Yonder lies your hinterland : Rhodes, Baker, and the twisted strands of the South African architectural tradition

Claassen, J. M. (2009)

CITATION: Claassen, J. M. 2009. Yonder lies your hinterland : Rhodes, Baker, and the twisted strands of the South African architectural tradition. Akroterion, 54:69-86, doi:10.7445/54-0-28.

The original publication is available at http://akroterion.journals.ac.za


This article considers the various strands that make up the classical architectural tradition in South Africa. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, under British rule the tradition of the Palladian style for civic buildings and of Graeco-Roman building styles for institutions of higher learning reflected the imperial ideals of South Africa’s political overlords. This was the tradition in which Sir Herbert Baker had been trained and which he encountered when he reached South Africa late in the nineteenth century. South African architecture would have been less rich without the strong influence of Cecil John Rhodes’ admiration for indigenous Cape Dutch architecture on Baker’s architectural taste. This architecture was strongly rooted in another aspect of the classical tradition. During Dutch economic and imperial rule, the northern European style of classicistic or baroque gabling on perpendicular buildings had at the Cape been translated into the gables of sprawling low buildings. Illustrations show earlier examples of classical styles at the Cape, including examples of the second classical strain (via Holland and Germany) in South African architecture, so much admired by Rhodes. The article continues with an examination of some of Baker’s best known buildings that show a blending of these two strands. It ends with some thoughts on the durability of the Classical tradition and neo-classical vestiges in post-colonial (and postapartheid) South Africa.

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