Harm Hollander FRAIA remember Jeff Bennett RAIA (January 1955-March 2023)
Jeff Bennett, architect, passed away on 23 March 2023 after battling an inoperable brain tumour for around three years. His final professional role was Principal Project Manager, Principal’s Representative, Procurement Manager, and Architect at Major Projects Group of Department of Public Works.
After retiring in 2019, Jeff spent his time with family and friends as well as fishing, camping, and travelling. The consistent anecdotes observed at his funeral were all recognisable for those who were in Jeff’s professional orbit. He inspired rigour and was a giant in seeking out simple solutions within complex contexts. He thrived in large and unique projects. These virtues were already observed in 1984 by Eddie Hayes (Hayes and Scott) who stated to me that Jeff was not only thorough and knowledgeable but was also very sensitive as a developing designer. Jeff had earned such an accolade in taking a leading role within Hayes and Scott just before it was wound up.
Eddie and Jeff joined Conrad Gargett in 1984. Jeff’s legacy lives on in today’s continuing approaches within Conrad Gargett, by the rigour within project work. If you stated that you were detailing using neoprene, he would check if you used type A, B, or C. If you had an insurmountable problem, he would suddenly pull a lateral approach to provide a well-considered, simple solution. He had that reputation for always thinking two or three layers, beyond. Jeff was at Conrad Gargett for nearly 10 years and was in a class of his own. His talent promoted him to associate level in a time that this was one level removed from directorship. He was singled out before any other promotional cohorts were considered.
After a stint of sole practice, Jeff joined Cox Rayner, commencing with the Princess Alexandra Hospital redevelopment. As well as practising his already sharpened talents, he became a valued mentor to those who were around him. He was a believer in the UQ education he had built upon; that is consolidation of real-world skills as you progress. Jeff was very kind and patient in teaching and had an air of the benevolent professor. He explained the demands of a commercial building and the magic and mysteries of the building core and the tetris type pleasure in resolving these. If you were oblivious to yield and money, Jeff explained the obligations of the Architect and the expectations of the developer with great enthusiasm. NLA was gold. Jeff would fashion building cores within an inch of their lives, identify design opportunity for further exploration, creatively incorporate engineering plant, and design-in efficient construction systems. It was a joy to see the banquet being prepared with Jeff as a master chef.
Jeff moved to Project Services secondment and later built a further career with associated departments. The shared anecdotes reflect the same virtues. When I visited him during this tenure, he delighted in leading design teams with: “Have you considered…..?”. He also continued his lead on finding simple solutions for very tangled unravelling of project problems. He brought his considerable skills to all tasks lightly and usually with broad smile and his legacy has already linked to those following his example. The profession is stronger and enhanced for Jeff’s professional journey.