BArch 1960 (Pretoria); MArch UD 1991 (Witwatersrand); DArch 2007 (Free State)
Born in Stellenbosch. BArch Pretoria (1960). Worked in Munich and London. Forbears have been in Africa 300 years: feels part of Africa and loves its landscapes. Tries to build with the genius loci. Towns/buildings/landscape/art are all part of the same fabric. Interested in the interface man/artefact. The contrast between urban centres and unspoilt landscape needs to be intensified. Working towards a more tactile architecture. Influences: AALTO,
VAN EYCK, KAHN, BARRAGAN, SCARPA,
(UIA Issue 8, 1985)
||Matric: Lydenburg High School. A7 average pass.
||B. Arch. (U.P)
||M. Urban Design (Rand). Dissertation passed with distinction. Awarded the Prize of the City of Johannesburg for best Urban Design dissertation.
||D. Arch.H.C. (U.F.S.)
|1954 – 1959
||Pretoria University. Editor Rag Magazine 1958. Chairman of Arts Association Castalia.
||Architectural assistant in office Paul LE ROUX, Stellenbosch. Working drawings for Dingaanstad missionary Church and Voortrekker Commemoration Church.
|1961 - 1962
||Assistant in the office of Hans Maurer of Siemens, Munich. Assistant in the office of G.H.Winkler, Munich. Housing design and working drawings, urban design scheme.
|1963 – 1964
|| Assistant to Jan van WIJK in design and documentation of Universiteitsoord Church and Afrikaans Language Monument, project for holiday town Natal North Coast.
Assistant in the office of Leonard Manasseh and Partners, London. Design and working drawings of university hostel in Leicester. Published in Architectural Review and Inscape by Sir Hugh Casson.
Assistant in Taylor Woodrow office Theo Crosby, Design work at Euston Station, London. Housing competition in office with Archigram Group.
|1964 – 1968
||Assistant and later associate in the office of Jan VAN WIJK. Shared in design involvement in RAU.
|1968 – 1969
||Own office in Pretoria. Documentation for hospital in White River, dwellings, international competition.
|1970 – 1977
||Practice moves to Johannesburg. Design and documentation of 6 buildings on campus of Potchefstroom University in collaboration with WO MEYER & PARTNERS, layout for campus extensions, landscape design, several churches, dwellings, cinemas, a village for farm workers, architectural competitions.
|1974 – 1977
||Part-time teaching at University of Witwatersrand.
||Partnership with Michael SCHOLES (BANNIE BRITZ & MICHAEL SCHOLES). Urban Design for Government Centre, Mmabatho, competiton for new Australian Parliament, housing, factories and dwellings, design for university hostel for University of the Witwatersrand, recycling of buildings, furniture design, major recreation complex.
|1988 – 1990
||Sidney ABRAMOWITCH joins partnership (BRITZ SCHOLES ABRAMOWITCH). Community centres, Supreme Court, Parliament and office buildings for Bophuthatswana Government.
|1988 – 1991
||Professional advisor to D.B.S.A.
|1990 – 1991
||Expansion of partnership (BRITZ SCHOLES ABRAMOWITCH DU TOIT HOFFE – BSADH). Community centres, Urban Design, churches and luxury housing.
|1992 – 2000
||Professor and Head of Department of Architecture at UFS.
Principal in architectural practice BANNIE BRITZ ARCHITECT & URBAN DESIGNER. 38 architectural projects handled, inter alia design leader: Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, extensions to a provincial hospital, a library, Urban Design for the Free State University and an administration building for The Free State Technikon. (The latter building in conjunction with THE ROODT PARTNERSHIP).
||Study tour to Germany, Austria, Hungary and Czech Republic.
||Study tour to Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Israel.
||Study visit to London.
||Study tour Germany, Czech Republic, Austria.
|2000 - 2011
||Own practice in Bloemfontein involved in wide variety of projects.
||Study tour Spain, Germany.
||Appointed as Urban Designer for the University of the Free State after inputs since 2001.
||Study tour: Deutsche Backstein-Gothik, Germany.
||Structure Plan for the Central University of Technology, Welkom with THE ROODT PARTNERSHIP.
||Structure Plan for the Qwa-Qwa campus of Free State University.
||Member of Institute of SA Architects (2099)
||Registered with SA Council for Architects (1309)
|1986 - 1988
||Member of Educational Advisory Committee of SA Institute of Architects
|1992 - 2000
||Member of Educational Advisory Committee of SA Institute of Architects
|1993 - 1998
||Member of Educational Advisory Committee of SA Council for Architects
|1993 - 2001
||Alternate member of SA Council of Architects
|1994 - 2004
||Committee Member OFS Institute of Architects
|1995 - 2000
||Vice-president: OFS Institute of Architects
|2000 - 2002
||President: OFS Institute of Architects
|2003 - 2004
||Member: SAIA Board of Representatives
||Registered with UDISA
|1972 - 1992
||15 built buildings of the practice and one urban design project received Awards of Merit from the Institute of S.A Architects. At the time it was the highest number of Institute awards any practice in the RSA has received. B. Britz designed seven of the buildings and was co-author and leader in the urban design project.
||Fulton Award for the Parliament Building in Mmabatho.
||Medal of Honour for Architecture: S.A. Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.
||Award of Merit: Institute of S.A. Architects: House Britz
||Awards of Merit: Gauteng Institute of Architects & S.A. Institute of Architects: Apartheid Museum.
||SAIA Award for Excellence: Apartheid Museum (shared)
||SAIA Gold Medal for Architecture
||University of the Free State: Centenary Medal
||SAIA Award of Merit for Refurbishing of Main Building U.F.S.
||SAIA Award of Merit for Selosesha Library
|1975 - 1991
||Several invited lectures to architectural students at the Universities of Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Cape Town, Natal and Port Elizabeth.
||Lecture at the Technische Hochschule, Munich, on S.A. Architecture
||Lecture at the Institute of S.A. Architects on "Professionalism".
Lecture at the I.S.A.A.: The floor as façade or architecture as landscape: The Potchefstroom Student Centre
||I.S.A.A. National Congress, Durban – Paper titled: Die omgewing en 'n betekenisvolle rol vir die beroep, ‘n her-definisie van die argitek se verantwoordelikheid.
||Len Hix Memorial Lecture, UCT: Is a South African Architecture possible? (Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies en Chevrolet).
Summer School, UCT, lecture entitled: My kind of Architecture, Later published in full in "The Cape Times" and "The Star".
||I.S.A.A. National Congress, Cape Town, paper entitled: The Design of Urban Places – the City as Palimpsest.
Lecture at the TPIA, Johannesburg.(Midweek in Architecture): Suid Afrikaanse Streeksargitektuur – Waarom Wat en Hoe?
||George, Architectural Society, lecture: Toward environmental quality.
||University of Pretoria School lecture: Die kontemporêre toneel in argitektuur.
National Congress of S.A. Architectural Students. Cape Town, lecture: The making of an architect, accident or planned?
||Lecture to paint manufacturers at Sun City: Paint and the Architect.
|1986 - 1987
||Lecture tour organised by I.S.A.A. to Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein. 2 Public lectures and a visit to the Architectural Schools, where applicable. Collage in 20th century Architecture and Symbiosis.
||Address to NAG and Johannesburg City Councillors: Johannesburg - City of Gold.
||Johannesburg Art Gallery, public lecture: Recycled Buildings.
Television interview with "Collage" programme of own work.
||Friends of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, lecture: St. Margarets.
||Lecture at Friendship Foundation, Soweto: Soweto, untapped source of opportunities.
||I.S.A.A. National Congress, Bloemfontein – Paper entitled: Is there still a role for the Art of Architecture?
||Lecture at the conference of Schools of Architecture at Arniston: A Renaissance man for hard times/ Reinventing the architect.
Paper at 50th anniversary of the School of Architecture, University of Pretoria: Doing justice to Mmabatho.
Lecture on energy management: Free State Branch of Domestic Science Association of South Africa.
Address on the history of the N.G.Church building in Philipstown during centenary festivities.
||Inaugural lecture: Wat om met die blou Mercedes aan te vang - oftewel riglyne vir die toekomstige beplanning van die kampus.
||Lecture at seminar on Education in Arts, Maseru: What constitutes Arts in Lesotho?
Decorative Arts Society, Johannesburg: An African Dream (repeated at Oliewenhuis Art Gallery, Bloemfontein, in 1995).
Lecture to members of Nellie Swart Damesklub, Bloemfontein: Wat soek die Straler op die stroois?
||Paper at the international All Africa Conference on Education for Architecture: Architecture and the City: conceptual shifts in a time of change.
Address to Bloemfontein Rotary Club: Hoffmanplein, our responsibility in a period of cultural readjustment.
Lecture, Bloemfontein Garden Club: Relation between House and Garden.
||Paper at National Students' Congress in Bloemfontein.
Paper at Dessa Architectural Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Art and Architecture as a Means of Cultural Integration in South-Africa.
Lecture on the Design Principles of Gertrude Jekyll to the von Propolov Society, Bloemfontein.
Lecture on Urban Design at the Department of Town and Regional Planning, UFS.
Special lectures in the Department of Architecture, UFS: My "Secession Trip" and Does Architecture matter?
||Public lecture at the Cape Institute of Architects, Cape Town. Alvar Aalto: The Outsider finally marginalized.
Two school lectures at UCT on the work of Alvar Aalto.
Paper at the International Arch-Africa Congress in Durban: Appropriate place-making in a transforming South Africa.
Lecture on Alvar Aalto at the Free State Institute of Architects, Bloemfontein.
School lectures at the Schools of Architecture of Nairobi University and Jomo Kenyatta University.
||Paper at "Reflections from South" workshop: Plan April 1970.
Talk on Hut Decorations and their meaning at the Department of Microbiology, University of the Free State.
||Sophia Gray Lecture
||Paper on Campus Design at Conference in Bloemfontein
|Several talks on architectural subjects, e.g. Sir Herbert Baker’s architecture in Parktown, were given from time to time on radio and television.
|1975 - 2003
||External examiner for B. Arch. thesis at the Universities of Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Natal, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.External examiner for Design for different years at various Schools from time to time.
|1987 - 1988
||Member of the Inspection Committee of Schools of Architecture for the S. A. Council of Architects.
||External examiner for B. Arch. thesis at the Universities of Cape Town and Pretoria.
||External examiner for B. Arch. thesis at the University of Cape Town.
|1994 - 1997
||External examiner for the Master of Urban Design programme, University of the Witwatersrand: Theory and final year Design.
||External examiner for Dissertation in Urban Design for the Urban Design Programme, University of the Witwatersrand.
|1996 - 1998
||External examiner for B. Arch. Thesis at the University of Natal.
||Facilitated the founding of the School’s Unit for Earth Construction.
||External examiner at the Department of Quantity Surveying and Planning at UFS.
||Member of the Visiting Board of the AUA and CAA to the architectural schools of Nairobi University and Jomo Kenyatta University.
|2002 - 2003
||Moderator for Architectural Theory 2, UFS. External examiner for B. Arch. thesis at the University of Port Elizabeth.
|2007 - 2008
||External Examiner for M. Arch, dissertation at U.F.S.
||Founder of Pretoria Study Group for Architects.
||Collaborator in TV series; "Ons argitektoniese erfenis".
|1985 - 1991
||Member of the Board of Governors, Lumen Christi Adult Education Centre.
|1986 - 2011
||Listed in "Who’s Who of Southern Africa".
|±1980 - 1991
||Committee member with portfolio for planning matters of Melville/Westdene Ratepayers Association, (Johannesburg).
||Assessor in "Architecture SA" Project Awards programme.
|1994 - 2000
||Member of the board of the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery.
||Assessor for Free State Institute of Architects "Award of Merit".
||Assessor for the national "Award of Excellence" of the I.S.A.A.
||Drawings and photos of three buildings, designed by B. Britz formed part of the blank_ Architecture, apartheid and after exhibition in the gallery of the NAI in Rotterdam.
||The exhibition mentioned above exhibited in the House of World Cultures in Berlin.
||Exhibition mentioned above exhibited at Museum Africa, Johannesburg.
|1966 – 1972
||Co-editor with Prof. Danie Theron of the broadsheet "Credo". Many articles written for this publication.
|1970 - 2011
||Numerous articles were published on the work of the firm founded by B. Britz with the text in most instances by himself. Work published in "Domus" (Italy), "Architecture and Urbanism" (Japan), "UIA International Architect" (Britain), "Plan", "Architecture SA", "Architect and Builder", "Planning", "Building", and various popular magazines.
|Regular articles on architectural theory and critical reviews of the work of other architects have been written for "Architecture SA"
In "World Architecture" the role of Bannie Britz in South African architecture is discussed on p. 459.
REFLECTIONS ON BEING A YOUNG ARCHITECT IN SOUTH AFRICA: 1965 – 70
"We decline to accept architecture as the complacent perpetuation of standards and concepts that are no longer valid" (Wits student's Manifesto – PRINSLOO, 1993: 36 )
"We believe that meaningful making of buildings and the meaningful making of city-environment are inextricably bound up with one another" (Credo: Oct. 1966)
This paper deals with personal reminiscences of and comments on a specific period in South African Architecture. As such it does not pretend to be historiography. It rather attempts to record certain events that were experienced by the main protagonists as a decisive and exciting phase in their careers. It could be seen as a landmark period in South African Architecture - something comparable with the 'Sestigers' phenomenon in Afrikaans literature, when a number of young people discovered their own voice. Once this coming of age had taken place, the players established themselves in their respective gratifying careers.
SA ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY - THE EARLY SIXTIES
In order to understand how a young architect experienced the South African architectural scene in 1965, it is necessary to take a look at what had taken place up to that date. Johannesburg, which had been the stage on which the so-called Modern Movement in architecture had blossomed before World War 2, was losing its predominance as the architectural capital of South Africa. In Pretoria, the late fifties and early sixties saw an awakening in the mainly Afrikaans professional community. In Johannesburg the Transvaal Group's revolutionary fervour had brought South Africa in line with the international scene during the pre-war years. The contacts with the Swiss-French master, Le CORBUSIER, had served as an inspiration for a generation of young Johannesburg-trained architects. Several of them went to fight in the War and came back sobered and, sometimes traumatized, as was the case with their European counterparts. They had "second thoughts about modern architecture, and Le Corbusier in particular" (CHIPKIN, 1993: 265). They were considering "The Next Steps" (CHIPKIN, 1993: 268). In an attempt to put Humpty Dumpty together again, two new approaches crystallized. For minor projects a style of architecture called 'New Empiricism' dominated. For larger and commercial projects, a style , developed, which Nicolaus PEVSNER of The Architectural Review dubbed the 'Johannesburg Vernacular'. (PEVSNER: 361/382)
In its search for new directions, the AR [Architectural Review] looked at two countries that had stayed outside of the theatre of war - Switzerland and Sweden. In both countries a kind of humane regionalism had developed. Thus, Sven Markilius's own house and the buildings illustrated in Kidder Smith's popular 'Switzerland Builds' inspired a way of building, which Eric de Mare named 'New Empiricism' (de Mare: 1948, 8 - 20). John FASSLER, of Swiss origins, a member of the original Transvaal Group was head of the Wits School of Architecture at Johannesburg since 1948. Very much the intellectual leader at the time, he was looking at the work of the French Architect, Auguste PERRET (1874 - 1954), as a source of inspiration. This approach, which was viewed by the younger generation as a step backwards, can be seen as the source of the modular concrete office blocks and university buildings that featured in post-war Johannesburg. These were commended by Nicolaus PEVSNER in an issue of AR on Commonwealth Architecture in October 1959 ("Nearly all that is worth illustrating here is English ...") (Pevsner 1959: 174). Yet, as CHIPKIN states, it was the Pretoria architects who were "imbued with the ethos of modernity and renewal" (CHIPKIN, 1993: 278). It would seem that what was happening in England and was discussed in the AR was having a much stronger influence on the Johannesburg architects than on their Pretoria counterparts. Le CORBUSIER and especially Oscar NIEMEYER were considered to be more suitable 'masters' to follow when designing in the sub-tropical climate of Pretoria. Hellmut STAUCH's Brazilian inspired Meatboard Building and Carl JOOSTE's Corbusian inspirations were typical and admired at the time. STAUCH had developed a distinctive domestic style, as had Norman EATON. The latter was probably the most significant architect of the late fifties and early sixties. He developed a kind of architecture that can be described as an African vernacular. Carl JOOSTE, on the other hand, was busy with his adaptations to the Corbusian Modulor. He was regarded as the guru accessible only to the select few.
The most prominent building built during this period, the headquarters of the Transvaal Provincial Administration, next to Church Square in Pretoria, was very much in the Brazilian tradition. It was designed by a group of recent graduates in the office of MEIRING and NAUDé. Unfortunately, there was very little discussion on theory in those days. BRITZ attempted twice, once as a student and later as practicing professional to get discussion groups going; without much success. HOWIE, in discussion with CHIPKIN, observed, "that in his visits to Pretoria, he had found young architects who were very preoccupied with 'design, not philosophy'..." (CHIPKIN, 1993: 279). It is thus fair to say that, while a number of notable buildings were produced at the time, the absence of dialogue meant that there was an absence of direction and consequently a dissipation of energies took place. The young practitioner found little to be inspired by.
The one place one would have expected stimulation towards the airing of fresh ideas, was the South African Institute of Architecture's journal, The South African Architectural Record. The editor, Professor Duncan HOWIE, who had been a member of the 1930s Transvaal Group, took a solid conservative line, producing a rather dull, uninspiring magazine. Looking back, an article by BRITZ, in Afrikaans, on three early buildings designed by Willie MEYER, could be seen as a breakthrough (1967: 13-16). But by then, a group of 'returnees' [see below] from abroad had already made their presence felt. Two years later the magazine was to be in the hands of a Pretoria editor, Anton DU TOIT, and with a new name, PLAN. An interview by BRITZ and an article by Cas NEL (1970: 10 - 23) in this magazine on the work of Glen GALLAGHER, may be viewed as typical of a new era that had dawned.
This set the stage for the 'For Us' manifesto and exhibition at Wits.
The 'returnees', who had all come back from stimulating intellectual experiences abroad, found the state of teaching in the two Schools of Architecture in the then Transvaal to be a matter of serious concern.
The head of the School at the University of the Witwatersrand was Professor John FASSLER, in the pre-war years one of the pioneers of the Transvaal Group. In his heart he was a neo-classicist (COOKE, 1993: 29). As mentioned above, he was seen by PEVSNER as a key representative of the dour style of building he named the Johannesburg Vernacular. This approach to architecture was considered regressive by a group of students, who commenced with their studies in 1960 under the tutelage of Julian BEINART (recently returned from MIT) and Peter ELIASTAM. The history of this period in the Witwatersrand School has been documented in detail by Ivor PRINSLOO (Prinsloo, 1993: 32 - 40). These students were exposed to a wide range of ideas current in European and American culture. They started comparing their stifling context with the vitality and creativity of the 1930's Modem Movement. The resulting unease led to the launch of a Manifesto and Exhibition in September 1962 at the Wits School. This event could be construed as a wake-up call to their teaching staff but also to the profession in general. A publication, For Us, expanding on their ideas, followed in 1964. It was edited by Patrick JONES and contained contributions by prominent international figures like Aldo van EYCK and Peter SMITHSON. Angry student dissatisfaction at the School lasted many years. After the early retirement of FASSLER in 1967, Professor Duncan HOWIE took over, but little changed. A subsequent group of students arranged an Architectural Education Symposium in 1969, but only after HOWIE's retirement the Urban Action Group [UAG], consisting of returnees from abroad and some members of the earlier palace revolution, shared two teaching posts as the Urban Action Teaching Group, affecting the first real change at the School.
Pretoria School in the late Fifties and early Sixties
Matters at the Pretoria School were even more deplorable. A number of respected teachers, such as Basil SOUTH and Bob COLE-BOWEN, had retired during the fifties. BRITZ was a student there at the time and experienced the first confrontation of students with the first and long-time head, Professor "Blik" MEIRING in 1953. Where it could be said that the Johannesburg School had conservative and uninspiring leadership, there was a vacuum in leadership at Pretoria after the above-mentioned staff had left. It came to a point where there was very little discipline and hardly any teaching took place. The inspiration that remained came from a few bright students, by way of example Alan KONYA (a disciple of Frank LLOYD-WRIGHT) and Anton DU TOIT (influenced by JOOSTE/ le CORBUSIER). By 1964 the School was all but an empty shell and a number of ex-students facilitated the removal of the head. He was replaced by the solid, if conservative, Alewyn BURGER, who restructured the School as a respectable institution. The School, however, possibly because of deliberate stone-walling, absorbed none or very little of the developments that the 'returnees' were affecting in Johannesburg.
The Urban Action Group
In the early sixties, a number of young architects, all in their late twenties, returned to South Africa, after studying and working in the U.S.A. and Europe/ Britain. Coming from diverse experiences and intellectually charged, they did not necessarily have a common goal. They were, however, appalled by the vacuum they found and shared the common drive to transform this barren scene. Except for the few leading practitioners mentioned above, there were people like Jan VAN WIJK (back from the USA in 1959), Hans HALLEN and John TEMPLER doing interesting work. Pancho GUEDES in then far away Mozambique was talked about. There was, however, no common thread to latch onto and build upon. The thinking of the old Transvaal Group was perceived as "ungenerous, over controlled and culturally regressive" (COOKE, 1993:29).
Among the returnees, the philosophically most coherent group comprised of those who had studied under Louis KAHN at the University of Pennsylvania. Two, who made an immediate impact, were the Rome Scholar, Roelof UITENBOGAARDT in Cape Town and Willie MEYER, employed in Pretoria at the time. They were followed by Glen GALLAGHER, Danie THERON (in Durban), Ivan SCHLAPOBERSKY, Francois PIENAAR and Stan FIELD. This group's influence, not only because of their number, but also because their work carried a recognizable stamp, was the most substantial. Anthony LANGE had studied at Yale and David JACK at UCLA The latter had also worked with the EAMESes. Ivor PRINSLOO had worked with the SMITHSONS and Bannie BRITZ had come under the influence of Team X through his contacts at the Architectural Association, namely Michael Hopkins (BRITZ's assistant at Leonard Manasseh ! – fresh form the AA) and Lord Roger Cunliffe who seconded his membership application to the AA. The latter members of the UAG made their influence felt through their teaching activities (see later).
The Johannesburg group was a dynamic group. To quote Ivor PRINSLOO:
"The returnees first action in concert was the formation of the Urban Action Group; a loosely structured group that met to intervene in architecture and city affairs so as to influence development. The spirit of the Urban Action Group was similar to that of the Zero-Hour Group, of thirty years prior to then" (Prinsloo, 1993: 38).
David JACK took the lead in the stimulating meetings that took place, where members with similar goals shared their diverse experiences with one another.
At a professional level, the returnees were successful locally early on their return. While working in the office of one of the original 1930s group, Monte BRYER, Anthony LANGE with Willie MEYER won the important international competition for the Johannesburg Municipal Headquarters. UYTENBOGAARDT's early work immediately attracted general attention. THERON was responsible for a number of bold flat buildings in Durban.
A distinctive feature of the time was that members of the Group often joined forces on projects and in this way many of the most significant buildings of the period were realized. MEYER and GALLAGHER, often working together, attracted much attention. MEYER's designs for university campuses, working at times with BRITZ (for example Potchefstroom), were widely published and won several design awards. It is interesting to note that, although the work of the members of the returnee group moved with the times, the facile Post-Modernism of the eighties was largely shunned by them. It can be said that the work emanating from members of the Group, who still practice, continues to be respected. Perhaps the most enduring effect of the Urban Action Group was its activities at the Witwatersrand School as the Urban Action Teaching Group.
The Urban Action Teaching Group
The Urban Action Teaching Group was formed in 1970 at the request of the students there. It then applied to the University for two teaching posts, which were approved. In 1970 and 1971 sixteen members assumed responsibility for teaching the Third Year. The salaries received were used to pay a secretary and to sponsor visitors. A wide-ranging curriculum was followed, very much along the lines of Team X thinking. This emphasis could be ascribed to the fact that PRINSLOO acted as chairman of the Teaching Group, which consisted mainly out of members of the UAG. The remuneration received enabled the Group to invite, in those years, Alison and Peter SMITHSON and Robert VENTURI and his wife Denise SCOTT-BROWN for periods of teaching and lecturing. A fund was established, to bring to this country, several prominent speakers, among them Michael GRAVES and Robert STERN. After such a long drought, it created quite a lot of excitement in the profession to have a number of eminent designers visiting this country. This was of course possible because of the international connections of some of the members that enabled visits that were normally avoided by respected members of the profession during the Apartheid years. These visits kept the intellectual debates going and reinforced the position of the members within the profession.
Complexity and Contradiction in architecture
It should be remembered that in 1966 Robert VENTURI published his 'Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture', based on a series of lectures given at Pennsylvania, and later at Yale, both institutions where of the 'returnees' had studied. This "nonstraightforward architecture: a gentle manifesto" as opening comment advocated embracing "contradiction and complexity" in design. The work was considered the first seminal text in architecture since le Corbusier's 'Vers un architecture' of 1923 and described as such by Vincent Scully in his introduction:
"probably the most important writing on the making of architecture since Le Corbusier's 'Vers Une Architecture', of 1923."
Growing commissions and influence
The times were good for the returnees. Building activities were picking up and soon each of them was involved in significant projects. As could be expected, the early outcomes were often controversial, but an unstoppable architectural awakening was taking place and a new generation began to determine the agenda. Several events assisted this "changing of the guard".
One was the congress of the SA Institute of Architects during July 1966 in Durban which gave rise to the 'Credo' "statement of beliefs" and publication of the broadsheet, Credo.
The July 1966 SAIA Congress held in Durban provided the opportunity for the revolutionary younger generation to join hands geographically. The first head-on confrontations with the old guard also occurred. Students from all the Schools were presenting projects on this occasion. They were obviously sensing the change in climate and their presentations in the presence of the delegates led to some highly charged altercations.
At the time of the congress, Professor HOWIE was still editor of the Institute's rather stuffy mouthpiece, the SAAR. The younger generation expressed the need for a vehicle to voice their specific concerns. Emotions were running high at times. It is not surprising that the decision to publish the broadsheet, CREDO, was taken at the end of this congress. This happened on the stoep of Danie THERON's house on the Berea. The first issue was duly published in October the same year under the editorship of THERON and Bannie BRITZ. The very first words in this small publication read as follows:
"THE MOST ENCOURAGING THING ABOUT THE CONGRESS HELD IN JULY THIS YEAR WAS THIS CONCERN OF SO MANY AND THE DESIRE TO TALK ABOUT IT - TO COMMUNICATE - AND THE DESIRE FOR NARROWER CONTACT AMONGST THOSE WITH COMMON CONCERN".
This concern was with the state of architecture, but also with that of the city. The Credo statement of belief appeared under the title block and was signed by fourteen architects, mainly from the returnee group. It read as follows:
"WE BELIEVE THAT THE WITHDRAWAL OF THE ARCHITECT FROM THE WIDER FIELD OF CITY-MAKING AND THE NARROWING DOWN OF HIS ACTIVITIES TO THE MAKING OF CERTAIN TYPES OF BUILDINGS ONLY, IS ONE OF THE MAIN CAUSES OF THE CHAOS AND INHUMAN ORDER OF OUR CITIES, WHICH HAVE MADE THEM UNINHABITABLE. WE BELIEVE THAT THE MEANINGFUL MAKING OF BUILDINGS AND THE MEANINGFUL MAKING OF CITY-ENVIRONMENT ARE INEXTRICABLY BOUND UP WITH ONE ANOTHER AND THAT, AS LONG AS OUR CITIES CONTINUE TO BE MADE ACCORDING TO ARBITRARY THEORIES, IMPOSED FROM WITHOUT, SO LONG WILL OUR BUILDINGS REMAIN ISOLATED ACTS, ISOLATED PATTERNS OF ORDER, UNRELATED TO ONE ANOTHER AND TO THE GREATER CITY-ORDER. WE PLEAD OF A NEW HUMANISM IN THE MAKING OF OUR CITY-ENVIRONMENT - USING THE POWERFUL FORCES WHICH ARE SEEKING TO DESTROY IT AT PRESENT, TO REGENERATE IT AND TO FIND THE NEW CITY-ORDER IN THE CONTRADICTIONS, THE COMPLEXITY, THE RICHNESS AND THE SHELTER THAT HUMAN LIFE DEMANDS FROM ITS DWELLING PLACE."
DANIE THERON RON LEWCOCK PAT HOLDCROFT BRYAN LEE GLEN GALLAGHER WILHELM MEYER IVAN SCHLAPOBERSKY WYNAND SMIT HANNES MEIRING JAN VAN WIJK KEITH ALCOCK BURNIE CLARK JOHN TEMPLER BANNIE BRITZ
Various other architects contributed personal statements to the first issue. From then on this small publication became the vehicle for publishing the views and designs of the younger generation until the sponsors went out of business in December 1973. By then the official magazine of the SA Institute of Architects had been transformed and it was seen as accessible to divergent views.
Pretoria Argitektuur Studiegroep [Pretoria Architecture Study Group]
A further development of the time was that two discussion groups were formed, one in Johannesburg and one in Pretoria. BRITZ acted as convener of the Pretoria Argitektuur Studiegroep, which considered itself as the successor of a similar earlier group, led by Norman EATON. The activities of this group were limited. Perhaps this was because few of the local architects had spent time abroad and therefore did not share in the concerns of the returnees. Its activities continued under the leadership of younger people like Adriaan LOUW, when I moved to Johannesburg, where I had already become part of the Urban Action Group. The Pretoria group's interest shifted to professional matters and later became the very active Pretoria Institute for Architecture (PIA).
After 1970, having established their credibility, the protagonists all settled down in their respective and mostly multi-faceted careers. Several became teachers, heading Schools of Architecture, while all practiced, wrote and led the profession in many ways. The members of the group maintained contact and meaningful friendships, and while moving in various directions, they influenced and cross-fertilized each other. Numerous Awards of Merit, Gold Medals and various honours, for example conferring of Honorary Doctorates in Architecture, characterized their achievements.
The above sounds very self congratulatory. When considering the present architectural landscape, it is, however, crucial to remember that the battle is never won. Every generation should rethink its position. This is the real and urgent challenge to today's emerging architects.
Newsflash from the South African Institute of Architects 2013 04 03
It is with deep sorrow that we learnt of the passing of Prof Bannie Britz on Wednesday, 27 March 2013. He was one of the most respected Architects in South Africa and has been a member of the South African Institute of Architects since 1961.
Bannie remained professionally active, and after more than 50 years in practice, unflaggingly still rendered outstanding services to clients, students, colleagues and the public at large until a year before his death. What distinguished him was his uncompromising faith in good design, leading to numerous Awards, not least the Institute's Gold Medal for Architecture, which he received in August 2004. Click here for the citation.
Bannie Britz was a colleague who generously shared his knowledge, a mentor and teacher who remained a student throughout his life and above all a kind man of generous spirit.
Our condolences go to his wife, family and all who knew him.
The funeral is taking place at 11:00 on Friday 05 April, from the Berg-en-Dal Dutch Reformed Church in Bloemfontein.
A personal tribute. . .
As a student in my third year in the late sixties I worked for Bannie on a part-time basis on Wednesdays afternoons. Eighteen months later he was one of the external examiners to evaluate an urban design project. He knew me well enough to know that I was more than aware of how poorly I had performed in the oral presentation on the day, and took the trouble to give me a call at my parents' house in Lesotho a few days later (where did he get the number?) to let me know that I had indeed passed the dreaded course! I could relax... I enjoyed the rest of that July holiday with my family and looked forward with refreshed enthusiasm to the last semester of that year. To this day I am not sure if I properly thanked him.
When Bannie presented the Sophia Gray lecture in 2005, I was surprised, humbled and very honoured to see my name featured alongside the many illustrious architects with whom he shared his distinguished career. Since he took ill in August last year, I have thought of Bannie often. On Wednesday morning as I left home to attend Conversations on Architecture, ably hosted once again by Hugh FRASER, I said to my husband that he should save the end of August date for a trip to Bloemfontein to attend the Sophia Gray lecture and, because I will be there in my personal capacity, to make time to visit Bannie. The sms kindly sent from the office to advise me of Bannie's passing reached me shortly after 13:00.
So, this is to say a last fond and sad farewell and 'thank you, Prof Bannie for giving me hope at a time I needed it most'.
Su LINNING 2013 03 31
Articles by BRITZ
|Britz, Bannie. 1975. PROF. J.P. SNYMAN. Plan (Journal of the Institute of South African Architects). 3 15|
|Britz, B. 1991. Huis Monyemore. Architecture SA . Vol 11 Issue 9, Sep pp 25-26|
|Britz, B. 1991. Is there still a role for the art of architecture?. Planning. 115 pp 43-45|
|Britz, B. 1992. Buildings – A Government Centre for Mmabatho
. Architect and Builder. Sept. 1992: 4 |
|Britz B. 1993. The Klipriviersberg Recreation Centre, Rietvlei, JHB. Architecture S.A.. 1993/03/04 pp 18-21|
|Britz, B & Nuttall, J. 1993. The Klipriviersberg Recreation Centre, Rietvlei, Johannesburg. Architecture S.A.. March/April pp 18-21|
|Britz, B; Steÿn, D and Campbell, M. 1997. Ons nuwe hoofstad, Bloemfontein, with
. Architecture S.A. |
|Britz, B. 1997. It is time to find more ways to use aluminium.. Architect and Specifier
|Britz, B. 1998. umetnost in arhitektura kot stredstvi kulturnega povezovanja v juzni afriki.
. architectov bilten |
|Britz, B. 1998. About Cladding and Crystal Balls. Architect and Specificator |
|Britz, B. 1999. Architecture and the City - Conceptual shifts in a time of change. Acta Structilia |
|Britz B. 2000. Dwelling at 5A Stewart Crescent, Waverley, Bloemfontein. S.A. Architect. 2000/Oct pp 64-67|
|Britz, B. 2001. Structuring place-making in a multi-cultural City.. Acta Structilia. Vol.8 No.1 |
|Britz B. 2002. Prof Bannie Britz - 42 years later. LEADING ARCHITECTURE. 2002/Sep pp 15|
|Britz, B. 2002. "An African Building": The Mpumalanga Provincial Government Building. South African Architect. May/June pp 23-30|
|Britz B. 2009. Stories, architecture and life. Architecture S.A. 2009/7/8 pp 8-19|
Articles citing BRITZ
|Joubert O. 2009. Selosesha Public Library, Thaba Nchu. Architecture S.A.. 2009/12 pp 26-31|
|Diverse. 2004. SAIA Convention: Medals of Distinction. Architecture S.A.. Oct-04 pp 20-23|
|Diverse. 2004. South African Institute of Architects: Awards Programme. Architecture S.A.. Oct-04 |
|Unknown. 2004. Apartheid Museum. Hector Pietersen Museum.. Architecture S.A.. Dec-04 pp66-69|
|Unknown. 2003. Bulletin Board: Gauteng Institute of Architecture. LEADING ARCHITECTURE 2003/Dec pp 24-29|
|Darroll L. 2001. Urban roots: A history of Johannesburg. URBAN GREEN FILE. 05-Jun pp 24-29|
|Mare, E. 1981. Die viering van menswees : 'n keur uit die artigtektuur van die Vennootskap Bannie Britz en Michale Scholes, LL IA. De Arte . Vol 11 Issue 25, Jun pp 5-46|
|Raman, P. G.. 2008. Restructuring of central building, University of the Free State. Architecture South Africa. May/June pp 26-29|
|Unknown. 1984. House Roediger, Northcliff, Johannesburg. Architect and Builder. Dec pp 10-13|
|Unknown. 1996. Contemporary tranquility. Habitat 136 pp 44-62|
|Buchanan, C. 1995. Graphiti Contemporary Art - Melville. Planning. 141 pp 92-95|
|Unknown. 1985. Architect Bannie Britz talks to Building about glass. Building March/April pp 15|
|Mare, E. 1982. Die viering van menswees. 'n Keur uit die argitektuur van die vennootskap Bannie Britz en Michael Scholes. De Arte. 25 pp 5-46|
|Unknown. 1976. Sports buildings: Potchefstroom University. Architect and Builder. 26 (5) pp 12-17|
|Unknown. 1980. House Pieterse, Meyerspark Pretoria. Architect and Builder. 30 (2) pp 2-5|
|Unknown. 1993. House Mackay. Architecture SA. Vol 13 Issue 11, Nov pp 36|
|Pauling, C. 2001. Real communication: the South African Apartheid Museum, Gold Reef City. Planning. November/December pp 12-17|
|Unknown. 1987. Article on Bannie Britz. Flying Springbok |
|Various. 1981. Devoted an issue on the work of Bannie Britz and Michael Scholes.. De Arte. 14 |
|Various. 1974. Published an issue on the work of Bannie Britz. Plan |
Books citing BRITZ