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After travelling to South Africa from Kaunas with her parents as a six month old baby, Rae Bank grew up in Johannesburg. She studied art history and drama in South Africa with the renowned Taubie Kushlick. Her late husband, Leon Hoffenberg was involved in various areas of the family Empire, Brema Estates in Port Elizabeth, cinemas, distributing 20th Century Fox films, property development, export of wool hides and skins, tannery, and salt pans for curing the hides. Leon and Rae had three daughters. They moved to Durban where Leon managed a branch of the family business and Rae became an internationally celebrated interior designer. She played a key role in the re-development of Docklands and warehouse conversions. She is currently working on having her screenplay produced.
Early career 
Rae appeared in many theatre productions in Durban. She starred in Cocteau's The Eagle Has Two Heads, directed by David Barnett in 1962, described by critics as 'powerful' and as 'dominating the production'. She played Thea in Anne Freed's production of Black Chiffon in 1958 and starred in On Monday Next by Philip King, produced by Robert Holness in March and April 1960.
Rae's early goal was to make South African home-makers more conscious of their interiors, introducing excitingly modern and intriguing designs for furniture and fabrics.
She was instrumental in introducing a new lifestyle in the country, which hitherto had been steeped in the traditional European style unsuited for the South African climate. She pioneered open plan architecture, introduced the Contemporary Classics in furniture and fabric designs, today exhibited in the modern museums throughout the world. Adapting design to climate, using new colour combinations and promoting the mix of antique and contemporary furniture design, Rae passionately brought the exciting world of design to Durban. In South African newspaper, The Daily News, Rae's decorating advice appeared throughout the 1960s. Featured in The Natal Mercury in 1968 are a collection of the very latest trends of women's fashion which she imported from the pulse centres of Europe. The demi-couture garments found a home in a new boutique called "Therese" after her eldest daughter and which Rae established in her Durban Decorating centre.
Rae's Durban properties 21 Portland Crescent and country house, Onverwacht in the Drakensberg appeared in numerous fashion, interior and design magazines, often as the main target of extensive articles and photographs of her interiors. Her opinion on interior design was highly sought after in South Africa as she owned design shops in Durban and Johannesburg in which she displayed furniture, ceramics, fabrics and also fashion garments from Europe. Travelling often to attend conferences and discover new talents, Homes and Gardens titled her 'one of South Africa's best-known and most progressive interior decorators'. The article continues by emphasizing Rae's interest in comfortable living and not only museum style show-pieces. Additionally, the article evokes Rae's passion for art collecting, Rae began collecting at 18 with a rare edition of Picasso lithographs and now has works by artists who include Miró, Max Ernst, Braque'. This art collecting continues throughout her career, in 1992, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool exhibited an Arturo Di Stefano from her collection.
Writing articles herself, 'New Ideas in Furnishing Today' in Artlook magazine depicts her views of society and reaction to modern furniture. She shows excitement for new forms and materials, refusing the idea of 'specific styles'. The controversy at the time lay in the pricing of furniture Rae Hoffenberg would import and sell in her Braamfontein and Durban emporiums, whilst most people would spend R1000 on a lounge-suite, her special designer pieces fetched R4000. She is described as believing in the much respected design trinity for her concept: function, comfort and aesthetic beauty. A firm believer in quality, master craftsmanship and expensive materials for furniture, she introduced South Africa to more than a specific style or a price-tag but to value, art and concept in interior decorating.
Grande dame of the docks 
After moving to London in 1973, Rae discovered Docklands and her quest for space, light and panoramic views could be made possible in the abandoned wharves on the banks of the river Thames. She fought local bureaucrats for three years to change the use from commercial to residential, creating a precedent and opening the floodgates to Docklands development. She has been the pivotal figure in a multibillion metamorphosis taking place in London. Canary Wharf rises a scant distance from Rae Hoffenberg's window. Her restoration of a derelict terrace of Thames side wharves has attracted the great and the good, David Lean amongst them. He had led a peripatetic life until he saw Rae's wharf conversions. It's where he settled, worked on his film "Passage to India" and where he died. She has earned the praise of no less a stern critic of the "carbuncles" of modern architecture than Prince Charles. In his T.V. architecture programme the Prince singled out Mrs. Hoffenberg's conversions as having "more human scale" than much in Dockland Architecture.
Rae's properties in Docklands have often appeared in magazines and newspapers, for the original location and the interior design. An article in The Daily News 'A Rae of light in Docklands' states: 'One of the prime movers in the transformation of London's Docklands near the Tower Bridge into a very fashionable living area today, is former Durban interior designer Rae Hoffenberg.' The article in the Lifestyle section defends a British newspaper remark that Rae's flat is 'the most beautiful flat in London', arguing how she has combined open-plan interiors, flower-laden balconies, brick, steel and original timbers to enhance the beauty of a river front Victorian warehouse Extremely praised, she has been described in a variety of ways: 'legendary, brilliant, visionary, pioneering, avant garde, passionately involved, etc. She has ideatic capability, from a family in engineering, building and development.'
'Queen of the London Docklands', 'Rae of Hope' or 'Grande Dame of the Docks' she pioneered the development of Docklands, battling for planning permission over three years, she refuses to be labelled with only one style: 'In the 60's she dazzled Durban with her interior décor ideas, then becoming the toast of the Thames, an interior designer of note, an expert at warehouse conversions, someone who excels at turning the mundane into the magnificent'. 'Docklands is the Future' she once said to an Evening Standard reporter, visualising the opportunity she adamantly believed in. Her home photographed as example of her vast ambitions, open spaces and indoor gardens, a mix of modern and old, harmony.
In Harpers and Queens Rae's achievements are again celebrated: 'The princess of warehouse reawakeners, and arguably the best architect alive today, is Rae Hoffenberg, who created the precedent for warehouse conversions in Docklands when she bought some derelict tea warehouses on Narrow Street in Limehouse in 1973 and converted them into flats.' The article continues to describe her use of glass and windows to flood spaces with natural light. Rae Hoffenberg converted three warehouses into thirteen flats over eight years, by the time this article came out. Two years later, she had just finished a fourth conversion. Peter Turlick, Director for Industrial Development of the London Docklands Development Corporation at the time said 'Mrs Hoffenberg is recognised as being the sparkling light in Docklands'. Without her belief in the potential of these warehouses, they would have been demolished.
Fighting for docklands 
Rae Hoffenberg has spent many years of her career battling and campaigning for her beliefs and projects, 'Docklands catalyst' she has argued the need for the development of the waterfront since the 1970s. She fought for years to persuade planners to invest in a destination with regard to the environment, residential use, shops, cafés, rives sport and entertainment spaces, all with a public river frontage. In an interview with Peter York for the BBC she explains her battle. Years of correspondence with the LDDC, Wapping Neighbourhood and Tower Hamlets proved to be unsuccessful at first, however they eventually realised the potential of the neighbourhood, visible in what the area has become today. Rae Hoffenberg's ability to visualise and the strength to pursue and battle for what she believed in She started the movement to give Docklands a new lease of life. Whilst most developers had given up. Rae campaigned alone to revitalise the East End's river, it was at a time when the Docks were being consolidated at Tilbury. The traditional Dockland communities were moving away and the local authorities had no forward plans for the area. Rae's application for planning permission was bounced back and forth between the GLC and the local council incessantly. In the end she took her case to the Environment Secretary and obtained consent for a change of use after 'knocking on numerous doors'.
As suggested, Rae Hoffenberg has not only fought for the conversion of warehouses but for the change of the entire neighbourhood. Opposing West India Quay Development Company Ltd plans for West India Quay, she promoted the creation of a 'central focal point, or social focus', a place where people can relax, shop and eat or drink. Her scheme offered a cinema, restaurants, piazzas, museums, workshops, galleries, etc. An artist's impression of her view in 1997 more accurately displays what West India Quay has become today. In 1999 she led a protest to block a new development on Narrow Street, vowing to build barricades. After purchasing Old Sun Wharf she fought for public access to the riverfront and demanded a co-operation between the public and private sectors over inner-city development. Without such a co-operation the area would be wasted. In 2003 she fought against the injustice of an increase in council tax by 17.2%, stating that she was prepared to go to prison but would not pay her council tax. Amongst other protestors she was taken to court by Tower Hamlets, again fighting for the well-being of the community of which she is a member.
From property and politics to today 
As Rae Hoffenberg continues to live in Docklands and care for the area she helped create. Since her husband's death in 1984 she has concentrated on writing plays and a novel. She is currently working on the production of a semi-autobiographical screenplay she has written called Loving Madly. The locations are set in South Africa and London's Docklands. She continues to visit South Africa regularly.
- 'On the Waterfront', Sue Fox, March 9, 1986, Sunday Times, Lifestyle
- August 20. 1969, S.A. Financial Gazette
- Sarah Bingham, July 1987, 'Grand Dame of the Docks', Style
- Roy Christie and Peter Wrinch-Shulz, July 12, 1962, The Daily News
- June 14, 1971, The Star Johannesburg
- Daily news reporter, June 17, 1964, The Daily News
- December 1964, March 1965, June 1967 The Daily News
- May 13, 1968, The Natal Mercury
- Garth Tomkinson, August 1969, South African Garden and Home
- David Jonssen, 1969, no 13, Homes and Gardens of Southern Africa
- Rae Hoffenberg, November 1970, Artlook
- Martin Penfound, September 19, 1971, Sunday Times Colour Magazine
- 'The Warehouse Visionary', Robert Troop, September 12, 1976, The Sunday Times
- 'The Urban River', December 3, 1977, Financial Times Saturday
- 'Dockland Hamlets', Tony Aldous, May 1978, p.36 The Illustrated London News
- 'Revival In Derelict Docklands', June Field, June 6, 1981, Financial Times Saturday
- Jeremy Lawrence, December 10, 1981, 'A Rae of Light in Docklands', The Daily News
- December 1990, 'A place on the River / English Design', Habitat
- Sue Fox, March 9, 1986, ‘On the Waterfront’, Sunday Times, Lifestyle
- Beryl Downing, May 8, 1991, 'A Wharf of Fresh Air: A life in the Home of Rae Hoffenberg', The Evening Standard
- Caroline Silver, June 1984, Harpers and Queen
- Caroline Silver, September 1982, Harpers and Queens
- Beryl Downing, October 29, 1989, 'Dockland Original' Observer in London, Issue 59
- Peter York, Broadcast January 1996 by BBC, Published 1995, Peter York's Eighties
- Beryl Downing, September 15, 1990, 'Limehouse is not a Home', The Independent
- Dieter Jebens, January 1991, 'A Dream For Docklands', Thames User
- Charles Jennings, January 1, 1995, 'Are You In Denial?', The Guardian
- Lee Servis, March 20, 1997, 'Docklands Can Never Be a Community', East London Advertiser
- Paul Marinko, October 14, 1999, 'Over My Dead Body!', East London Advertiser
- Mandrake, June 2, 1991, 'Civil War- You can Saye that again', The Sunday Telegraph
- Thair Shaikh, July 20, 2003, 'Council tax rebels appear in court vowing to go to jail', The Sunday Telegraph