Clement George Cummings
Fellow Royal Australian Institute of Architects
Clem had the greatest of friendships with Lloyd Rees, not only were they both Queenslanders, their deep love of art, philosophy and good humour made each moment together quite extraordinary. The two families would see each other regularly over the years. Lloyd and Marjorie would visit Canberra for exhibitions and lectures and Clems’ committee work would ensure great catchups at the Rees home in Northwood as well. Marjorie would make delicious afternoon teas, Lyn would make great curries. Both homes were full of the special warmth that beautiful light, great art, music, lovely gardens for children to explore and lively enquiring conversations creates.
Lloyd always encouraged and discussed Clem’s drawing and painting over the years. Clem spent time in the bush painting, participated in classes with his friends Clifton Pugh and Merve Moriati. In his later years Clem regularly exhibited his paintings and etchings in Canberra and on the South Coast of NSW. He spoke fondly about the inspiring experience of working on the high school murals with his fellow students under the guidance of Lloyd at Kiama, which, in his case, translated to the integration of Art (sometimes his own) into all of his buildings.
Clem was born in Cairns in 1934 and practiced Architecture in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, until 1996. He spoke with great passion and pride of his childhood in the tropical paradise of far north Queensland where his ancestors had settled in the mid 19th century.
On completing his schooling in 1952 he moved to Canberra to attend the Royal Military College Duntroon, following his highly decorated father Col Clem Cummings wishes, a common occurrence with many young men in the post WW11 period.
He graduated in 1955 in science.
Through these years of military training he quietly nurtured his artistic talents inspired by both the natural and built environment and in 1957 he resigned as an army Captain and married his wife Lyn who encouraged him to follow his interest in Architecture. They moved to Sydney where Clem undertook the study of Architecture at Sydney University with the assistance of a cadetship from the Commonwealth Dept of Works Canberra, graduating with honors in 1962 and Lyn working at RPA until the birth of their first child Christine in 1959.
In 1962 as a young family of 3 soon to be 4 with the birth of their son David, Lyn and Clem returned to Canberra to commence what was to be a life long architectural contribution to the growing capital and its surrounding regions for Clem. They lived in a modest government house that was extended into a very beautiful hand crafted home office until 1980 when Clem designed and built Deakin Chambers professional offices, for CG Cummings and Associates practice.
Clem contributed to the changing face of Canberra, working initially in the Department of Works and as an adviser to the Prime Ministers Office on numerous government buildings and urban planning projects from 1963 to 1968. He then moved into the private firm of Dirk Bolt Architects and Town Planners as an associate from 1968 to 1970 before establishing his own Architectural practice. He created many distinctive private homes, government and private office buildings and heritage restoration projects in Canberra and the region.
He was a deeply community minded fellow convening the committees of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Register of significant 20th Century Architecture, the National Museum, the National Trust ACT, the ACT Museum and ACT heritage committees, and was a councilor of the ACT chapter of the RAIA for 6 years encouraging the establishment of the Marion Mahony Griffin measured Drawing Competition and the Student mentoring scheme. Teaching and mentoring student and migrant architects was a great commitment and pleasure throughout his career.
In 2007 the RAIA ACT established the Clem Cummings medal acknowledge outstanding contribution to the advancement and promotion of architecture and the built environment in the ACT region through any avenue of service.
30 January 2016