Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edmunds, Rosina Mary (1900–1956)

by Caroline Webber

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Rosina Mary Edmunds (1900-1956), architect and town planner, was born on 31 May 1900 at Strathfield, Sydney, second of six children of native-born parents Walter Edmunds, barrister, and his wife Monica Victoria May, née McGrath. Educated at the Dominican Convent School, Strathfield, and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1921; B.Arch., 1924), Rosette—as she then styled herself—began working for the Sydney architect Clement Glancey. She was responsible for drawing plans for numerous churches and schools in Sydney, and in the country districts of New South Wales.

Having designed naval installations in the early years of World War II, in 1944 Edmunds became a field-officer for community activities with the Commonwealth Department of Post-war Reconstruction. In 1946 the Cumberland County Council appointed her as civic survey officer to assist in the preparation of a master plan for Sydney. Her job was 'to study social aspects of the scheme, including the demolition of slum areas'. Believing that 'cities are for the people, not people for the cities', and that slums were the product of 'a wrong sense of human values', she considered that it was indefensible on both moral and economic grounds to compel persons on low incomes to live in conditions which gave them 'no opportunity for maintaining dignity and self-respect'.

In the early 1950s Edmunds designed extensions to the Catholic presbytery (later Archbishop's House), Parkes, Australian Capital Territory. Through this work she came to love Canberra and moved there in 1952. In addition to her private practice, she acted as a consultant to government architects on planning matters. An associate (1934) and fellow (1950) of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, she helped to establish its Canberra area committee of which she became president (1956); she also served on the institute's federal board of architectural education. She was an associate (1931) of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a member of the Town and Country Planning Institute of Australia.

Edmunds had published Architecture: An Introductory Survey (Sydney, 1938) in which she endeavoured to 'dispel the idea that architecture is merely a mass of academic formulae relating to ornament' and to present it 'in its right relation with the life we lead—as something vital that plays a formative part in everyday life'. While she appreciated the romance of her profession, she also recognized its realities. She contributed articles on the poet Christopher Brennan, and on town and country planning, to the journal, Twentieth Century. Her idealism, ability to offer an opinion on a range of subjects, quiet manner and appreciation of the work of others made her 'a sympathetic and stimulating colleague'. She never married. Hypertensive, she died of coronary occlusion on 23 April 1956 at her Griffith home and was buried in Canberra cemetery with Catholic rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Architecture in Australia, 45, no 2, Apr-June 1956, p 69
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Jan 1918, 16 Nov 1937, 25 Apr, 1 May 1946
  • Canberra Times, 26 Apr 1956.

Citation details

Caroline Webber, 'Edmunds, Rosina Mary (1900–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/edmunds-rosina-mary-10100/text17827, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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