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Beyond Barrie’s House: the emergence of a regional domestic architecture in Natal during the 1960s.
conference contributionposted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by Paul Sanders
This paper presents a body of architecture that has been under acknowledged mostly due to its occurrence during the apartheid years in South Africa, a country that has only recently come to terms with its past, allowing opportunities to reflect on many aspects of its history. This particular architectural account celebrates the house of a renowned academic as the catalyst of a period of innovative design in Natal. Barrie Biermann had been recruited to the staff at the University of Natal in 1952, at the same time as Ronald Lewcock; and together they established a profound history of architecture course and collectively developed the theoretical discourse at the school, that challenged the directions of contemporary South African architecture. The design of House Biermann (1961) synthesised the influence of the modern movement with Biermann’s own research into the vernacular architecture of the Cape and interests in colonial and indigenous architecture. The paper will discuss how the design of House Biermann established a benchmark for a regional modernism, and describes how its example was quickly followed by a succession of Biermann’s students including Hans Hallen, Paul Mikula and others who developed a collective oeuvre of inspired buildings.