BArch 1950 (Pretoria)
Johan Carel VAN WIJK was born in Roberts Heights (later Voortrekkerhoogte and now Thaba Tshwane) on 2 May 1926, as the youngest of four children to the military officer Colonel PS van Wijk and his wife. Due to the itinerant nature of his father's career, Jan attended seven primary schools, which, as he remarked, allowed him to get to know much of the country intimately. However, with his artistic abilities discovered, at age eight he had already made his career choice. The 'trigger' came while watching a man clay-plaster a sapling-framed structure. 'This [is what] I wanted to do - the putting together of clayey things,' he said.
Contrary to his primary school experience, Jan attended a single high school, Afrikaans Hoer Seunskool Pretoria, where he matriculated in 1943 as an exact contemporary of inaugural RAU rector Dr Gerrit Viljoen. He then studied architecture at the University of Pretoria in a class with Gawie FAGAN and the late Karel JOOSTE. Consistent with his clayey, organic design bent, Jan spent his practical year in the offices of Norman EATON and went on to become the fourth graduate from the fledgling school in 1950.
On graduating, he took up a position in Cape Town, in the practice of his professor, (Blik) MEIRING & NAUDE, working on the SABC studios. With the concurrent collaboration of the practice on the Sanlam foreshore tower building with US architects Kahn & Jacobs, Jan was assigned to welcome senior partner Bob Jacobs and to hand him documents. 'He and I clicked immediately,' wrote Jan. One consequence was the invitation to work in the New York offices of Kahn & Jacobs, where, among other projects, Jan was assigned to the Seagram Building, where Kahn & Jacobs became the associate architects to Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Jan's particular assignment was on the 10th floor, the offices for Krupp, which had to embody the overall perimeter lighting concept determined by Mies. As the year progressed, Bob Jacobs suggested Jan join the office permanently, but, wrote Jan, 'My rock pigeon instinct lured me back to my nest in South Africa.' He returned to Pretoria and joined a partnership with Daan KESTING before commencing with his own practice in 1963.
[Walter PETERS, 2006. Obituary to Jan van Wijk. Architecture South Africa. Jul/Aug. pp 28-31.]
The firm was responsible for a broad variety of projects: houses, schools, libraries, office buildings and a number of churches, including the NG-Congregation Universiteitsoord. In 1965 he won on competition the design of the Afrikaanse Taalmonument (Afrikaans Language Monument) on Paarlberg, Paarl. Its organic forms and rich symbolism make it a landmark in the discipline in South Africa.
His success as architect is also reflected in the design in collaboration with Willie MEYER of the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) campus, executed between 1968-1982.
Jan van WIJK was member of the Afrikaans Language Committee, founder member of the Rand Afrikaans University, and member of Club RSA. He served on various inspection committees of the then South African Council for Architects (SACA now SACAP) and acted as external examiner to various Schools of Architecture. He also served on the executive of SACA.
His oeuvre finds inspiration in and reflects a sensitivity towards the South African landscape, which finds expression in organic form, particularly in his design of houses and churches, his favourite projects. They are true to the culture they serve and the context within which they are placed and he remains a significant figure in his contribution to South African culture. He retired to the Wilderness where he died and his ashes are interred at the site of the Taalmonument, Paarl, where a memorial plaque marks the spot.
He received the following awards:
First place for the design of the Afrikaans Taalmonument
(in association with Willie Meyer) ISAA Awards of Merit in 1973 and 1976 for RAU hostels
ISAA Patron of Architecture for RAU
Was a recipient of the Medal of Honour for Architecture by the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns in 1983
Chancellors Medal, University of Pretoria in 1994
Alumnus Award, University of Pretoria in 2003
[Translated from the Afrikaans and edited from a electronic document by Schalk LE ROUX]
In 1966 he was a signatory to the broadsheet, CREDO
Books by VAN WIJK
|van Wijk, Jan. 2014. Taalmonument. Tokai: Historical Media|
Books citing VAN WIJK