Architecture

This is a book of photographs of old inner city Johannesburg, of its buildings, cityscapes, street views and public art. It is a very beautiful book and it slips easily and rather well into the library of books on the changing faces of Johannesburg. At least 20 companies or institutes have contributed funds for its publication. The photographer is Patrick de Mervelec, who teamed up with the architectural historian, Clive Chipkin who has written the all too brief captions for the photographs.

I first encountered the work of Nic Coetzer when searching for information about the South African presence at the series of Empire exhibitions held in Britain before the Second World War. I was intrigued by his analysis as to why the South African pavilion, for example at the Wembley Empire Exhibition of 1924/25 and again the Glasgow exhibition of 1938 at Bellahouston Park, should have been designed in Cape Dutch architectural style.

In 1948 a book called Homes of the Golden City was published. The book is about Johannesburg. The initiator of the project was Allister Macmillan, who sadly died before the book was completed. The project was brought to completion by a young writer Eric Rosenthal (1905-1983) who went on to be be a prolific author on historical themes.

 

This is one of those dozen or so "must have in a Johannesburg collection of books". Published in 1979, it is a book that reminds one of the passage of time. How recent now seem one's young days and yet how long ago it all was. A friend recently commented that it is impossible to stop the march of progress, when I bemoaned the impact of the new Rea Vaya on Louis Botha Avenue which, as a result of the road works, instead of revitalization, has become a hazardous obstacle course.

Doreen Greig's Guide to Architecture in South Africa was published more than 40 years ago by Howard Timmins, with only 1000 copies printed and, with each numbered, it speedily became a classic. The coverage was national, with not too heavy a focus on the well trodden Cape Dutch genre. Yet to view this book today one realizes how far architectural writing and books about architecture have come. The illustrative photographs were small and filled with dark shadows. Yet Greig was an authority and her grasp of her subject was sure.

101 Country Churches of South Africa, Philippe Menache & Darryl Earl David, 2010, published by Booktown Richmond Press, soft cover, illustrated, map, 103 pages. This is an impressive book of photographs of literally 101 country churches, across the nine provinces of South Africa. The colour photograph fills the page with a brief paragraph recording the basic facts about the specific church, date of construction, name of the architect and church denomination. Photographs are of the exteriors only.

The Pioneer Architects of Johannesburg and their buildings (1886 to 1899), with postcard illustrations is likely to be of interest to the Johannesburg heritage fraternity and will be a useful addition to the literature available on Johannesburg architectural history. The work of twenty architects and their buildings over the period 1886 to 1897 has been researched.

The Early Architects of Cape Town and their buildings (1820 – 1926) with postcard illustrations is a sizeable title for a small book (the main body of text is only 120 pages). It has been written and self published by Michael Walker (2012). The format is one of tracking down a number of important architects of Cape Town through their buildings as shown in souvenir vintage postcards. The principal focus of the book is on approximately 50 architects active in Cape town in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Michael Walker is a Cape Town local historian and resident. He has written a number of  books covering South African shipwrecks, railway journeys, coastal memories and then extended himself to the history of Simon’s Town, Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and St James. Now Michael has combined his interest in architecture and postcards to publish three works of interest to all interested in architectural heritage:

Western Provincial an album of Paintings and Drawings of the Western Cape, by Desiree Picton-Seymour and R I B Webster,  1952, Maskew Miller, Cape Town, 36 plates , 80 pages. This book was a collaborative effort by the artist (Picton-Seymour) and the author (Webster). The charm of this slender volume is that it captures in tipped in plates and scraper board drawings some of the architecture of the Western Cape.  It is an artistic and romantic gem.

Early Johannesburg Its buildings and its People,  Hannes Meiring, with text by G-M van der Waal and Wilhelm Grutter, Human & Rousseau, 1986. 143 pages. This book has the feel of a album and was published in the Johannesburg centenary year. I think it was one of the most appealing of centenary publications. The inimitable Meiring style comes through in his light touch but detailed sketches of Johannesburg buildings. The project started as drawings in a series, "Ou Johannesburg ", for Die Beeld.

Hannes Meiring: My Country in Line and Colour - An Unconventional Look at South African Architecture. Fernwood Press, 2004.  Meiring was a fine architect who died in 2010. He was a sensitive conservation and heritage professional.  Published some 11 years ago this finely produced volume is a compilation of many of Meiring's architectural sketches and water colours .

Subscribe to Architecture