Changing trade: the Modernist vernacular as idiom in South Africa

Whelan, Deborah (2013) Changing trade: the Modernist vernacular as idiom in South Africa. In: Vernacular Heritage and Earthern Architecture: Contributions for Sustainable Development. CRC Press, pp. 332-226. ISBN 978-1-138-00083-4

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Abstract

: In the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, a localised form of modernist vernacular architecture emerged around 1950 and was employed in the construction of rural trading stores, usually operated by whites or Asians. Many of these were successful enterprises in their time, stocking everything from a ‘pin to a plough’ and acting as an important focus in rural communities.

The original move to modernism originated largely as legislative imperative, forcing rural traders to rebuild stores considered ‘sub-standard’. The original structures had been of necessity vernacular, of wattle and daub, or stone or reed, and many were already over fifty years old. At the same time for decades, aboriginal resi-dents continued to construct their homes in traditional ways. Despite exposure to new architectural forms, po-tential for acculturation enforced by migrant labour and greater access to new materials provided by these very trading stores, many rural people remained steadfast in their construction methods and few resorted to adopting orthogonal forms for domestic use, instead remaining faithful to conical and circular forms.

Evidently, commerce was different. From the mid-1970s a new breed of stores began to emerge as a result of variant factors. These spaza shops mimicked modernist trading stores, yet supplied little of the commerce or goodwill that had characterised their progenitors. Today they proliferate in the rural landscape, providing very different amenity for customer, community and trader. Underpinning the paradigm shift was the idea of wealth, which enabled the transference from white or Asian-owned trading stores to contemporary African-owned modernist-derived spaza shops.

This paper will present possible reasons why local people in KwaZulu-Natal did not adopt alternative con-struction materials and forms with alacrity until the late 20th century, and simultaneously examine how the modernist trading store building contributed to the construction of a mutually recognised vernacular architec-ture.

Keywords:trading stores, vernacular modernism, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal
Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K190 Architecture not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
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ID Code:28974
Deposited On:01 Aug 2018 09:36

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