Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital
PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT: Architect 1907
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Weskoppies was opened as a dedicated facility for psychiatric patients in 1892. Before that members of society deemed “insane” would have been consigned to jails. The construction of Weskoppies to modern standards for humane conditions can be seen as an enlightened step. Of course, the consideration was mainly for the public good. Patients were committed to the facility under the force of legislation.
By the end of the 1800s, Weskoppies was already overcrowded. Significant additions were made by the Transvaal Colony after the South African War. During this time, other medical and scientific facilities were built too, such as Pretoria’s Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute.
The Weskoppies main buildings of 1907 were designed by the Transvaal Public Works Department under the supervision of Piercy Eagle. These comprise an extended chain of Edwardian structures along a ridge, connected by courtyards and long passages that allow for ventilation and natural light in patient areas.
Architectural highlights are the hall and chapel, two beautiful spaces incorporated into the main complex. Originally, Weskoppies was developed as a healing landscape with well-tended gardens and cultivated fields. The landscape still plays a role, but there has been some degradation of the gardens. The more recent building developments have not added to the quality of the site.
(Extracted from Swart et al. 2019:94-99)
The buildings photographed here by Annelise Lange are all empty.
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