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Iziko South African Museum
Central Cape Town, Western Cape

Johannes Egbertus VIXSEBOXSE: Architect



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33°55'43.63" S 18°24'54.85" E Alt: 33m

First the Natural History Museum then South African Museum now the Iziko South African Museum.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN MUSEUM was founded in 1856, during the Governorship of Sir George Grey, chiefly owing to the exertions of Sir T. Maclear, Dr. Patte, Mr. C. A. Fairbridge, and the first curator, Mr. E. L. Layard. The present building recently erected, to which the collections were transferred in January, 1897, is situated at the top end of the Municipal Gardens in Cape Town.

[Anon, c. 1899. Picturesque South Africa - An album of Photographic Views. Cape Town: Dennis Edwards & Co. p 49.]

The museum building could well have faced onto Church Square in Pretoria; instead it faces down the Public Gardens, looking out across war memorials and rose beds. This building was in fact designed in 1893 by J E Vixseboxse, Government architect for the Orange Free State from 1890-93. His was the winning design in an open competition for a new museum, the exhibits having previously been housed at the South African Library, lower down Queen Victoria Street.

C A Fairbridge, the lawyer, who lived at The Mimosas, Sea Point, was largely responsible for the erection of this much-needed building and his friend Edgar Layard was the curator. The cost per square foot was 7d and the perspective drawing shows the building in its original colouring of red brick, striped and embellished with ochre. What can still be seen of the interior, such as the main staircase, is magnificent with wrought iron work, but it is unfortunate that the recent additions unsympathetically overshadow the original building with its peculiarly Republican style.

(Picton-Seymour, 1989: 15-16; Pryce-Lewis list)

Books that reference Iziko South African Museum

Bakker, Karel A, Clarke, Nicholas J & Fisher, Roger C. 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens : A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa. Pretoria: Visual Books. pg 77, 195
Finch, JR (Compiler). 1911. The Cape of Good Hope being the official handbook of the City of Capetown. Cape Town: Corporation of the City of Capetown in conjunction with the Publicity Department of ithe South African Railways. pg 31-44
Fransen, Hans. 1978. Guide to the Museums of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Galvin & Sales (Pty) Ltd, for the Southern African Museums Association. pg 17-20
Gaylard, Shaun & McDougall, Brett . 2022. RSA 365 : 365 Drawings of South African Architecture. Johannesburg: Blank Ink Design. pg 66-67 ill, 67
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1977. Victorian Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pg 80 ill
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pg 15-16
Radford, D. 1979. The architecture of the Western Cape, 1838-1901. A study of the impact of Victorian aesthetics and technology on South African architecture. Johannesburg: Unpublished Ph.D thesis. Dept of Arch. University of the Witwatersrand. pg 200 ill
Summers, Roger . 1975. A History of the South African Museum 1825 - 1975. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pg All
Walker, Michael. 2012. Early architects of Cape Town and their buildings (1820 - 1926) with postcard illustrations, The. St James: Michael Walker. pg 57-59