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HOLFORD, William Graham

Born: 1907 03 22
Died: 1975 10 17

Architect


William Holford, Baron Holford, was the most distinguished town planner born in South Africa. Since he trained, worked and lived mostly in Britain he can be called South African only for reasons of birth and early education. He was born in Johannesburg and educated at the Diocesan College in Cape Town. He commenced his training as an architect in Johannesburg and was a short time with COWIN, POWERS & ELLIS before proceeding to the University of Liverpool School of Architecture in 1925, sponsored by the Association of Transvaal Architects. While at Liverpool he was awarded the Waring Travelling Scholarship and in his fourth year he won the American Scholarship of the Society of Arts and Sciences and worked in New York during 1929 with Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker. While in America he visited Washington, Chicago and Boston. He graduated from Liverpool in 1930 with Honours. He later taught there. Holford was also the first South African-born Rome Scholar in 1930, (the second and to date the last South African to win this prize was RS UYTENBOGAARDT in 1957.) In 1933 he joined the staff of Liverpool University as a lecturer and read for the MA degree; in the same year he married. In 1936 he was appointed Lever Professor of Civic Design at Liverpool. He succeeded Professor Abercrombie as head of the Department of Civic Design in Liverpool University and in 1935 Holford won the RIBA Henry L Florence Bursary. He was appointed Lever Professor of Town Planning at Liverpool in 1941, becoming one of Lord Reith's key men in the as yet unofficial committee of reconstruction of post-war Britain. Holford did not return to South Africa but pursued a distinguished career in architecture and Town Planning, was Professor of Town Planning at University College, London from 1948 to 1970 and was knighted in 1953. Although Holford never had a practice in South Africa, he did return for several visits. On these visits he was asked to deliver lectures and talks and he contributed plans for the replanning of Pretoria (and Johannesburg?) in 1953; he was also involved with the proposed replanning of central Durban in conjunction with SN TOMKIN. On another visit to South Africa in 1961 (as President of the RIBA) he presented the Van Riebeeck lectures for the South African Broadcasting Corporation, in which year he was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Architecture by the University of Natal.

He was awarded the ISAA Gold Medal of Honour for the year 1962-1963. This was at the time he was appointed to form part of the panel of assessors chosen to assess the Johannesburg Civic Centre consisting additionally of of Mr. B L Loffell (Chairman), Mr. John COWIN, Prof John FASSLER and Mr. Norman HANSON.

He also received the RIBA Distinction in Town Planning and the Gold Medal of the Town Planning Institute of Great Britain. He was a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission from 1944 and a member of the Historic Buildings Council from 1953. In addition he was Vice-President of the Centre of Urban Studies and President of the Housing Centre, London. He was elected President of the RIBA between 1960 and 1962 and was created Baron Holford of Kemp Town and a Life Peer in 1965.

(AB&E Aug 1929:3; Contemporary Architects 1980:367-36 9; SAAR Sep 1930:101; SAAR Mar 1935:86; SAB Jul 1941:15)

Publ: The next twenty years, article published in 2 parts, SAAR Jun 1939:227-32, Jul 1939:267-274; The Pedestrian in the City, SAAR Jun 1961:19-27 ill; SAAR Sep 1962:17-18, Gold Medal; An appreciation, SAAR Feb 1967:16-17.(An appreciation of Norman EATON, after the latter's death in 1966).

See also Wikipedia

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.