agents
Telephone toll-free: 1300 814 768
Email: viewings@modernhouse.co