Lucy Greenish

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Lucy Greenish
Greenish in the 1910s
Lucy Adelaide Greenish

(1888-11-09)9 November 1888
Died4 September 1976(1976-09-04) (aged 87)[1]
Whanganui, New Zealand
NationalityNew Zealand
Other namesLucy Adelaide Symes
Years active1909–1927
Known forFirst woman registered architect in New Zealand

Lucy Adelaide Greenish (9 November 1888 – 4 September 1976), also known as Lucy Adelaide Symes, was a New Zealand architect who became the first woman to become a registered architect in New Zealand.

Early life[edit]

Lucy Greenish was born in Brisbane, Australia, on 9 November in 1888.[2] Her father was George William Greenish, an insurance manager, and her mother's maiden name was Margaret Emily Eggar.[3]: 181  She had two younger siblings: a brother Frank, and sister Dorothy. The family moved from Australia to New Zealand in 1908, but their father George Greenish died shortly after they arrived.[4] Margaret Greenish established a high school and kindergarten in Karori, based on the teachings of Friedrich Fröbel, the international pioneer of kindergarten concepts.[5]


In 1909, at the age of 20, Greenish was employed as an apprentice draughtswoman by the Wellington architectural practice Atkins and Bacon.[6]

In 1912, Greenish prepared the illustrations for an illuminated address presented by the New Zealand Institute of Architects to John Dickson-Poynder, Lord Islington the departing Governor of New Zealand, in recognition of his service as patron.[7]

She was elected as an associate of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1913. Following the passing of the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) Act in 1913,[8] Greenish was the only woman to apply for registration,[4] and was registered as an architect in 1914, becoming the first woman to be a registered architect in New Zealand.[3]: 327 [9] It was unusual at that time for a woman to be a registered architect, and the second woman was not registered for a further 20 years. Greenish subsequently moved to Dunedin, and began working for a local firm.[9]

Greenish was the first woman in New Zealand to establish her own architectural practice. She announced the opening of her practice in Lower Hutt in August 1927.[4][10]

The 2022 publication by Wellington-based historian Elizabeth Cox, Making Space: A History of New Zealand Women in Architecture, is dedicated to Lucy Greenish (Symes).[4]

Personal life[edit]

After the death of George Greenish, Lucy, Frank and Dorothy lived together with their mother in Karori until the outbreak of World War I.[4]

Her brother Frank was also a Wellington architect. He assisted with the development of the NZIA Act in 1913 that enabled the registration of architects, including his sister Lucy, in the following year.[3]: 181  Their mother Margaret died in 1917.[11]

Greenish was a capable artist. A news item from December 1911 records that Greenish had painted the scenery for a play as part of the end-of-year break-up function for the school run by her mother.[5] Her watercolour artwork was included in an art exhibition in 1923 and reviewed in a Dunedin newspaper.[12][13]

At age 37 she became pregnant, and moved to Australia to have the baby.[9] Her daughter was adopted in Australia, and Greenish eventually returned to New Zealand in 1926 or early 1927.[4]

Greenish lived in Taitā for around 20 years,[4] and remained single until 1945 when she married Henry Symes.[3]: 327  Symes died at their home in Marton, in November 1949.[1][14]

Greenish died on 4 September 1976, and her memorial is located at Mount View Cemetery, Marton, New Zealand.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Rangitīkei District Council Cemetery Database - Record ID 2594". Rangitīkei District Council. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  2. ^ "Family Notices". The Brisbane Courier. Vol. XLV, no. 9, 622. Queensland, Australia. 15 November 1888. p. 4. Retrieved 5 June 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ a b c d Geoff Mew; Adrian Humphris (2014). Raupo To Deco: Wellington Styles And Architects 1840–1940. Steele Roberts Publishers. ISBN 978-1-927242-56-8. Wikidata Q118105124.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Elizabeth Cox, ed. (2022). Making Space: A History of New Zealand Women in Architecture. Auckland: Massey University Press. pp. 34–37. ISBN 978-1-99-101634-8. OCLC 1347021085. OL 39960346M. Wikidata Q117788223.
  5. ^ a b "Frobel High School and Kindergarten at Karori". Dominion. 19 December 1911 – via Papers Past.
  6. ^ Cox, Elizabeth (May 2018). "'Their Presence Could Work a Revolution': Women Architects and Homes in New Zealand in the 1900s–1930s" (PDF). SAHANZ: Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand.
  7. ^ "Farewell gifts to their Excellencies". Evening Post. 21 November 1912 – via Papers Past.
  8. ^ "New Zealand Institute of Architects Act, 2013". New Zealand Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  9. ^ a b c Dennett, Kelly (16 October 2022). "How early female architects, often overlooked, helped shape Kiwi buildings". Stuff.
  10. ^ "Unclassified Advertisements". Hutt News. 26 August 1927. p. 1 – via Papers Past.
  11. ^ "Margaret Emily Greenish". Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  12. ^ "Art Exhibition". Evening Star. 10 November 1923 – via Papers Past.
  13. ^ "The Art Exhibition". Evening Star. 24 November 1927 – via Papers Past.
  14. ^ "Deaths". Wanganui Chronicle. 14 November 1949 – via Papers Past.

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