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In 1967 Bernard Smith was appointed Foundation Professor of Contemporary Art and was Director of the Power Institute of Fine Arts, University of Sydney. Prior to this, he held senior appointments at the University of Melbourne. He was a painter (using the pseudonym Joseph Tierney), writer, teacher, critic, philanthropist and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Glebe connections

Bernard Smith (and his wife Kate) lived in Glebe for a decade, following his Sydney University appointment. Bernard Smith arrived in

Bernard Smith, image from National Library of Australia
Bernard Smith, image from National Library of Australia

Glebe at a pivotal moment: it was a period when many decaying inner-city areas were threatened with wholesale demolition. Smith’s academic eminence, his aesthetic sensibility, sense of fairness and justice, his concern for history and the environment, his ability to cogently articulate the issues and his energy enabled him to galvanise like-minded Glebe residents to form the Glebe Society in 1969 with the object of ensuring that adequate planning went into new projects and that existing heritage buildings were preserved and conserved. Bernard Smith served as Inaugural President from 1969-71 and again as President from 1974-75.

At that time, immediate threats to Glebe included a proposal to cut freeways through the suburb, a plan to build high-rise apartments in Ferry Road and the Church of England’s Glebe Administration Board proposal to demolish the Glebe Estate and replace it with high-rise office blocks and townhouses.

Bernard and Kate Smith’s 1973 book The Architectural Character of Glebe was a timely and seminal work which saw beneath the surface decay and neglect to classify and trace the evolution of the Australian terrace.

Smith’s legacy in Glebe is a suburb that was recognised on the Register of the National Estate as “a history of early Australian urban architecture. As a townscape it is handsome, coherent, and largely complete.”

More information

Obituaries Australia, Bernard Smith

Max Solling, Grandeur and Grit: a history of Glebe, Halstead Press, Sydney, 2007

Bernard and Kate Smith, The Architectural Character of Glebe, University Co-op Bookshop, Sydney, 1973


Posted on 6 April 2011 by Peter

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