Colin James, a noted community architect and long-time lecturer at the University of Sydney, has passed away at age 76.
The Sydney Morning Herald featured a major obituary on James earlier this week. From the early 1970s, Colin was active in a large number of community housing and residents action activities. This included involvement in the “Green Bans” movement, where he was friends with many of the major community activist players.
I first met Colin in 1982 when I was a town planner working for the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils. He seemed to own two houses in inner Sydney: a small, compact and delightful cottage in Darlinghurst, as well as a much larger warehouse very close to the University of Sydney’s main campus, where he was already teaching.
At heart, Colin was one of the most radical people I have met: throughout his life, he lived, breathed and stayed committed to community justice, community control and community housing. He was well-regarded within Sydney’s Aboriginal communities, but rarely sought the limelight, content to work steadily on projects both small and large with little requirement for ego stroking. At one time or another, he worked closely with almost every major inner Sydney community advocate. He was soft-spoken but firm, friendly and warm.
You can see an example of James’ approach to low cost housing with his 2004 “cardboard house” submission to the ABC Television show The New Inventors.
I last saw him about eight years ago in Nowra, on the south coast of New South Wales, where I ran into him while we were both on holiday. He shared with me some news about colleagues coming to work at the University of Sydney.
This Saturday, 2 March 2013, there will be a “celebration” of his life, starting at 11.30am from Shepherd Street and Abercrombie Streets, Darlington, with a public procession following the funeral hearse to the “Block” in Eveleigh Street, Redfern. For more details, go to the “Health Habitat” blog.