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SOFF, Francois (Frans)

Born: 1867
Died: 1936

Architect


Came to work for the South African Republic in about 1890 from the Netherlands where he had been born in Amsterdam. His training has not yet been established. He settled in Pretoria where he practised for the rest of his career. He worked in partnership with WJ DE ZWAAN from about 1890 (cf. DE ZWAAN & SOFF); according to the Pretoria News (28.6.1979), Soff came to South Africa in order to join de Zwaan. They were certainly both part of an artistic circle in pre Anglo-Boer War Pretoria, which included J Pierneef, the painter and Anton VAN WOUW, the sculptor. His best-known work in Pretoria is the building on the corner of Church Square and Church Street West: the Reserve Investment building (1905) where the well known Cafe Riche had its premises on the ground floor corner onto the square; the relief sculpture on the corner was executed by Van Wouw. The building is notable for its fine stone reveals around the windows and the gable stonework, the flatness of which is reminiscent of Scottish architects such as CR Macintosh and the jugendstijl. Soff designed the Vrouemonument in Bloemfontein (1913) in collaboration with Van Wouw who executed the sculpture for the monument. Both DE ZWAAN and Soff are recorded as members of the Pretoria Club in 1903 and were jointly commissioned to design the additional wing to the Vermeulen Street facade (eastwards extension) (Atkinson, 1969). Soff was an active member of the Association of Transvaal Architects and on resigning his seat on the Council of the ATA in 1926, his dedication was gratefully acknowledged as his 'unselfish devotion to duty' (AB&E Mar 1926:12). In 1911 his address was Illovo, 750 Church St, between Pine and Beckett Streets in Arcadia. He never married and latterly he lived in the Pretoria Club, dying in the Pretoria General Hospital. His brother and sister lived in Amsterdam.

ISAA 1927. (AB&E Mar 1926:12; Building Jun 1918:164; ISAA mem list; Picton-Seymour 1977; Restorica Aug 1979:5 ill; SESA 11:489; TAD MSCE 91737)

Publ: Anton van Wouw, sculptor and artist: SA Lady's Pic Jun 1914:56-7

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.

Books citing SOFF

Atkinson, AKW. 1969. Old Ivory and Roses : The Pretoria Club. Pretoria: Wallach s. pp 37

Bakker, Karel A, Clarke, Nicholas J. 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens : A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa. Pretoria: Visual Books. pp 136, 196, 201, 202, 203

ISAA. 1927. Register of Members the Institute of South African Architects. Johannesburg: ISAA (Unpublished Record). pp S20

Meiring, Hannes. 1980. Pretoria 125. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. pp 66, 92, 100

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1977. Victorian Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp 295, 296, 299, 369

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 125, 167, 168