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Robert Prentice of Scotland and Brazil

Robert Prentice of Scotland and Brazil
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Fall 2006 and Revised 17 Sep 2010

We received an email of 18 Aug 2006 from Pedro Moreira who is researching Robert Prentice of Brazil. Here is what we have so far:

1. Robert Prentice, b. 1883 and d. 28 Sep 1960. He was an Architect or Engineer, based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who played a very important role in the modernization of the Architecture in Rio at the beginning of the 20th century in the 1920s and 1930s. For an example, see #17 at http://www.bndes.gov.br/english/projects3.asp .

By email of 16 Feb 2015, Christine Hadden provided the following biographical information:

    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.

We do note the possibility that Robert may have had 2 or more children:

  • On 24 Jan 1942, Capt. George Prentice, R.A., elder son of Mr. and Mrs. R. R. Prentice of Rio de Janeiro m. Jean Tait in Edinburgh, Scotland. She was the dau. of "the late J. A. T. Tait and Mrs. Tait of Inveralmond, Ctraigs Avenue, Edinburgh.

  • On 26 Jun 1948 at St. Katharine's Church, Merstham, Surrey, a few miles south of London, Ronald Russell Prentice, younger son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert R. Prentice of Rio de Janeiro and 13 Monk's Drive, N.W.3, was m. to Sonia Clary, only dau. of Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Bowring of the Georgian House, Merstham, Surrey. (They had a son, Flying Officer Norman Harvey Bowring, RAF, who went missing from air operations in Dec 1943 and was believed dead.) Ronald and Sonia had 1 or more children, including:
    1. Robert Ronald Prentice, b. 23 Sep 1952. His parents were identified as Ronald R. Prece and Sonia (nee Borwring) of Villa Anna 10 Rue du Marechal Gallieni, Sevres, France.

Who are Robert Prentice's Parents?

Whether Geprge and Ronald Russell Prentice are related to Robert Prentice the Architect or Engineer needs further investigation.

There seems a chance that Robert Prentice is #5vi in our Fall 2001 article about John Prentice of Greenock, Renfrew, Scotland .

We have no present evidence that he worked in Brazil, but his South American connection raises that possibility and the time frame seems to fit.

If you have any information about the folks mentioned in this article, please send your information to us at the Prentice Newsletter. Be sure to give the full title and date of this article in the Subject line of the email.

Caution: If you don't use the above email link, your email to us may be deleted as spam by our email filter.

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Loretta Prentice
2015-01-15 08:24:12
The Robert Prentice mentioned is my husband, Malcolm, grandfather. The eldest son, George Prentice and Jean Tait (who only died aged 98 a few weeks ago) had three children: Diana, Mary and my husband, Malcolm. Ronald Prentice who is correctly said to have married Sonia Bowring, died in 1984. Sonia is still alive. They have three children, Robert, Caroline and Christopher. Ronal and Sonia did NOT have a son called Norman, so that information is incorrect. Robert Prentice married a Parisian called Renee Bloch. I can provide more information on the family if needed.
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