“Many architects of the current generation don’t necessarily understand what it’s like to travel the world to get jobs like we did in the day,” Catalani said in an interview recorded for the firm earlier this year, reflecting on a time in architecture that he likened to a “wild west”, when credentials were exaggerated, risks were taken and offices were cramped and thick with cigarette smoke.
By the early 1970s, the pair were working out of the front bedroom of a house Fender owned in Box Hill, mostly on residential projects.
Joining the booming practice of Fender Katsalidis in the mid-1990s, Catalani had the opportunity to work on larger-scale projects, including Levantine Hill Estate in the Yarra Valley, the Buxton Contemporary art gallery in Melbourne’s Southbank precinct, Merdeka 118 in Malaysia – currently under construction and set to be the second-tallest building in the world – the Midtown Centre in Brisbane, the new headquarters of The Advertiser in Adelaide and the Bendigo Art Gallery.
He also worked on the renovation of Melbourne’s Princess Theatre, home to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
“After 55 years of close friendship, most of which were also spent practicing architecture together both in Australia and abroad, it’s still quite difficult to reconcile Roland’s absence,” said Mr Fender.
“The architecture community has lost a significant contributor, particularly in the mentoring of emerging architects. His infectious laugh, his caring and his fierce loyalty will be greatly missed by his family and friends.”
Mr Catalani was described by the firm as an “old school architect” who was “calm, methodical and gifted with a strong design sense”.
A memorial service for Mr Catalani will be held on Friday and webcast via the Tobin Brothers site on Friday, May 1, at 10.30am.