OBIT­U­ARY

Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

Louis Chal­lis AM, was Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous acous­ti­cal en­gi­neer and a for­mer tech­ni­cal con­sul­tant for Aus­tralian Hi-Fi Mag­a­zine.

Louis Chal­lis AM spent his life mak­ing un­wanted noise and vi­bra­tion in­audi­ble and mak­ing good noise crys­tal-clear. Chal­lis had a rep­u­ta­tion as Aus­tralia’s lead­ing acous­ti­cal en­gi­neer. He provided out­stand­ing acous­ti­cal de­signs and ad­vice for some of Aus­tralia’s most im­por­tant and pres­ti­gious build­ings. Fore­most among th­ese was his eight-year in­volve­ment in the ar­chi­tec­tural acous­tic de­sign and su­per­vi­sion of Par­lia­ment House in Can­berra. Other landmark public build­ings and in­fra­struc­ture projects in­clude the Par­lia­ment Houses of New South Wales, Queens­land and Pa­pua New Guinea; the Olympics 2000 project at Home­bush Bay, and Syd­ney Har­bour Tun­nel.

In the 1970s, Chal­lis de­signed and de­vel­oped an au­dio-tac­tile push-but­ton sig­nalling sys­tem, so pedes­tri­ans who are sight- and/ or hearing-im­paired can eas­ily de­ter­mine whether the sig­nal is dis­play­ing ‘Walk’ or ‘Don’t Walk’ sim­ply by touch­ing the but­ton. Although the New South Wales Depart­ment of Main Roads of­fered Chal­lis the right to pa­tent his in­ven­tion, he de­clined to do so on the ba­sis that he be­lieved the in­no­va­tion should be made as widely avail­able as pos­si­ble at the low­est pos­si­ble cost. The sys­tem he de­signed is used not only in all Aus­tralian cities but also around the world.

His pro­fes­sional ca­reer per­vaded his life. When he built a new fam­ily home in the 1970s in Dover Heights, in Syd­ney’s east, he se­lected a site on a hill­side to en­able him to build a full-size acous­tic lab­o­ra­tory in­clud­ing a re­ver­ber­a­tion cham­ber the size of a squash court. When work­ing on Par­lia­ment House in Can­berra, Chal­lis and his team tested for three months the acous­ti­cal prop­er­ties of prospec­tive ma­te­ri­als us­ing a 1:10 scale model of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives cham­ber in a space big enough to do so: the liv­ing room of his home.

Born in 1936, Chal­lis was the son of Ru­bin Chalezky and Celia Mruz, both of whom mi­grated to Aus­tralia from east­ern Europe in the 1920s. After ma­tric­u­lat­ing from Can­ter­bury Boys High in 1953, Chal­lis spent a year in Israel and then com­pleted a Bach­e­lor of Elec­tri­cal En­gi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Syd­ney, later fol­lowed by a Mas­ter of Ar­chi­tec­tural Sci­ence from the same univer­sity.

His first job on graduation was in un­der­wa­ter acous­tics for the Royal Aus­tralian Navy. After work­ing there and OTC, now part of Tel­stra, he started Louis A. Chal­lis & As­so­ci­ates in 1966. His wife, Anna, left her ca­reer as a geo­physi­cist in 1973 to work with Chal­lis in his prac­tice. Over the next 40 years, they worked to­gether build­ing a suc­cess­ful prac­tice in Wool­lahra and then Kings Cross.

Chal­lis served in the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force Re­serve as a spe­cial­ist ad­viser in acous­tics, where he at­tained the rank of Wing Com­man­der. He also acted as spe­cial­ist ad­viser on foren­sic as­sess­ment of tapes for ASIO, the New South Wales In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion Against Cor­rup­tion and the New South Wales Crime Com­mis­sion. He gen­er­ously do­nated his time serv­ing on com­mit­tees to de­velop acous­ti­cal stan­dards, many of which are still in use to­day. He also wrote hun­dreds of re­views of hi-fi equip­ment for the lead­ing elec­tron­ics and hi-fi mag­a­zines of the day—Aus­tralian HiFi Mag­a­zine, Elec­tron­ics To­day In­ter­na­tional and Elec­tron­ics Aus­tralia—his ap­proach was un­usual in that it com­bined ob­jec­tive lab­o­ra­tory test­ing with sub­jec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

As a tes­ta­ment to Chal­lis’ pi­o­neer­ing work, service and con­tri­bu­tions, he re­ceived numer­ous awards. His first was in 1976, recog­nis­ing his work on New South Wales Par­lia­ment House. He was elected as a Dis­tin­guished Cor­re­spond­ing Mem­ber of the In­sti­tute of Noise Con­trol En­gi­neer­ing of the United States in 1993. He was made an Hon­orary Fel­low of Engi­neers Aus­tralia in 1998. He was se­lected by the Aus­tralian Academy of Tech­no­log­i­cal Sciences and En­gi­neer­ing to be a Fel­low in 2000. He was hon­oured with the Cen­te­nary Medal in 2001; Mem­ber­ship of the Or­der of Aus­tralia in 2005, and a Doc­tor of En­gi­neer­ing ( Honoris Causa) from the Univer­sity of Syd­ney in 2015. Over the course of his ca­reer, he re­ceived an un­prece­dented 12 En­gi­neer­ing Ex­cel­lence Awards from Engi­neers Aus­tralia and Con­sult Aus­tralia.

Chal­lis passed away fol­low­ing sev­eral years of dial­y­sis. De­spite his fail­ing health, he re­tained an in­cred­i­ble zest for life, en­joy­ing the arts, friends and fam­ily. He is sur­vived by his wife, Anna, their two sons and five grand­chil­dren. Dar­ren Chal­lis

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