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Dellit, Charles Bruce (1898–1942)

by Richard E. Apperly and Peter Reynolds

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

Charles Bruce Dellit (1898-1942), architect, was born on 7 November 1898 at Darlington, Sydney, son of Albert Dellit, a furniture manufacturer from Victoria, and his second wife Agnes Gertrude, née Mack, who was born in New South Wales. On leaving Christian Brothers' College, Waverley, Bruce was employed by the architect John L. Berry, studied at Sydney Technical College in 1912-18 and attended Leslie Wilkinson's lectures at the University of Sydney in 1919-20.

Moving to Queensland in 1920, Dellit became chief draftsman for Hall & Prentice, architects, and worked on the design of a town hall for Brisbane. He married Victoria Sara Miller on 15 October 1921 at St Andrew's Anglican Church, South Brisbane. Back in Sydney, after joining the firm of Spain & Cosh in 1922, he registered under the Architects Act on 23 June 1923 and worked on city buildings. He began private practice in 1928 and completed his first major project, Kyle House, in Macquarie Place, an office building which rejected period stylism and introduced a characteristic Dellit motif, the monumental entrance arch.

In 1929 he won a design competition for an Anzac memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney, from 117 entries. With significant contributions from the sculptor Rayner Hoff, Dellit completed the Anzac Memorial in 1934. Built of Bathurst granite, with a striking, 'stepped' silhouette, it has been claimed as Australia's finest example of monumental Art Deco architecture. Commercial and domestic work followed throughout the 1930s, including renovations to the Australia Hotel (1933), funeral parlours (1933) in Oxford Street for Charles Kinsela, and the Liberty Theatre (1934). Dellit's finest commercial building, the Bank of New South Wales in O'Connell Street, was completed in 1940. Contrasting with his commercial work, his own house, Aleuria (c.1928), in Fox Valley Road, Wahroonga, was a free interpretation of the Mediterranean idiom introduced by Wilkinson.

Breaking from his conservative architectural education, Dellit pioneered the Art Deco style. He looked for inspiration to American skyscrapers and to new technology, new materials and new uses for traditional materials. He believed that architects should 'go to work in a healthy way in sympathy with scientific progress' and 'by the aid of modern science reach beyond our present dreams to artistic creations as yet undreamt of'.

A large man—seldom seen without his 'fearsome sombrero'—Dellit was described as 'a human dynamo', 'arresting and vital' and 'supremely confident'. He was an exceptionally talented draftsman and renderer. A gifted painter in oils, he associated with Norman Lindsay and Rah Fizelle. He spared neither himself nor his staff: in busy times, working days began at 5.30 a.m. and ended at midnight, six days a week. When a job was completed, he spent a night on the town, 'blowing the cobwebs away'. Survived by his wife, son and two daughters, Dellit died of cancer on 21 August 1942 in hospital at Hornsby and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • The Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney (Syd, nd)
  • H. Tanner (ed), Architects of Australia (Melb, 1981)
  • Architecture, 20 Mar 1920, 1 Aug 1929, 1 Aug 1930
  • Building (Sydney), 12 July 1930, 12 Mar 1931, 13 Mar, 12 Apr 1933, 24 July 1940, 24 Aug 1942
  • Art in Australia, 15 Aug 1934
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Aug 1942
  • Bulletin, 2 Sept 1942
  • A. Stuart-Robertson, Charles Bruce Dellit, Architect: 1900-1942 (research paper, Power Institute of Fine Arts, University of Sydney, 1976).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Richard E. Apperly and Peter Reynolds, 'Dellit, Charles Bruce (1898–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dellit-charles-bruce-9947/text17621, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 29 November 2014.

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

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