Eulogy: Rodney Harber (1940-2024)

Rodney Harber

The death of Rodney Roy Harber in Durban on 17th February has left a chasm in the architectural community of KZN and stretching well beyond its borders. But the genius of this Baobab tree of a man together with his positivity, is sure to long survive him, especially by the many students he so powerfully affected.

Rod was a product of the ‘Natal School’, UKZN today, followed by the experience he gained in the legendary practice of Hallen & Dibb.

In 1971 he opted for an academic career at his alma mater where his natural gift for communication and humour, as well as his caricature sketches, proved him to be an inspiring teacher, always sharing his own personal fascinations and curiosities with students.

Teaching and practice were but two sides of the same coin. People were Rod’s priority and the focus on community projects, housing the marginalised, upgrading informal settlements, novel concepts for sacred architecture. Such alternative interests and others he would also suggest as topics for issues of
the Journal of SAIA-KZN, which, typically, he would then guest edit.

Endowed with a multiplicity of skills, as a leader Rod served as President of KZNIA for an unprecedented five continuous years, 1994-98, during which time the Institute changed its name and emphasis from an institute of architects to an Institute for Architecture with the provision of affiliate membership. Rod
served on heritage bodies and was involved in the arts, provincially and nationally, and regularly participated in architectural conferences internationally, where he earned the reputation as an enthralling and humorous speaker.

Rodney was more than a person – he was an institution, averred Julian Cooke, a mutual friend, who continued “A mixture of wonderful humour, integrity, perceptiveness, an un-matched knowledge of KZN and its history and peoples and architecture, substantial architectural ability, powerful social
consciousness, willingness to take on the big professional issues and connections, and such a great, easy-going friend”.

Respected and endeared by so many during his long and fulfilling life, Rodney now rests in peace. Our thoughts are particularly with his widow, Roz, and his five daughters and six grandchildren. – Walter Peters

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