Exterior of Tusculum, Orwell Street, Potts Point.

Exterior of Tusculum, Orwell Street, Potts Point. Photo (c) Douglas Riley for Sydney Living Museums


Focus Tour - Saturday 2 November

Potts Point




John Verge

Additional architects

Clive Lucas & Partners (c1980, Villa restoration and additional building)

Tusculum is a very fine Regency villa, completed in 1835 for Sydney merchant Alexander Brodie Sparks, and designed by the then fashionable architect John Verge. It is one of only three of Verge’s villas erected on Woolloomooloo Hill (now Potts Point) to remain from the early nineteenth century, along with nearby Rockwall and Elizabeth Bay House. Originally sitting on a 2 acre lot (0.8 Hectares) the house became hemmed in by apartments during the 1920s when these large estates were subdivided and redeveloped.

After languishing neglected for many decades Tusculum was finally saved from demolition in the 1980s when it was it was leased to the Australian Institute of Architects and extensively restored by Clive Lucas and Partners as the institute’s headquarters. Extensive visitor and office facilities were added in a beautifully integrated new building by local architect Neil Durbach, which responds strongly and sensibly to the urban setting and the context of the historic building.

Tour experience

This guided tour will take visitors through the site, starting with an exploration of the original two-storey Victorian villa and ending with the new addition at the rear, built to provide a home and facilities for the Institute of Architects and described by a jury of members as 'an outstanding design with the level of quality and creativity one might hope to find in a building of an Institute of Architects ... It has a rare level of elegance and finesse and represents a high point of architecture’.


Jyoti Somerville

Jyoti Somerville, GML Heritage Associate, is an architectural conservation expert with over 30 years’ experience in built heritage conservation. Her expertise is focused on heritage assessments and conservation policies for buildings and their settings, ranging from large complex sites to individual buildings.

She was first introduced to Tusculum in her final year of architectural studies at the University of Sydney when she prepared a research report on the building’s history – including significant early owners and its context among the villas of Woolloomooloo Hill – as well as its architecture and conservation needs. Further research and development of a Conservation Plan was carried out by Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners, extending and updating the material and researches of Jyoti’s earlier study.

Robert Gasparini

Robert Gasparini is a registered architect and Associate with Design 5 – Architects since 2007 and member of Australia ICOMOS. Robert has close to 20 years of postgraduate architectural experience and is involved in a broad range of projects including new buildings, architectural conservation, adaptive re-use, masterplanning, heritage assessment, heritage policy and policy implementation. Robert also has considerable site experience in overseeing works of various scales from small slab cottages to multi-storey commercial developments.

With Design 5, Robert has participated in and led design teams on projects that have received architectural and conservation awards, most recently the 2018 Australian Institute of Architects Greenway Award and Lachlan Macquarie Award for the Joynton Avenue Creative Precinct in collaboration with Peter Stutchbury Architecture. Robert was also part of a team that won the 2015 Greenway Award for the Abbey (Johnson Street, Annandale) and the 2012 Greenway Award for Exeter Farm Cottage in Glenwood.

Robert has been involved with Tusculum since 2012 as conservation architect and heritage advisor for ongoing conservation, maintenance and repairs as needed. This has included relining of the central box gutter, minor interior repairs and upgrades, rising damp and site drainage, French polishing and repainting.

  • Historical image of Tusculum, View of Villa from Manning.
  • Exterior photograph of Tusculum, View of Villa and the extended new building.

Key information

Session duration

45 mins


This tour has a capacity of 25 people per session.

Visitor requirements

Please arrive 10 minutes before the start of your tour.

Punctuality is important as once the tour has begun it cannot be joined.

This tour involves stairs, please wear comfortable, enclosed shoes.

to know

  • Photography allowed

  • Toilets available


Tusculum's involvement in Sydney Open has been made possible by The Australian Institute of Architects.