Edwin Hubert Henderson Architect

This site is dedicated to the life and work of Edwin Hubert Henderson, architect (1885-1939). Henderson was Chief Architect of the Commonwealth of Australia from 1929-1939.

Henderson in “Australian Architecture” by Davina Jackson

“Australian Architecture: a history” by Davina Jackson (2022, Allen and Unwin) is an exciting new exploration of the full scope of Australin architectural history from pre-history to the present.

It is heartening to see EH Henderson receive some mention in Jackson’s 300 page plus survey.

In Chapter 6, ‘Architecture After Federation: 1901-1920’, Jackson takes time to acknowledge the role of government architects at both a national and state level, canvassing not only the work of John Smith Murdoch as Chief Architect of the Commonwealth, but also government architects in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania (pp173-175).

Chapter 7, ‘Interwar Interpretations: 1921-1945″ discusses the growth of Canberra buildings, both for institutions and domestic architecture. Appropriately, the author devotes a page to Old Parliament House and notes Smith Murdoch’s stripped classical style, including influences.

At page 184, Jackon notes:

Murdoch retired in 1929, after organising his Department’s move from Melbourne to Canberra. He was replaced by Sydney architect Edwin Hubert (Hendy) Henderson, who supervised the first National Library and Patents Office, new Canberra schools and fire stations, the Manuka swimming school and Commonwealth Bank branches in various towns. In 1939, Henderson suicided while under pressure from a government enquiry that later exonerated him. His senior architect, Cuthbert Whitely, took over as Chief Architect.

Jackson page 183

Later, Jackson comments:

Some Commonwealth Buildings in Canberra were designed in the functionalist style by Hendy Henderson, Cuthbert Whitely, Malcolm Moir with Heather Sutherland, and Kenneth Oliphant.

Jackon page 204

There are a number of interesting (and refreshing) points made Jackson in respect to Henderson:

  • She covers a range of his works. Often he is seen very much around the banks. While this is certainly the most extensive body of work he undertook in terms of number and value, it does not capture the full range of his talents.
  • His role in adopting modernist architectural trends is acknowledged in terms of functionalist architecture – and this would particularly be the Forrest Fire Station houses. This is rarely mentioned in general histories.
  • Henderson’s role in respect of Canberra schools is recognised – this is often (incorrectly) ascribed solely to Whitely, part of a trend to diminish the Chief Architect’s role in setting the house style.
  • Jackson refers to Henderson by his nickname “Hendy” – which does not often occur. In some of the testimony before the Royal Commission in 1939, James Orwin, his friend and perhaps betrayer, actually uses the nickname.

I commend this general history to readers and congratulate the author on giving Henderson his due.

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This entry was posted on January 8, 2023 by in Works.

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