McINTOSH is generally considered to be the earliest exponent of the International Style, in terms of buildings built, in the Transvaal (House AG Munro, Pretoria, c1931 ). He was the son of the architect FG McINTOSH, and was born in Glasgow . He was educated at Pretoria Boys' High School where he did particularly well in mathematics and science. On matriculating he studied architecture from 1923 to 1926 as a full-time student at the University of the Witwatersrand, working during vacations in his father's office in Pretoria and gaining experience through supervision work on various houses for Gordon LEITH in Pretoria. McINTOSH was a close friend of RD MARTIENSSEN at Wits and after. McINTOSH failed to pass architectural design in 1926 and spent from July 1926 until July 1927 in the office of McINTOSH & Hall, working under JL HALL, his father having died in 1926. He returned to the University of the Witwatersrand in 1927 and graduated with a Degree of Bachelor of Architecture in March 1928. In the company of Martienssen, he joined the first South African Students' Tour of Europe (December 1925 to February 1926); they were the only two architectural students. He recorded being impressed by the modern architecture in the Netherlands. He and Martienssen were among the group of architectural students from the University of the Witwatersrand to tour the Cape with Professor PEARSE in January 1928. McINTOSH was the second student to graduate as an architect from an architectural school in South Africa; he was the first secretary of the Architectural Students' Society, University of the Witwatersrand in 1927[?]. He returned to work in Hall's office but left to start his own practice in October 1928.
In about 1929 McINTOSH's association with the University of Pretoria began. He became a part-time lecturer in Engineering at the Transvaal University College, Pretoria. He was closely involved with the development of the College through to its aquiring University status and in particular with the development and organisation of the School of Architecture.
His career as an architect began by his being among the first of his group at the University of the Witwatersrand to design and build a house in the new style, which owed much to the International Style, for his client Mrs AG Munro, House Munro. His association with Martiennsen continued with the production of a magazine "zerohour", an elegant journal of which only one issue (1933) was co-produced with N HANSON. McINTOSH continued to practise in Pretoria, pioneering several buildings there in the modern style. He admired the work of W Gropius whose influence is reflected in his early work. The text accompanying illustrations of House Munro includes a quote from Gropius and reads 'the ground plan of a dwelling house is a geometrical projection its spatial idea, the organising plan for moving within the house. the elevation, facade, is the result of that plan and not the starting point of the house design. hence no artificial symmetry but a free functional arrangement of the succession of rooms' (SAAR Jun 1932:158.) The influence of Le CORBUSIER, who was much admired by R Martienssen, could be seen in the block of flats Whitecrook (1937, demolished 1985, built on land where his father's house, Whitecrook, had stood.) In 1937 McINTOSH was placed second in the Rand Daily Mail Ideal Home competition.
McINTOSH's quiet and reserved personality did not lend itself to publicity but throughout his life he commanded the respect and affection of his colleagues in the profession and in the University. He was among the few architects to receive the Institute of South African Architects Gold Medal (1968) and the medal for Architecture awarded by the Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (1970). It was characteristic of his kindly and responsible nature that during the Second World War he took charge of work of colleagues engaged in active service, seeing the work was carried out and their fees paid to them. Throughout his career McINTOSH was also closely associated with the South African Architectural Record to which he often submitted articles. He became an external examiner in architecture at the Universities of Pretoria, the Witwatersrand and the Orange Free State and was a member of the Board of the Faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand and of the Board of Education at the Institute of Architects. From 1946 he acted as chairman of the Town Planning Advisory Committee of the City Council of Pretoria.
Among his later buildings were the Normal College Hostels, the Customs House building and the Art Museum in Arcadia, Pretoria, the latter with Burg, Doherty, Bryant and Partners, and the Sir Ernest Oppenheimer Men's Residence for the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He was one of the few architects to be awarded the medal for architecture from the Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. McINTOSH is known to have co-operated with various architects on certain joint projects. He died of a heart attack at Jan Smuts Airport (Oliver Tambo International).
List of achievements
The following are a list of achievements for which Gordon McINTOSH is acclaimed:
1929 Member of the Institute of South African Architects
1930 Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects
1932 Dip Q.S. (Pret)
Dip Town Planning
1934-52 Council Member, Transvaal Provincial Institute of Architects
1936 & 42 President, Transvaal Provincial Institute of Architects
1968 Institute of South African Architects Gold Medal
1970 Medal of Honour for Architecture by the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns
1958 M Arch (Honoris causa) (Pret)
1972 Dr Arch (Hon)
1967-68 President, Institute of South African Architects
A short description of Gordon McINTOSH
by Mira FASSLER-KAMSTRA
Gordon McINTOSH and Sheila his wife were the focal point of meetings and social gatherings. She claims that Gordon and his wife were of her favourite aunts and uncles of her childhood. The McINTOSH home in Brooklyn, left an imprint on her mind, in that when her father John FASSLER returned from Paris after meeting LE CORBUSIER in 1937, he prepared a colour scheme for Gordon which was then applied to the Brooklyn House, to Sheilas consent.
According to Mira she could only remember 'happy days', of warm hospitality at 233 Mackenzie Street Brooklyn, Pretoria. She also remembers the softening touch of Sheila in the Brooklyn Home. Gordon McINTOSH was seen as a very caring person and also someone with warmth and wisdom Sheila Kirtley McIntosh passed away in February 1972 whereupon Gordon commissioned Mira’s sister Stephanie Fassler Ross to make a stained glass window for the church in memory of his wife. This window was installed in the Wessley Methodist Church Pretoria. Mira an architect herself says she had the privilege of having Gordon and Bernard Cooke as colleagues at the final year oral examination at Wits in 1982, and she was struck by their patience, thoroughness and yet gentleness. 'The man,' she says, 'is a great one, whose impact and influence will always be felt'.
Recipient of the Gold Medal Award from the South African Institute of Architects.
Gordon McINTOSH was a silversmith in his spare time and on the retirement of Prof John FASSLER and in appreciation for the meritorious contribution Fassler had made, his friends and colleagues presented him with a circular silver bowl made by Gordon McINTOSH. After the death of his wife Sheila he made silver spoons which were presented to her close friends. The one photographed here was given to Sheilagh Fassler, wife of John FASSLER.
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.
Books citing McINTOSH
Chapters in books by McINTOSH