Snippets from the north: Snippets from the north: Architects in Durban and their response to identity, common culture and resistance in the 1930s

Whelan, Deborah (2018) Snippets from the north: Snippets from the north: Architects in Durban and their response to identity, common culture and resistance in the 1930s. In: 6th International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development, 12th - 15th June 2018, Granada, Spain.

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As previous colonies of both Holland and Great Britain South Africans have been great borrowers, taking clues from memories of the motherlands, as well as engaging with discourse emanating from the ‘home’ countries, applying the principles seemingly irrelevantly, and at the same time flying dangerously close to the production of pastiche. Pre and post Union in 1910, the British-controlled colonies comprising contemporary South Africa trickled down these imported architectural influences, bringing smatterings of Arts and Crafts as a layer over the Victorian neo-Gothic and Classical revivals, and introduced important new ideas emanating out of the first two decades of the century such as Art Deco and Modernism.

Implausibly, into this polemic of the new buildings crept another revival: that of a melange of Tudor and Elizabethan, focusing on detail, craftsmanship and reference to a bygone era. Further, the Tudorbethan Revival occurred at a vital point in the inter-war era, and it is contended that the application of the style spoke more to a calculated resistance to the hybrid ‘Union Period’ architecture, and the forging of a common, diasporic identity and common culture in the 1930s, than it did to a mere unthinking application of the fashionable.

This paper will begin by describing the Tudorbethan Revival against the common architectural themes of the time in Durban, South Africa. It will contextualise the production of buildings with the political and social situation in the inter-war years, before examining the works of prominent architects, engineers and their clients, in conceiving of this well-crafted, nostalgic and irrelevant architecture. It will conclude pitting this complex aesthetic against a similar Revivalist thread popular at the time, Gwelo Goodman’s Cape Dutch Revival suggesting at the unconscious role that domestic architectures play in supporting political positions in contested societies.

Keywords:revivalist, Durban, Tudorbethan
Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K190 Architecture not elsewhere classified
ID Code:32687
Deposited On:30 Jul 2018 11:32

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