Basic Biographical Details

Name: Robert Russell Prentice
Designation: Architect
Born: 1883
Died: 28 September 1960
Bio Notes: Robert Russell Prentice was born in Fife in 1883 and educated at Highgate School. He served his articles under George Washington Browne in the firm of Peddie & Washington Browne, Edinburgh, subsequently studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris for two years before moving to London in 1907 to join the staff of Mewes & Davis.

In 1910 he emigrated to Buenos Aires where he entered the office of M L Fauré Dujarric, who took him into partnership the following year. The partnership was short-lived, Prentice returning to Britain in 1916 (Prentice with his wife and son arrived on the ship 'Darro' at Liverpool on 18 August of that year) to serve as a technical officer in the RFC and RAF. In 1919 Prentice returned to Buenos Aires to commence independent practice but from his home and head office in Rio de Janeiro. He was elected FRIBA in early 1925, and at some point he took A Spandi into partnership. His principal buildings in South America included the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rio, the Central Cordoba Railway Station in Buenos Aires, and offices for the Sud-America Insurance Company in both cities.

Although his work is little known in the UK, Prentice was one of the finest architects of his generation. In 1938 Prentice was tentatively appointed executant architect for the new British embassy in Rio de Janeiro. A large site was acquired in January 1939 and designs for it were made by the Office of Works architect A J Pitcher. These did not meet with the approval of the ambassador Sir Hugh Gurney who had them radically revised by Prentice. The project was shelved in October 1939 and not resumed until 1944 when the Foreign Service Accommodation Committee and the new ambassador, Sir Noel Charles, instructed Prentice to redesign the project anew so that it would not be overshadowed by the adjoining American embassy. The scheme now formed a great palace block thirteen bays long with a central tetrastyle portico, raised up over a marble base with double stairs which formed a first floor terrace; behind was a quadrangle forming the ambassador’s private apartments, sheltered by colonnades. The whole scheme was of remarkable sophistication with interiors in an Adam-Louis Seize manner. Construction began in 1946 and was completed in 1950 at a cost of £400,000. It became redundant in 1972 after the capital moved to Brasilia and was sold to the municipality as the Palacio da Cidade in 1975.

Prentice retired to Eastbourne in 1952 and died on 28 September 1960

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3Buenos Aires, ArgentinaBusiness1910  
Item 2 of 3Avenida Branco, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilBusiness1925 *  
Item 3 of 3Eastbourne, Sussex, EnglandBusiness19521960 

* earliest date known from documented sources.


Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 4Peddie & Washington Brownec. 1900c. 1905Apprentice 
Item 2 of 4Mewes & Davis19071910Assistant 
Item 3 of 4M L Fauré Dujarric19101911Assistant 
Item 4 of 4Dujarric & Prentice19111914Partner 

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Bertram, Mark2011Britian's Diplomatic Buildings Overseas, 1800-2000 Reading: Spire Booksp230, 245-248

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Builder7 October 1960v199 p660 - obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of Derek ForrestInformation via'Contact Us' on website Sent August 2014. Mr Forrest's great aunt worked as a nurse to the Prentices from 1913-16 and 1922-25. Details from the records of the 'Darro'.
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F no2201 (microfilm reel 17) (mostly missing)