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PRINS, Herbert Maurice John

Born: 1927 04 28
Died: 2020 04 15

Architect

SACA:
Reg No: 1389
Year registered: 1952

BArch 1952 (Witwatersrand)

Herbert Maurice John Prins attended St Andrew's School in Bloemfontein. At the University of the Witwatersrand he qualified as an architect in 1952, received a Diploma in Town Planning in 1973 and a Masters Degree in Conservation in 1990. Between 1952 and 1955 he was employed by the Harlow Development Corporation in Essex, England, under Sir Frederick Gibberd, returning to South Africa in 1956 to join the practice of HANSON & TOMKIN, Architects in Johannesburg, and TOMKIN & HANSON in Durban. In 1960 He became a partner in charge of the Johannesburg office known as HANSON, TOMKIN & PRINS ARCHITECTS.

Examples of his work at this time are the master plan for the Science Campus and the Physics building on the Science Campus at Natal University, the Mining and Geology Building at Wits University and the Wits Medical Library and Medical School in Esselen Street. He was a Senior Lecturer at Wits University Department of Architecture from 1970 to 1990; Head of Department from 1976 to 1978, being a Member of the Senate in 1981 and 2000, and a member of the Board of the Faculty of Architecture from 1980 to 2000.

He opened the practice of H M J PRINS ARCHITECT specilaising in heritage consulting, and consultancies include, inter alia, the restoration of the Reserve Bank, Pretoria; the restoration of the Pretoria Railway Station (gutted by fire in 2001); Constitution Hill; Kliptown; Newtown Precinct; Fashion District; Emoyeni; the Gautrain Park development; Church Square Post Office alterations; the Barbican; Consolidated Building; Vilakazi Street; Walter Sisulu House; Chancellor House; Windybrow Theatre; Wattville and Thokoza Hostels; Carnegie Library, Germiston; 1928 Building, Pretoria Station.

He has been actively involved in committees such as SACAP and the National Monuments Council (NMC), Provincial Heritage Resources Agency, Gauteng (PHRAG), as President of the Transvaal Institute of Architects (TIA) in 1978 and 1979, President in Chief of the Institute of South African Architects (ISAA) in 1982 and 1983 and is presently Chairman of the Rosebank Action Group (RAG), Acting Chairman of the Egoli Heritage Foundation (formerly the Simon van der Stel Foundation, Witwatersrand Branch) and Vice Chairman of the Johannesburg Heritage Trust.

He administered the architectural competitions for Freedom Square in Kliptown, and the Northern Cape Legislature Building in Kimberley and was an adjudicator for the Liliesleaf Farm and the Constitutional Court competitions. In 2007 together with two others, he administered an architectural competition for the Southbank (Spier Estate) competition and in 2009 administered the architectural competition for the design of a new building to accommodate the offices of the Premier of the Eastern Cape.

His particular interest in heritage has involved him in many projects, including consulting on the ongoing developments at Constitution Hill and at the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication. He was awarded the Gold Medal of Distinction of the South African Institute of Architects and the Gold Medal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (now Heritage South Africa).

May 2013

Compiled by Herbert Prins and submitted by William MARTINSON

2019 03 28: Herbert Prins receives a gold medal for a life time of achievements recognized by his alma mater, University of the Witwatersrand.

Award Citation:

Mr Herbert Prins is a distinguished architect and one of South Africa's most eminent authorities in the field of architecture, design and heritage. He is renowned for his work in heritage objects conservation, a relatively new field, for which the modalities of practice are still being established.

Mr Prins served at the forefront of the development in this area long before historic conservation became a popular word in the discipline and his contributions in the field both in South Africa and abroad, are evident. At the age of 91, he continues to actively and energetically contribute to public interest projects in Gauteng and beyond.

A Wits graduate, Mr Prins qualified as an architect in 1952 and holds a five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture degree, a Masters of Architecture qualification and a Diploma in Town Planning. A dedicated teacher, he practiced as a full time architect and then served as a faculty member in the Wits Department of Architecture for 26 years, serving as the Head of Department, a member of Senate and a member of the board of the faculty. At Wits, he was responsible for developing the Mining and Geology Building and the former Medical Library and the Medical School in Esselen Street, Johannesburg. He also developed the master plan for the Science Campus and the Physics Building at the then University of Natal.

Mr Prins focused his energy on heritage conservation in the later years of his career and worked as a heritage consultant on several major projects including the restoration of the Reserve Bank in Pretoria, the restoration of the Pretoria Railway Station which was gutted by fire in 2001, the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication in Kliptown which commemorates the Congress of the People in 1955, the Newtown Precinct in Johannesburg and the upgrading of Vilikazi Street in Soweto.

Mr Prins has been an unflagging and prominent activist for South Africa's, Gauteng's and Johannesburg's architectural heritage. Since shortly before his retirement from Wits in 1996, Mr Prins has served as a member of the Building Committee of the Constitutional Court and he played a key role in the construction of the new Constitutional Court on Constitution Hill. Former Constitutional Court Justice Kate O'Regan lauds his attention to detail and deep commitment to the constitutional project of building a society to free the potential of all South Africans, a view which former Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron concurs. He adds that Prins's views are "knowledgeable, authoritative and compelling and bring a truly vast array and depth of architectural, design, aesthetic and cultural-historical wisdom and knowledge to the work of the Court."

Post the Second World War, Mr Herbert Prins also played an integral role in planning the centre of Harlow New Town in Essex, England, amongst several other major projects.

A registered member of the South African Council for the Architectural Profession, Mr Prins is also an Associate Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He has been awarded the Gold Medal of Distinction from the South African Institute of Architects, the Gold Medal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (now Heritage South Africa), the Gauteng Institute for Architecture’s Honorary Life Membership Award and is a lifetime member of the South African Institute of Architects.

Due to his noteworthy contribution to heritage preservation and architecture, his professional and academic distinction, and his exceptional contribution and service to society, it is with great honour that Mr Herbert Maurice John Prins is presented with the University of the Witwatersrand's Gold Medal.

South african Institute of Architects, Life Membership Citation

At the start of Herbert Prins' career, he gained excellent experience both in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Between 1970 and 1996, he was Senior Lecturer at the Department of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand and Head of Department at various times during this period.

Herbert Prins has been actively involved in a number of committees which benefit architects, including the South African Council for Architects, the National Monuments Council, the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency; Gauteng; President of the Transvaal Institute of Architects in 1978 and 1979, President of the institute of South African Architects from 1982 to 1983 and Chairman of the Rosebank Action Group, Acting Chairman of the Egoli Heritage Foundation and Vice Chairman of the Johannesburg Heritage Trust.

His interest in heritage has involved him in many projects, including consulting on the ongoing developments at Constitution Hill and the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication. He was awarded the gold medal of distinction of the South African Institute of Architects and the Gold Medal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (now Heritage South Africa).

Thus SAIA salutes Herbert Prins for his long, distinguished, fruitful life as an eminent architect and landmark teacher. He is also highly regarded for his deep sense of architectural history and continuity. Herbert Prins has thus contributed richly to South Africa's architectural history and legacy, and for this, we proudly confer Life Membership on him.

Article by Kathy Munro: Celebrating the remarkable life of Herbert Prins, The Heritage Portal, Tuesday, April 21, 2020.

Herbert Prins died during the international shut down caused by the COVID-19 pandemic which hit the world in early 2020. Public gatherings were taboo as was travel. Herbert's memorial was therefore held as a virtual ZOOM meeting on 2020 04 23 with people logging in from around the world. The event was hosted by Hugh Fraser. The Order of Service:

ORDER OF SERVICE
17:45
allow people in from the waiting room
music

18:00
Welcome:
Professor Nnamdi Elleh
Head of Wits School of
Architecture and Planning


Tributes
18:05
Justice Edwin Cameron
18:08
Professor Lindsay Bremner
18:15
Ivan Kadey
18:23
Kathy Munro (tributes)
18:35
Peter Rich
18:42
Stanley Saitowitz

18:47
Audio visual notes:
Marilyn Martin, Jo Noero, Mira Fassler Kamstra
18:53
Krynauw Nel

18:55
Closing thanks: Kate Otten

Herbert Prins - then aged 17 - submitted this essay to the “Goodwill” Competition in 1944 and won a prize for it.

___________

Throughout the country a great stillness seems to pervade, only the wind and the occasional rumble of thunder breaks the silence and yet only a comparatively short distance away – in Italy, France, and Russia – the din of artillery is heard, while for every flash of a gun some brave man is wounded or killed. It may be an Englishman, it may be an American, or it may be a South African who has left his home and the quiet of the country to fight for a better world. But it is not only the destruction of Nazism that will make a better post-war world. We, the citizens of tomorrow, who have had no share in the defeat of Germany, must play our part and fight for the welfare of all the generations of the future.

The struggle for the improvement of a world which the trials of war have proved to be not without glaring faults, will be both long and difficult. To men who live under unhealthy and humiliating conditions the words of Sir William Beveridge, and others, must raise the hope that one day social Insurance will be adopted in South Africa. Men without employment must rejoice at the thought of freedom from idleness. The delicate must feel relief at the thought of free health services and sickness benefits, which the aged must experience joy at the thought of more substantial pensions. In the words of Sir William Beveridge, in an essay prepared for the Fabian Society: “There is no political issue about Social Insurance. Social Insurance is not a political question at all. There is no political issue about education, dealing with ignorance. There is no political issue about disease.....”, and yet there will be Politicians, who for selfish and political reasons will oppose this most desirable charter.

I, the individual, can do more towards the realisation of this dream than the originators of the scheme, by using my power as a Parliamentary Voter correctly and by electing and assisting the Party that is prepared to make the poor man’s case its policy.

The needs of the poor may be an urgent question and is certainly one that requires instant attention, but even its solution cannot bring happiness to South Africa whilst there is racial hatred. Although certain men may irritate and inflame the various wounds which time has not yet healed, it is in my power to forget and to repay the grievances of the past with goodwill and understanding.

By learning Afrikaans and speaking it fluently; by trying to respect national heroes, even if they did fight against my Forefathers and by remembering that weak races are to be protected and not persecuted. I will play my part in uniting the different elements of the country. Out of Unity comes Strength; out of Strength comes Power and this war has proved that there can be no security for weak states in a turbulent world.

The care of the destitute and needy is also important as part of a happy and contented world. There are various Benevolent Societies which care for the diseased, aged and parentless and I am able to help by identifying myself with and by contributing liberally to these worthy causes.

There are certain obligations which I owe to the State and they are, living within my means, and being self-supporting. If I am to be a burden on Society how am I to help to improve the post-war world? If everyone were to be thrifty and industrious there would be less poverty and proportionately more happiness. It is also my duty to read the Newspapers and Books on current affairs so that I may form a sound opinion concerning the various problems that confront us.

.....And so the approaching end of the most fearful war in History, heralds in an even greater struggle and if I am to play my part in it I must first improve myself. I cannot condemn a policy or institution because it is undemocratic if my own actions make it so. I must prepare myself to be a better citizen of South Africa and only then can I hope to win a better world.

___________

Copied from a post on the Facebook page titled Herbert Maurice John Prins - accessed November 2020

(Submitted by William Martinson)

These notes were last edited on 2020 04 24

Books citing PRINS

Chipkin, Clive M. 1993. Johannesburg Style - Architecture & Society 1880s - 1960s. Cape Town: David Phillip. pp 212, 274-275

ISAA. 1959. The Yearbook of the Institute of South African Architects and Chapter of SA Quantity Surveyors 1958-1959 : Die Jaarboek van die Instituut van Suid-Afrikaanse Argitekte en Tak van Suid-Afrikaanse Bourekenaars 1958-1959. Johannesburg: ISAA. pp 95, 190

ISAA. 1969. The Yearbook of the Institute of South African Architects and Chapter of SA Quantity Surveyors 1968-1969 : Die Jaarboek van die Instituut van Suid-Afrikaanse Argitekte en Tak van Suid-Afrikaanse Bourekenaars 1968-1969. Johannesburg: ISAA. pp 99, 129