History

About David Roche

David J Roche AM (1930–2013), a collector for almost sixty years, spent his lifetime developing what has become The David Roche Collection. The collection, which spans the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and includes European furniture, ceramics, metal ware, clocks and paintings, is remarkable in its quality and range. It contains many luxury works by leading designers displaying exquisite workmanship, as well as the quirky and playful, and as such reflects the many interests and engaging personality of its creator.

The opportunity for David to form such a collection came from the business acumen and success of his father, J.D.K. (Jack) Roche (1901–58). J.D.K. Roche founded the Adelaide Development Company, a property development business in 1922. He then moved to Perth where David Roche was born in 1930, the fourth of six children, two boys and four girls. David Roche’s first schooling was in Perth, and later in Adelaide. He then attended Geelong Grammar School in Victoria for his secondary schooling. After school he was sent to work on the family property in WA, but the isolation convinced him he was not suited to a farming life.

David went to work briefly in the family firm’s Perth office before returning to work in the Adelaide office. At this time the Adelaide Development Company was situated in Grenfell Street. Opposite was the auction firm, Theodore Bruce & Co. David began to attend auction sales gaining experience in bidding in the late 1940s and into the 50s. This was the beginning of a long self-education in art, particularly in the decorative arts and, above all, in furniture and ceramics. David continued to upgrade his collection until his death in 2013.

Image: David Roche in the Roman Room, Fermoy House, 2008. Photograph by David Mariuz for the BRW list.

The David Roche Foundation

The David Roche Foundation was established in 1999 by the late Mr David J Roche AM (1930–2013) to be the recipient and custodian of the exceptional collection of antiques, paintings and objets d’art accumulated by him over his lifetime and to be preserved for future generations.

A devoted collector of antiques and fine art, David was acknowledged both in Australia and abroad as a renowned collector. He often referred to himself as an ‘enthusiastic buff’. As such, he was made very welcome by antique merchants from emporiums around the world. His entire life was spent acquiring mostly what he thought essential and all items were acquired with a place in mind.

From toys, money boxes and naïve items to the finest of porcelains, paintings and furnishing items – he loved them all. It is fair to say that David rarely let a day go by without adding another ‘essential’ piece to his collection. It was his heartfelt wish to gift his collection to the people of Australia with a hope that visitors would leave having found a favourite piece to remember.

David always worried that no matter what he had that someone, somewhere would have a far better example. In reality, the collection that he amassed is one of the finest of its type.

Architect’s Statement 2015

Any building to house David Roche’s collection needed to encompass what was clearly a very personal journey. In that context, by housing the collection within the former residence, Fermoy House and a new purpose-designed museum on-site, David’s vision to continue the tradition of a great ‘House Museum’ can be fulfilled.

The German neoclassical architecture of Karl Friedrich Schinkel was a favourite of David Roche. The rigour and proportion of Schinkel, his approach to classical planning as embodied in his works such as Glienicke Palace or Charlottenhof Palace, and the importance of his buildings’ relationship to landscape and courtyard is equally relevant as the classical order or the neoclassic style of many of his buildings.

This classical rigour permeates throughout the new physical additions to Fermoy House. It has also been used to order the galleries and set a ‘Classical Context’ for sculptural pieces in the Great Foyer fronting Melbourne Street, via a stripped internal Classical facade. This provides a contextual balance for the ‘folly’ in the lobby, a reconstruction of a pavilion that formally resided as a backdrop to the pool at the rear of Fermoy House and was inspired by Schinkel’s Pomona Temple facade, which remained David’s favourite building.

The visitor enters between the former Residence and the new Museum, into a light filled contemporary lobby. Fermoy House remains in much the same state as when David Roche was in residence, displaying elements of his collection in the context of his lifestyle. In contrast, the new Museum is the antithesis of this with curated displays in a stylised context within a totally black envelope. Appreciating the collection is enhanced by the surprise and delight that is achieved by the simple ordering of space, managing of vistas, and subtle and persuasive nature of controlled light.

Celebrated designer, Victor Papenek, noted that ‘the only important thing about design is how it relates to people’ and The David Roche Foundation House Museum is designed to inspire and illuminate our own relationship to beauty and art through David Roche’s life-time of collecting.

Williams Burton Leopardi – Architects, Adelaide, 2015

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