Clem Cummings

Clem Cummings 1982Clem Cummings, 1982







The following article provides an interesting biography of Clem Cummings. You will also find a more detailed biography attached as a pdf.

Apart from the unique intense competition for an National architecture in Canberra can be found many successful local architectural practices and this is the first of profiles on local practices.

Currently the practices operate within the work generated by government institutions and the developing private sector. The latter becoming broader as the community changes e.g. sunrise industries.

One such firm is C. G. Cummings and associates Pty Ltd, a small practice established in 1971 at Deakin ACT.

The office premises have been very successfully established within the principal’s residence. The new second floor structure houses the general office space and a part of the ground floor the administrative facilities.

The firm’s principal architect Mr Clem Cummings F.R.A.I.A. as well as being an honours graduate from Sydney University in 1962 graduated from the Royal Military College of Duntroon (science) in 1955 and the School of Artillery 1956.

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.

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.

Mr Cummings’ widely based training in the Commonwealth Department of Works 1962–68 and as an associate in a private practice 1968–1970 established the foundation for the office.

Whilst with the Prime Minister’s department in 1967 Mr Cummings acted in multiple roles as architect, Interiors advisor, and as Property Officer responsible for refurbishment and refurnishing of parliamentary offices for the Prime Minister, other ministers and the cabinet rooms in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Whilst with Dirk Bolt and associates Pty. Ltd. Mr Cummings was the associate in charge of Burgmann College ANU, Canberra Grammar School master plan and landscaping proposals, medium density housing projects and YMCA community centre complex at Woden.

“This firm has never consciously sought a recognisable office style. “Style” is a “sidetrack”.

It is always a matter of “horses for courses”and the only ingredients for successful architecture are in order

– client needs (NOT WANTS)

– client budget

– client’s site

– community needs and requirements

– architect’s knowledge, experience and ability to synthesize the first four into a useful human and enjoyable enclosure of space.”

The firm has always made a point of trying to help clients to realise their dreams however small or big, and this has meant being “Architects for all Seasons” and doing small projects including new homes, domestic extensions and renovations, restoration and recycling of historic buildings.

This description does not mean a firm of easy give and take and modest goals for it is an office that also has handles reasonably large government projects, hotel/motels, restaurants, offices, exhibition buildings, schools etc.

This happens to coincide with good common sense for survival in Canberra’s sometimes fickle economy.

Earlier works included some of Canberra’s first town house and medium density projects, as well as institutional, community recreational works. In 1979 a house for Mr J O’Brien in Garran won a Housing Industry Association ACT Award.

Home beautiful describes the house – Breaks in floor level, open galleries full of the light admitted by strategically placed high lights and perfectly integrated indoor – outdoor areas make this house remarkable. It’s a well-mannered house, natural beauties of timber, bricks and ceramics have been married to produce tasteful interiors. The planning and attention to detail is first class and is complimented by excellent workmanship. There is not a single hint of fanciful gimmickry in this house. It is simply a high quality home.”

A more recent and ongoing refurbishment project has shown how successful existing buildings can be adapted from one use to another –

Gorman house, a heritage listed building, has been converted from a government hostel to a community performing arts centre including – offices, theatres, galleries, dance studios, music rehearsal and recital facilities. Primarily the buildings external presence has been restored whilst staged redevelopment and occupation has allowed a soundly developed and well balanced complex to emerge. In this instance the original development with its linked pavilions and courtyards is very compatible with its new uses. The complete internal restructuring whilst providing the large open space for the new theatres, studios and galleries, and flexibility for changing future usage, retains the heritage significance of the building group and a familiar face in the streetscape of Canberra.

Operating in age of quick and sometimes unwisely cheap development, the office has maintained a high degree of care for time proven practices and detail. This of course does not mean new techniques and materials are not embraced but rather they are researched and given the best opportunity to endure by carefully considered detailing.

The firm also provides technical advice to the National trust of Australia and to [the] ACT Heritage committee. It has prepared restoration and conservation plans for the NSW Heritage Council and is currently carrying out two major conservation plans on historic buildings.

Mr Cummings has also been a very active member of the R.A.I.A. committees for Register of Significant Twentieth Century Buildings and the Marion Mahony Griffin Measured Drawing competition as a judge. He also service on the Executive of the National Trust of Australia ACT, the Trust’s classification committee and represents the ACT R.A.I.A. of the ACT Heritage committee.

Unaware as we may have been, but probably all of us have, in fact, experienced some of Mr Cummings architecture –the common ACT cylindrical “flintstone” bus shelter. The furthest one of these has been seen north at Newcastle NSW.

Their prolific breeding habits might well earn the firm the title “The Architectural Practice with the Most Buildings Erected in the ACT!”

Clem Cummings CV 1994

RAIA ACT Clem Cummings Award description and recipients as at 2010

Clem Cummings died in 1997.