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Conrad, Arnold Henry (1887–1979)

by Don Watson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Arnold Henry Conrad (1887-1979), architect, was born on 6 January 1887 at Clifton Hill, Melbourne, second son of Henry Ferdinand Conrad, a surveyor from Prussia, and his native-born wife Ellen, née Bower. Articled to the architect Edwin J. Ruck, Arnold attended the Working Men's College, Melbourne, and remained with him after qualifying. In 1911 he moved to Queensland and entered the Department of Public Works as a temporary draftsman; next year he joined the Brisbane firm, H. W. Atkinson & C. McLay.

From 1912 Conrad taught at the Central Technical College, imparting his considerable structural and constructional knowledge to a generation of Brisbane architects. He shifted to Warwick in 1917 to establish his own practice and was commissioned by the Presbyterian Church to design new secondary schools. Next year he rejoined his former firm which became Atkinson & Conrad. Highly successful, the partnership undertook numerous projects that ranged from residential and educational to commercial and industrial buildings: foremost among them were the Trades Hall, the 'Spanish mission' style Craigston (Brisbane's first high-rise apartment block) and a warehouse for W. D. & H. O. Wills Ltd, a multi-storey building with a complete concrete frame.

Following their appointment in 1926 as architects to the Brisbane and South Coast Hospital Board, the practice was merged with Lange L. Powell as Atkinson, Powell & Conrad. On 22 December 1927 Conrad married 26-year-old Hilda Mary Scorer at Scots Church, Melbourne. While he was overseas investigating hospital design, controversy over the erection of the firm's initial building at the hospital led to a royal commission into public hospitals in 1930. The commission recommended that, to avoid architectural fees, the design of public hospitals should revert to the Department of Public Works, but the commission's chairman submitted a minority finding which favoured the firm. Without Powell, Atkinson and Conrad subsequently retained the patronage of the board. They designed Brisbane General Hospital, and hospitals at South Brisbane and Chermside.

Credited with popularizing the 'Spanish mission' style in Brisbane, Conrad may have acquired his interest from his former master Ruck who pioneered the style in Melbourne. Craigston predated Conrad's visit to California, United States of America, in 1928, as did the work of other local exponents such as E. P. Trewern. With Atkinson, Conrad was to apply the style to many large projects, including the B.G.H. nurses' quarters, Tristram's soft-drink factory and the Greek Orthodox Church. Another of their important projects—designed in association with (Sir) Arthur Stephenson and Percy Meldrum—was the Courier-Mail newspaper headquarters, the first modern office-building erected (1936) in the capital.

When Atkinson died in 1938, T. B. F. Gargett entered the partnership and the firm dominated architectural practice in Brisbane for another thirty years. Shortly before his retirement in December 1974, Conrad designed and drafted proposals for an organ loft in St John's Cathedral, Brisbane. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1977. A councillor (1920-25) and fellow of the Queensland Institute of Architects, he was a life fellow and vice-president (1934) of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died on 13 February 1979 at Auchenflower and was buried with Anglican rites in Pinaroo lawn cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Royal Commision into Public Hospitals, Report, Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1929-30, 2nd session, 1
  • Architecture and Building Journal of Queensland, 10 Nov 1928, p 60
  • Queensland Architect, May-June 1971, no 2, p 4
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 14 Feb 1979
  • Dept of Public Works, staff file on A. H. Conrad (Queensland State Archives)
  • A. H. Conrad, unpublished memoir (privately held).

Citation details

Don Watson, 'Conrad, Arnold Henry (1887–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/conrad-arnold-henry-9814/text17351, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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