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Byron Shire
May 30, 2023

Jason Smith: A building life, 25 April 1947 – 1 April 2023

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Jason Smith, 25 April 1947 – 1 April 2023.

Jason and his twin sisters grew up in Vaucluse, and his surfing life began at Bondi. When his parents moved to Balgowlah he started surfing on the north shore. Jason was a natural athlete and a very talented football player who played centre for the Eastern suburbs in Sydney Rugby Union. Later he excelled at golf and tennis.

Jason used to come to Byron Bay in the mid ‘60s, stay in caravan parks in town and surf The Pass. He moved up north permanently in 1971 and with mates rented a little cottage from Keith Flick, a kindly dairy farmer.

Vegetarian restaurant

The nearby Newrybar bakery (now Harvest) was operating then and you could wake up early and get a fresh loaf out of the oven. Jason’s flatmates found a two-storey shop in Bangalow for rent at $13 a week. It was an old doctor’s surgery opposite Draper’s house on the main street. They decided to open the Good Earth Restaurant, the first vegetarian restaurant in Bangalow.

After the restaurant closed Jason moved to Mt Warning where a friend had a farm. Jason had studied architecture at East Sydney Tech while the Sydney Opera House was being built. He was a regular visitor during its build.

In The Pocket he lived with Stephen and Linda Ash, and next to Geoff and Elsbeth Williams, for many years. His wonderfully simple designs at this time were much influenced by the work of Glenn Murcutt. His building work was excellent and he always had work in NSW as well as spending much time building houses in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa and Reunion Island.

Jason Smith, 25 April 1947 – 1 April 2023.

Winning architect

Jason built many houses for so many people here in the Northern Rivers. His building was practical and beautiful such as Eljay’s large house at Possum Creek (a Paul Witzig design), the Ken Hilliar house in Coorabell (it won the Hardwood Timber House of the Year), artist Reg Buckland’s in Rylestone and Nat Young’s house at Nymboida, which tragically burnt down in the 2019 bushfires. They were buildings his clients loved to be in, full of warmth and generous space.

Jason loved wood and used it to the best effect. He was an early proponent of design for passive solar and would spend time looking at the angles of the sun prior to drawing plans so as to achieve the best aspect for passive solar. The people who continue to live in his houses say how much they love being in them.

Jason’s love of the water included scuba diving, and he worked for Sundive for a time in Byron as the boat skipper and dive instructor.

Forced move from Feros Byron

In later years he was living at Broken Head. For the last year or so Jason lived at Feros Village in Byron Bay, until his last week when he was forced to move from there.

Jason was the most determined person when it came to battling his Parkinson’s disease. Walking around Wategos and Clarkes beaches he found great relief in the people he knew. He had thrived at Feros, continuing to surf, swim, do Tai Chi, do brain games and took up drawing portraits and painting watercolours. Of course, he was good at it.

Most of all the ocean was his best friend.

His legacy lives on in the houses he built for people.

There will be a commemoration of Jason’s life at a date to be announced.

♦ Compiled by Tricia Shantz with input from Noel Parker and Michael Leach.

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  1. A beautiful and important acknowledgement of this fellows life. I wondered about his life story when I regularly saw him at Feros. Yes, determinedly enjoying every ounce of his waning physicality. Always a happy interaction with him.
    Lovingly remembered.

  2. Vale Jason clever and beautiful man. You should never have been exposed to the meanness of the Feros Corporate delusion. Know you are much loved by the Byron community. Forever peace.


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