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Shedley, Geoffrey Richard (1914–1981)

by Susan Marsden and Alison McDougall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Geoffrey Richard Shedley (1914–1981), architect and sculptor, was born on 10 May 1914 at Glenelg, South Australia, son of South Australian-born parents Richard Gustav Schedlich, warehouseman, and his wife Louie Polmear, née Maddern.  The family name was Anglicised to Shedley during World War I.  Educated at a small private primary school and at the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide, Geoff also attended art classes at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts.  In 1931 he joined Hubert Cowell’s architectural firm and studied architecture at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries (1932-36).

In 1937 Shedley entered a competition to design a pair of attached houses for the new South Australian Housing Trust.  The competition conditions were strict and the construction cost could not exceed £450.  The project was crucial to the government’s policy of building inexpensive rental housing for workers, to restrain the basic wage and to develop competitive local manufacturing.  Shedley’s design won the competition but it was formally credited to Cowell, accepted practice at the time.  Over the next thirty years the trust built thousands of the double units and the 'Cowell house' became the State’s most recognised type.  Shedley worked on Trust contracts in Cowell’s office from 1937, becoming a registered architect in 1941.  He was inspired by the modernist architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, although working within the cost constraints of public housing.

On 10 April 1942 at St Peter’s College Chapel, Shedley married Mary Hackett, whom he had met at art classes.  After their first child died in infancy he carved the headstone for her grave.  He planned and built the family’s modernist home at Burnside and helped to design and build other houses.  Becoming an associate of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1946, he joined the Housing Trust in 1947.  From 1954 he regularly travelled overseas, observing trends in the design of shopping centres and housing estates.  Devoting most of his career to the new town of Elizabeth, he was chief designer for the town centre; the Windsor Building included council chambers and a clock tower.  He co-designed the Windsor Green plaza and sculpted the figures and animals on the fountain and for the council chambers.  Two theatres nearby in Salisbury North were later named Shedley and Octogon.  Appointed chief design architect in 1963 and project architect in 1972, Shedley retired in 1974.  He had contributed to the trust’s greatest phase of building and urban development.

Shedley designed street floats for the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1960 and 1962.  In 1965 at Christies Beach he had created 'The Rainmakers' sculpture, the first major public art work in South Australia to represent Indigenous people.  A fellow of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts from 1944, he made purchases for the Art Gallery of South Australia during his overseas trips.  He was a tall, upright man who sported a moustache and habitually wore a bow tie, hinting at an artistic, genial and humorous character.  Survived by his wife and three daughters, he died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 19 August 1981 at Toorak Gardens and was buried in St Jude’s Church cemetery, Brighton.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Marsden, Business, Charity and Sentiment (1986)
  • M. Page, Sculptors in Space (1986)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 August 1981, p 6
  • A. McDougall, 'Geoffrey Shedley', Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, Architects of South Australia, http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=38, accessed 12 March 2009, copy held on ADB file
  • Shedley papers (State Library of South Australia)
  • South Australian Housing Trust Memorabilia Collection (Housing South Australia)
  • private information and personal knowledge

Citation details

Susan Marsden and Alison McDougall, 'Shedley, Geoffrey Richard (1914–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/shedley-geoffrey-richard-15411/text26619, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 29 November 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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