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STAUCH, Hellmut Wilhem Ernst

Born: 1910 03 10
Died: 1970 07 19

Architect

SACA:
Reg No: 941
Year registered: 1946


List of Projects


References

Was born in Eisenach, Germany. His father, August Stauch, discovered the South West Africa (Namibia) diamond fields in 1907 while on a two year contract from Germany to German South West Africa and made a fortune which he later lost. However, the fortune enabled Hellmut Stauch to spend his early years in an affluent circle in Germany. On leaving school at 16 he followed his sister to Ittenschule in Berlin but was hospitalised in Switzerland with tuberculosis the same year. He returned to his studies at the Ittenschule and went on to the Technische Hochschule, Berlin, marrying his first wife in 1929. The same year, he designed his first buildings in Africa, at the request of the South West Africa Farming & Trading Co - the buildings consisted of a house for a married couple and a community house for ten bachelors on the farm Dordabis in South West Africa, the only farm, according to Levinsohn (1987), which still belonged to August Stauch after he had been declared bankrupt in 1926. Stauch travelled to South West Africa to execute the work and afterwards he mentions he returned to Berlin and found employment with F Forbat and it was through Forbat that Stauch met Walter Gropius, for whom he said he had also worked.

In Berlin Stauch worked on plans for garden cities in the and at Siemenstraat, Spandau and Haselhorst. From February 1932 to February 1934 he worked for Wilhelm Peters as clerk of works and was also engaged in working on industrialised housing schemes at the time. In 1934 he set up practice on his own account.

A keen and skilful sailor, Stauch designed the sailing dinghy Olympia-Jolle in preparation for the Olympics. But to participate in the Olympics as a German it had been obliged to join the Nazi Youth Movement which meant that certain mental and physical basic training was mandatory. Stauch chose not to join the movement and left the country and headed for Africa.

There are two accounts of how Stauch reached Pretoria; one, given by Herbert (1975:150) through interviewing Stauch, states Stauch went first to South West Africa, 'where he produced an interesting series of analytic studies of designs for very hot climates, and for modular planning and system building, investigations which were advanced for their time, and probably unique in Southern Africa.' According to Herbert, Stauch then went to Pretoria where he met AV NUNN. NATION (1985) says that Stauch (whom she knew and for whom she worked), arrived in Cape Town and then in March 1935 took up an offer of employment from Aubrey Nunn; Stauch, writing to Itten in 1946, said he arrived in Pretoria on 24 March 1935 and joined Nunn's office as a partner. Herbert says Nunn was keen to obtain someone who could produce modern work (Herbert 1975:151). Owing to Stauch's lack of formal architectural qualifications, he was not allowed to practise as a full partner with Nunn and the partnership went under the unusual description of AV Nunn with Hellmut Stauch (cf. NUNN with STAUCH). Stauch married for the third time at about this date. The partnership with Nunn lasted until 1943, when Stauch left to practise on his own, qualifying formally in 1946. Stauch outlined his training and experience in registering with the Institute of South African Architects in 1942: 'I have been working with Mr AV Nunn for the past seven-and-a-half years. As this firm may close down, and since through a physical disability I am not eligible for military service, I may have to practice on my own. Training: Ittenschule, Berlin (a branch of the Bauhaus in Weimar), Professors Muche, Forbat, Neuffert and Koehn (1926 - 1929). At same time I studied at the Technische Hochschule, Berlin under Professors Taut and Tessenow. In 1929 I accepted an offer by SWA Farming, Trading Co. Returned to Berlin - worked with Fred Forbat until 1933, and partly with W Gropius and Marcel Breuer, mainly on housing schemes. 1933-1935 own practice and with contractor, interest in prefabrication of economical houses. I came to South Africa in 1935. After a brief stay in Cape Town I came to Pretoria where I have worked ever since with Mr AV Nunn.' During the period with Nunn he designed several buildings, feeling his way towards what has been identified as his mature style - one in which the function of the building, his point of departure, dictated through his preference for practical materials and form a rational, rather austere but thoughtful design approach which was sensitive to local conditions. He was, for instance, always aware of the sun bringing it into his work, at the same time protecting the building from glare. This awareness is consistent with his earlier studies in designing for 'very hot climates'. Stauch worked almost exclusively in and around Pretoria where he made his home, experimenting with industrialised building components to bring South African building methods more into line with the twentieth century in Europe.

Stauch apparently discarded CORBUSIER for Niemeyer, Wright and EATON. By 1940 Hugh Casson had already spotted Stauch as among Pretoria's forward-looking architects in an article he wrote which appeared in the Architectural Review (August 1940), in which he concentrated on Pretoria selecting buildings by WG McINTOSH and AV Nunn with Stauch almost exclusively. A further biographical note was made in the Architectural Review (June 1953:382): 'In 1943 Stauch joined the staff of the School of Architecture at the University of Pretoria as a lecturer in design under the newly appointed Professor of Architecture, AL MEIRING, teaching there for eight years. From 1948 to 1951 he was in partnership with FJ WEPENER and visited Rio in 1949 to meet R Niemeyer. Nicholaus PEVSNER, in Pretoria in 1953 when covering the architecture of the Commonwealth, made particular note of the Meat Board building and Stauch's buildings as leaders of a style well in the vanguard of what was being built in Europe'.

Stauch died following a regatta at Lourenço Marques (Maputo) aged only 60 years old. He is remembered for a particular personal charisma which was either admired or feared and which no-one seems to resist mentioning.

(Arch Rev Aug 1940, Jun 1953 & Oct 1959; Arch SA Jan/Feb 1987:23-29; Bauwelt 39, 1935:896; Herbert 1975; ISAA mem list; Lantern Feb 1989:29-37; Levinsohn 1987; Nation 1985; SAAR Apr 1937:154-7; SAAR Sep 1952:212-21)

Publ: Neues Bauen in den Kolonien, unidentified pamphlet. n.d. (c1935); Das Ideale Eigenheim, undated pamphlet, no publ name.

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.