Basic Biographical Details

Name: Robert McDowall Symonds
Designation: Architect
Born: 1892
Died: 1963
Bio Notes: Robert McDowall Symonds was born in Edinburgh in 1892 and studied at Edinburgh College of Art. He served his articles with David McArthy from 1906 to 1910 (or 1911, sources vary). During the period 1911-13 he was an assistant in the practice of Burnett Napier Henderson Orphoot, working mainly on theatres and domestic design, moving to a similar position in the office of Alan Keith Robertson where he worked on Moray House Training College. This was followed by a spell in the office of Leadbetter Fairley & Reid working on Scottish domestic commissions, and on general design. His final move in Edinburgh was back to the office of David McArthy where he assisted on the design for the Dick Vet.

He left Scotland for Canada on 22 February 1913 to assist Thomas Reid Peacock on the Quebec Harbour commission. He served with the Canadian Army in France during World War 1, but after the cease of hostilities he returned to Canada and settled in Toronto where he worked as a draftsman for a succession of firms including Horwood & White (1919-20) where he worked on large department stores for the Hudson Bay Company, the City Architect’s Office (1920-23), here he was in charge of the design and preparation of drawings for all buildings erected by the City including the Coliseum Exhibition Building and other municipal structures including hospitals. He then moved as assistant and designer for Burden & Gouinlock (1923-25), where he worked on schools, domestic buildings and churches and finally to Chapman & Oxley (1926-27) working on a theatre and some large office buildings.

From 1926-28 he worked in Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Edmonton, Alberta where he worked as assistant and designer for Richard Geoffrey Bunyard on hotels hospitals and schools. He was then invited by R P Blakey to form a partnership. The practice was a general one and undertook a range of commissions including industrial buildings, apartment blocks and schools. In 1928 he was elected a member of the Alberta Association of Architects and he served as president for three years.

However this partnership was dissolved in 1934. He returned to Great Britain and he continued his career in London working as chief assistant to W B Binnie on the Arsenal Football Stadium, hospitals, the Phoenicia Hotel, Malta and on factory designs.

During the Second World War he was attached to the Canadian Engineers at the Canadian Military Headquarters in London and worked on machine shops, hospitals and camps. After the cease of hostilities he returned to Binnie as partner and was involved with the design of a brewery in Malta, hotel work, factories and a football stadium. In 1954 he opened his own private practice which was a general one with factory and domestic work among other commissions.

He was elected ARIAS in 1955 suggesting he retained an interest in Scottish architecture. He was elected LRIBA the following year, proposed by Cecil S Burgess, C W Fowler and Edward Maufe.

Symonds died in 1963.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3Edinburgh, Scotland(?)PrivateBefore 1930(?)  
Item 2 of 3417, Empire Block, Edmonton, Alberta, CanadaPrivate/business(?)1930 or 1931 *  
Item 3 of 327, Wellesley Road, Chiswick, London, EnglandBusiness1939 *After 1955 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 14David McArthy 1913Assistant 
Item 2 of 14David McArthy19061910Apprentice 
Item 3 of 14Leadbetter, Fairley & Reid19111913AssistantWithin this period of time.
Item 4 of 14Burnett Napier Henderson Orphoot19111913AssistantWithin this period of time.
Item 5 of 14Alan Keith Robertson19111913AssistantWithin this period of time.
Item 6 of 14Thomas Reid Peacock19131916Assistant 
Item 7 of 14Toronto City Architect's Department19191923Architect 
Item 8 of 14Burden & Gouinlock19231926Assistant 
Item 9 of 14Chapman & Oxley19231926AssistantWithin this period.
Item 10 of 14Horwood & White19231926AssistantWithin this period
Item 11 of 14Richard Geoffrey Bunyard19261928Assistant 
Item 12 of 14Richard Palin Blakey19281935Partner 
Item 13 of 14William Bryce Binnie (Major)19351939Chief Assistant 
Item 14 of 14William Bryce Binnie (Major)19461953Partner 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Cecil Scott Burgess10 April 1956For Licentiateship
Item 2 of 3C W Fowler10 April 1956For Licentiateship
Item 3 of 3Edward Brantwood Maufe10 April 1956For Licentiateship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 3c. 1913University of Edinburgh, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons  EdinburghScotlandAs assistant to David McArthy
Item 2 of 31935Arsenal football stadiumHighbury LondonEnglandAs chief assistant to Binnie - west stand?
Item 3 of 3c. 1935Hotel Phoenicia  ValettaMaltaAs chief assistant and later partner


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3  Per Robert Hill
Item 2 of 3RIBA1930The RIBA Kalendar 1930-1931 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 3 of 3RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2RIAS, Rutland SquareRecords of membership  
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers L no 6699 (Box 155)