Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting with Clem Cummings’ wife Lyn and daughter Christine in Canberra. Their home in Farrer was designed by Clem in the early ’80s and it sits comfortably in its hillside surroundings. It has a great feel of both spaciousness and tranquillity and it’s easy to see the influence not only of Clem’s architectural ability, but also his love of art.
I also got the sense that like Lloyd Rees, Clem also developed enduring relationships with those who knew him.
As well as conducting his own architectural business in Canberra and his involvement in architectural heritage at both a local and national level, Clem continued to paint and draw throughout his lifetime, often travelling throughout Australia.
Lloyd Rees was a frequent visitor to the Cummings home and Christine shared this excerpt with me. It clearly demonstrates the importance of the Kiama project to Clem, and how it led to their ongoing friendship.
“His architectural education was that of many of his generation at Sydney University under Dean Ingham Ashworth and George Molner, Henry Cowan, Max Collard and Ross King.
Clem Mr Cummings’ continuing friendship with Lloyd Rees developed out of this period at Sydney University when Lloyd involved him and five other students in painting a series of large mural panels for Kiama High School assembly hall.
The personal satisfaction from being closely involved in the Kiama community and history as well as the pleasure of the experience with Lloyd Rees left a lasting impression.
Painting, drawing and etching continue to be major activities other than architecture and so does the involvement on the community and with history and heritage conservation.”
Not surprisingly, Clem was also involved in establishing an architectural student mentoring program in Canberra, and as a result of his overall contribution to architecture the ACT chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects established the Clem Cummings Award to recognise contributions by non-architects and architects to architecture and the public interest.
The oldest of the students involved in the Kiama High School project (he was initially a graduate of the Royal Military College in Duntroon prior to studying architecture), Clem unfortunately passed away in 1997.
Thankfully, Clem Cummings’ love of art was shared with his family from an early age, and Christine has also had a career in Canberra in painting, sculpture and arts administration.
My thanks to Lyn and Christine for sharing their stories of Clem with me and for their interest and support for our project.