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THIBAULT, Louis Michel

Born: 1750 09 29
Died: 1815 11 03

Architect



List of Structures


References

'As an engineer officer his capabilities are mediocre, but he can be usefully employed in architecture, which has been his principal study and in which he has given proof of much taste' (Dundas [see Pearse]: SAAR Sep 1928:55-62). Thibault was baptised in Paris (Puyfontaine (1972) gives Paris as his birth place; De Bosdari (1954) and Lewcock (1963) give Picquiny, near Amiens as his birth place). He received his training in architecture at the Academie Royale d'Architecture in Paris from about 1774, possibly studying briefly under Ange-Jacques Gabriel who retired in 1775 (d.1782). Fisher (1989) states that Thibault also studied under R Mique and JD Le Roy at the Academy. He was placed first in two Academy exercises (Prix d'Emulation) in 1775 with his designs for a gateway to a commercial town and an altar for the principal chapel in a circular building; a drawing of the model he presented to King Louis XVI in 1776 is in the Kolbe Collection in Cape Town (Lewcock 1963:15). Thibault was employed in the Roads and Bridges section of the French Public Works Department (Corps des ponts et des chausees de France) studying military engineering in 1781 in Paris at the expense of Colonel CD de Meuron and later joined the Regiment de Meuron de Neuchatel Suisse, a Swiss mercenary regiment. The regiment was taken into the pay of the Dutch East India Company, an alliance between France and the United Provinces of Holland arising from their support for the independence of the American Colonies, and was sent to the Cape in 1783 to defend it against Britain (Quarterly Bull of SA Libr, vol I, 1946-47:100). Dr M Cook suggests that Thibault may have left France because he was a member of the freemasons who were under suspicion in France.

In 1785 Thibault joined the service of the Dutch East India Company, employed as a Lieutenant of Engineers (fortifications) and in 1786 was made responsible for public buildings under Captain (later Governor) van der Graaff, his patron. The same year he married Elizabeth van Schoor, a Dutch woman and about this time commenced designing classically styled private houses, the house, Papenboom, at Newlands for M van Rienan belongs to this period. In 1788 he was granted a captaincy and was appointed director of the Company's Military School in Wale Street the same year. Recent opinion (Fisher 1989) suggests that Thibault's later buildings, 'many of which remained projects ... are interpreted as being severely mannered, wilful and degenerate ... (and) ascribed to his isolation from the European mainstream ... could infact have been allied to works by architects such as L-E Boullee (1728-1799), C-N Ledoux (1736-1806) and JJ Lequeu (1756-1825) ... His works reflect the repetition, antithesis and multiple response of the genre and the concern with stereometric rigorism to achieve the effect of Boullee's 'architecture of the shadows' (Fisher 1989.) Fisher gives as examples of this severe style the Lodge of Good Hope, the Parade fountain and the Guard House for the Company Gardens.

Resistant to the first British occupation of the Cape (1795-1803), Thibault finally accepted an appointment as architect in charge of repairs to military buildings of the garrison, taking the oath of allegiance and occupying the formal post of Surveyor of Buildings. Under Governor Yonge, Thibault was put in a supervisory position of new work for Government House in Cape Town (January 1800) but is not certain how much of the work executed at Government House was Thibault's. A civic theatre undertaken by Yonge about the same time (May 1800) may also have been influenced by Thibault.

A row broke out over the Dutch Reformed Church building at Drakenstein (now Paarl) because, unknown to him, Thibault's plans were abandonned in favour of more economical plans by GC KUCHLER (see Oberholster 1972:86-7). Thibault, it seems, had business rivals.

British defeats during the Napoleonic wars saw the transfer of the Cape Colony to the Batavian Republic (1803-1806) and Thibault appointed to the position of Inspector-General of State Buildings, Civil and Military, in November 1803 by the new governor Commissioner-General de Mist. Thibault had completed the Freemasons' Lodge of Goede Hoop (plans free of charge) by 1803, having designed the work in 1801 and in 1804 De Mist commissioned the new Drostdy buildings at Tulbagh, Graaff-Reinet and Uitenhage. Those at Graaff-Reinet and Tulbagh are firmly ascribed to Thibault, although Graaff-Reinet was 'adulterated in execution' (Fisher 1989) but the Uitenhage Drostdy is only attributed to Thibault.

The second British Occupation of the Cape (1806-1820) occuring in war-time meant there was little money to spend on public works. Thibault had taken part in hostilities against the British and was made a prisoner-of-war. Nevertheless, his skills were indispensable and a few months later, in April 1806, he was reappointed Inspector of Public Buildings and was permitted to work as a Sworn Surveyor in 1807. In 1811 he received the appointment of Government Surveyor and was 'officially responsible for the design and supervision of all civic buildings erected during this period' (1807-1820) (Lewcock 1963:61). He is credited with having had a hand in various works such as the conversion of the old Slave Lodge in the Heerengracht into government offices (1807-1814).

According to De Bosdari the following works are attributed to Thibault: the Kat Balcony at the Castle, Cape Town, the Koopmans de Wet House, the wine cellar at Groot Constantia, Uitkyk, Vredenhof and the De Wet House at Tulbagh while the Lodge of Good Hope and the Tulbagh Drostdy can be firmly said to be by Thibault.

Fisher points out that in accepting in 1813 the appointment as advisor to a technical and art school under the patronage of the freemasons and the directorship of Anton Anreith, Thibault became 'the first educator in the field of architecture in South Africa in addition to being the first formally trained architect.' Thibault's last years were spent in surveying since he was ignored by the new governor Lord Charles Somerset. He died in Cape Town and was buried in the Woltemade Cemetery.

(AB&E Oct 1922:2-3; Afr N & N Sept 1947:98-100;100-3; Building Mar 1920:447-9; Building Mar 1921; De Bosdari 1954; De Kock 1968; De Puyfontaine 1972; Fransen, 1968; Fisher 1989; Fransen & Cook 1980; Greig 1971; Laidler 1926; Lewcock 1963; Oberholster 1972; Pearse 1933; Quarterly Bull SA Libr (I) 1946-47: 99-103; SAAR Sept 1928:55-62; SA Lady's Pic Dec 1913:42-3)

Cape: Papenboom for Van Reenen family, Newlands (destr fire) (Lewcock 1963:28-9; Fransen, 19678:788) pre-1786; Stellenbosch: Uitkyk, Muldersvlei for Melck family, attrib (Fransen, 1968:788) 1788; Cape Town: Saasveld (reconstructed in Franschoek in 1966) (Fransen, 1968:788) 1789; House, design dedicated to Governor van der Graaff (Lewcock 1963:14) 1791; Guardhouse, drawings for side and front elevations, dedicated to Governor van de Graaff for Company Gardens (dem) (Lewcock 1963:15;Fransen, 1968:788) 1791; Groot Constantia, attrib (FK KENDALL suggests that Thibault rebuilt the whole house 'when he rebuilt the wine cellar' (1791-92); the entire house was declared a National Monument in 1936 (Kendall 1927; Quarterly Bull SA Libr (I) 1946-47:99; Lewcock 1963:17; Oberholster 1972:51; Fransen, 1968:788) 1789-92; Klapmuts for Duckitt, alts (Lewcock 1963:33-4) c1800; Lodge de Geode Hoop, Bouquet St now Stal Plein, consecrated 1803 in presence of de Mist - Thibault with H SCHUTTE (De Bosdari 1954; Lewcock 1963:54) 1800, consecrated 1803 in presence of De Mist; Paarl (Drakenstein): NGK bldg ('Strooidak') plans for church, abandonned, built to plans drawn by Major Georg Conrad K√úCHLER (Oberholster 1972: 86-7) 1799; Cape Town: Gates, Company Garden (dem) (De Bosdari 1971)1804; Guardhouse, top of Government Avenue (Lewcock 1963:58) 1804; Graaff-Reinet: Drotsdy (Lewcock 1963:55-7; De Bosdari 1971) 1804-5; Tulbagh: Drostdy (Lewcock 1963:55-6; De Bosdari 1971:16) 1804-7; Uitenhage: Drostdy, attrib (De Bosdari 1971:16) 1804-; Cape Town: Fountain, Parade (dem 1814) (De Bosdari 1971:16; Lewcock 1963:59-60 ill 88) 1804/5; The Hurling Pump, Princes St, attrib Anreith & Thibault (De Bosdari 1971:16) date-; Newlands House, drawings for alterations not executed (AB&E Aug 1918:1, 3 ill) 1806; Supreme Court bldg, (old Slave Lodge), rebuilt as government offices and Supreme Court, (now SA Cultural History Museum) Adderley/Parliament Sts (NM 1967) (Lewcock 1963:61-67; Fransen, 1968:788; Rennie 1978b:207) 1807, 1809-15; Customs House, Caledon Sq, sculp Anreith, attrib Thibault (Lewcock 1963: 67-70; Fransen, 1968:789; Rennie 1978b:337 ill) 1807-14; Orphan House, Long St, attrib (dem c1930) (Lewcock 1963:69, 70 ill; Fransen, 1968:788) -1814; Market Bldg (dem) (Lewcock 1963:70-71; Fransen, 1968:788) 1812

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.