Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rembert, Edward Henry (1902–1966)

by Peter Webber

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Edward Henry Rembert (1902-1966), architect, was born on 12 April 1902 at Hurstville, Sydney, youngest of thirteen children of native-born parents Charles Rembert (d.1902), blacksmith, and his wife Susannah Jane, née Burrell. Harry was raised by his mother and elder sisters, and sent to the local public school. While apprenticed to the architect Thomas J. Darling, he attended Sydney Technical College. On 30 December 1924 he was registered as an architect. After he gained experience working for Henry White, the flamboyant designer of theatres, he joined the Department of Public Works on 3 August 1926. He was finally confirmed in the post of architect in 1942.

Encouraged by Cobden Parkes, the government architect, Rembert designed numerous public buildings—schools, hospitals, court-houses, police stations and technical colleges, mostly during the 1930s and 1940s. In style, his designs of this period were influenced by the Dutch architect Willem Dudok. Of these works, perhaps the most outstanding were the Hoskins block (1937-38) at Sydney Technical College, and major buildings (1934-38) at Newcastle Technical College, including his masterpiece, the H. G. Darling Engineering Building, in which Dudokian forms were suffused by Rembert's own idiosyncratic spirit.

Rembert designed several private houses for family and friends, but none of them approached the quality of his own remarkable mountain home at Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains, where he lived as a bachelor with his elder brother Oscar from 1935. In this most modest dwelling he devised an inventive plan and used the simplest of materials—brick and rough timber-boarded walls—which fitted quietly into a bushland setting. Several decades later the house was seen as inspiring some of the leading practitioners of the 'Sydney School' style of architecture.

On 20 July 1947 Rembert was appointed senior designing architect. Promoted assistant government architect in March 1960, he had responsibility for the entire architectural design output of a very large office. He no longer had the time to design buildings himself, but he played an important role (1957-64) on the Height of Buildings Advisory Committee. More importantly, he acted as guide and mentor to a new generation of young architects, who had joined the government architect's office at a time when it faced the exciting task of designing the universities, schools, colleges and numerous public buildings needed to serve the needs of an increasing population. The quality of architecture emanating from the office gained it an enviable reputation. Rembert's influence, like his personality, was gentle and discreet, yet pervasive and persuasive.

In his younger days Harry Rembert had been a talented cricketer, playing first grade for St George, (Sir) Donald Bradman's club, and later becoming a champion club golfer. Having suffered from tuberculosis in his twenties, he was never robust in health, and was forced to retire due to bronchial and heart problems in 1965. He died of coronary thrombosis on 12 September 1966 at Katoomba and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • G. P. Webber, E. H. Rembert (Syd, 1982), and for bibliography.

Citation details

Peter Webber, 'Rembert, Edward Henry (1902–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rembert-edward-henry-11506/text20525, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 21 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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