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Grenfell Rudduck (1914–1964)

by Ian W. Morison

This article was published:

Grenfell Rudduck (1914-1964), by unknown photographer, 1955

Grenfell Rudduck (1914-1964), by unknown photographer, 1955

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L18308

Grenfell Rudduck (1914-1964), architect and town planner, was born on 19 September 1914 at Dromana, Victoria, second of three children of Ernest Rudduck, storekeeper, and his wife Theresa, née Lang, both Victorian born. His parents, staunch Methodists committed to community service, named him after the missionary (Sir) Wilfred Grenfell. Educated at Wesley College and the University of Melbourne (B.Arch., 1939), 'Gren' was awarded a Blue for Australian Rules football, a half-Blue for rowing and a number of prizes from the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. He was articled in 1937 to Leighton Irwin and became active in R.V.I.A. affairs. At Queen's College chapel, University of Melbourne, on 2 September 1939 he married Loma Butterworth Amos; her father, a Methodist minister, conducted the service.

In May 1941 Rudduck won the R.V.I.A.'s Haddon travelling scholarship for designing a community health-and-recreation centre which he proposed to construct step by step to enlist public support. Head of architecture at the Working Men's College, Melbourne, from January 1942, he joined (April 1943) the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, Canberra, where he provided theoretical and technical advice on plans for housing. In November 1944 he moved to the regional planning branch. Dr H. C. Coombs, the department's director-general, was impressed by his flair for negotiation.

Backed by Coombs and (Sir) John Crawford, director of research in Coombs's organization, in 1947 Rudduck was granted a research fellowship in social science by the Australian National University to study technical aspects of regional planning. He took leave to attend the 1947-48 session in town planning at University College, London, under Professor William (Baron) Holford, and used his Haddon scholarship to travel to Europe and North America. Back in Australia, he returned to his department (renamed National Development in 1949) and was appointed director of regional development in 1951.

Rudduck helped to organize the inaugural congress of the Australian Planning Institute (held in Canberra in 1951) at which he presented a paper on the growth of Australia's regions. He then toured the country with Holford, believing that he had a stake in the development of the entire continent. His drive and dedication salvaged a faltering project to map Australia's resources. He recruited experienced cartographers from overseas to the team which produced the first Atlas of Australian Resources (1952).

After attending the British Commonwealth Economic Conference in London in 1952, Rudduck became attracted by the idea of planning in an international arena. In 1955 he was seconded for three months to a United Nations' technical assistance mission in Malaya. He was then seconded for two years to advise on housing and settlement in Pakistan, where he established a natural rapport with his clients. His appreciation of their country's history, geography and culture informed both his 'urban biographies' of Karachi, Dacca and Lahore and his common-sense approach to building low-cost housing in rural areas. Rudduck's Towns and Villages of Pakistan (Karachi, 1961) became a local best-seller. The National Planning Commission of Pakistan invited him back for three months in 1964 to advise on a third '5-year plan'.

At home, Rudduck gave advice on regional planning to the Department of the Army before accepting, with some misgivings, an appointment in March 1958 as associate-commissioner to the new National Capital Development Commission. A Canberra resident since 1943, he moved easily between private and official assignments. From 1951 he served as an adviser to the A.N.U.'s building and grounds committee; in 1955 he worked with Professor Denis Winston on a site plan for the university while reporting to government on the infrastructure needed for airlifting beef in the outback.

Never a bureaucrat—despite his years as a public servant—Rudduck was 'always a compassionate rebel', warm hearted and engaging, interested in people and ideas. He stood by his beliefs. His skills as a mediator gained public acceptance for the commission's transformation of the 'bush capital'. He saw Canberra as a garden city of no more than 100,000 people, and maintained this view despite the pressures of population growth. By 1963 this stance put him in fundamental conflict with the commission's larger plans. Sidelined from its mainstream work, he concentrated on building relations between communities and planners, anticipating popular movements of later decades. He promoted urban research, remained an advocate of regional development in Australia (citing Canberra as an example of what could be done) and pressed planners to regard local communities as clients whom they should heed.

Survived by his wife, daughter and three sons, Rudduck died of myocardial infarction on 19 December 1964 in East Melbourne and was buried in Dromana cemetery. A stone wall and plaque near the West Basin ferry terminal on Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, commemorate him.

Select Bibliography

  • Architecture in Australian, Mar 1965
  • Australian Planning Institute Journal, Jan 1965, Apr 1967
  • Canberra Historical Journal, no 30, Sept 1992
  • Grenfell Rudduck papers (National Library of Australia).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Ian W. Morison, 'Rudduck, Grenfell (1914–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Grenfell Rudduck (1914-1964), by unknown photographer, 1955

Grenfell Rudduck (1914-1964), by unknown photographer, 1955

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L18308

Life Summary [details]


19 September, 1914
Dromana, Victoria, Australia


19 December, 1964 (aged 50)
East Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.