LRIBA 1911; FRIBA 1926; MBE
Was chief architect of the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT for the Union of South Africa from 1920 until 1932 and Secretary of Public Works from 1932 until 1939. Born in Walsall, Staffordshire in England, Cleland was educated at Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall and Bishop Vesey's School in Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham, He was articled in 1895 to HE Lavender, an architect in Walsall, winning several prizes for drawing and design during this time. Completing his articles, he remained a further year in Lavender's office as an assistant. He left to spend nine months, from 1899 to 1900, in the office of one Scaping of Grimsby, followed by six months in the office of Kinnear Tarte in St Albans, Hertfordshire, an underrated Arts and Crafts architect. While with Tarte he executed a hall for the display of hunter's trophies for Captain Selous at his house in Surrey, subsequently demolished. From 1900 until 1902 he worked in the office of one Godderidge at Tamworth near Birmingham. He left for South Africa in 1902, contracted for two years to William BLACK in Cape Town.
He remained in Black's office until October 1908, and, after having married Emmerentia Blignaut of Kroonstad in 1903, built his own family house in High Level Road in Sea Point in 1904. He left Black's office probably due to the depression and entered into partnership with the Cape Town firm of TULLY & WATERS. The partners were successful in winning the competitions for the Johannesburg abattoir (not built to their design), the Post Office Headquarters (1909) and Natal University College (main building), Pietermaritzburg (1910).
Cleland was employed as a temporary draughtsman in the Public Works Department in Pretoria in March 1909 to work on the drawings for the Post Office and continued working in partnership with Tully & Waters. Around 1910 he contemplated entering into partnership with NT COWIN but remained in the Public Service as a temporary member of staff. Within a few years he was put onto the permanent staff and (declared unfit for military service) was appointed acting chief architect in 1915 in place of the chief architect P EAGLE who had enlisted for service on the outbreak of the First World War. Cleland was appointed chief architect of the PWD in October 1920, a post he held until 1932. In 1932 he was appointed Secretary of Public Works, retiring in 1939.
The architectural style during the time Cleland was Chief Architect was caught up in the attempt to develop a South African style. Clearly the Italianate features introduced by other architects fo the period, such as Herbert BAKER and DE ZWAAN formed a point of departure, with courtyard ventilation used throughout the country. Cape Dutch Revival style elements abounded, and there was much use of red brick, plastered and collonaded facades, generous detailing in superior materials such as teak doors and windows and terracotta tiling. It is difficult to estimate Cleland's own influence on the architecture of the PWD. His own early (1904) house at Sea Point, Cape Town reflects the Arts and Crafts style, and his own last house, in Pretoria, was in Spanish Mission style. He corresponded with and worked with Herbert Baker on several seminal buildings, and later worked closely with several architects, among them GE LEITH, and was in touch with the public architecture of the Eastern United States. Cleland shared Baker's interest in appropriate (and South African) furnishings for government buildings, and numerous drawings for furniture in official residences exist among his papers. There was considerable contemporary criticism of the predicable style of the PWD by other architects, notably GLP MOERDYK, and while the department did not favour experimental architecture with its unknown quantities which might demand heavy maintenance, it is apparent that Cleland was not unsympathetic to the criticism. During his administration as Secretary of Public Works, private architects were given work on a rotational basis, it seems, and some variety began to emerge towards the end of the 1930s. Cleland was frequently called on to assess along with others, architectural competitions held for public buildings, and his co-decisions would presumably have had an effect on the wider architectural style in the country. The last building to come under him was Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. Without doubt the public architecture of the 1920s and 1930s has a distinguishable character and style and has the added advantage for the public as being recognisable government buildings.
While he was chief architect, the government developed a policy of public patronage of the arts, and in this way alone the period is as yet unsurpassed in South African history. The use in an on buildings of carvings, sculpture, ceramic tiles, terracotta pots, all of first class quality and irreplaceable public treasures is the legacy of the period to South Africa, among the most important building representing this patronage being South Africa House in London (1932). Cleland himself developed links with artists throughout the country, and one of his last jobs before his death was the house (1949) of the sculptor Coert Steynberg (1949) in Pretoria North.
Cleland was retained by the department on a consultancy basis to the Central Housing Board until 1945. He also continued to design buildings in a private capacity. Cleland had a full public life and was a Trustee on many committees. He had a particular interest in the historic buildings of South Africa and was a founder member of the Historical Monuments Commission, working closely with C VAN RIET LOWE. He was president of the ISAA from 1934 until 1935 and his official portrait was painted by A Gyngell. His first wife died in 1919, and with three children, he remarried in 1923 and had a son by this marriage. He died in Pretoria.
(Abbott 1987, 1988, 1991; AB&E Sep 1934:19-25; AB&E Oct 1926:22; Afr Archt Sep 1912:60, 61; Agnew 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989; Building Sep 1920:391; Cleland 1986; Cleland Papers, HSRC; FRIBA nom papers (1925) 2353; Greig 1971; LRIBA nom papers (1911); Mullins 1986; PSL 1914; PWSA Nov 1938:14; PWSA Jan 1939:12; RIBA biog file; RIBA Jnl 1952:385-6; SAAR May 1935:129; SAAR Jul 1950:171 death notice; SAAR Dec 1950:272, obit by FW MULLINS; SAB Jun 1932:33; SAB Mar 1939:41; SESA 9:184; TAD MHG 2790/50; Children's hospital, Addington. Historical and descriptive brochure 1931)
Publ: Assessor's report: Pretoria Technical College competition, SAAR Mar 1927:10; Uncontrolled development of the cities and larger towns of the Union of South Africa, SAAR Sep 1929:108-10; Assessor's report: Roodepoort-Maraisburg hospital, SAAR Mar 1930:7-10; Swedish architecture, interview with J Cleland by H Bell-John, SAAR Jun 1931:43-5; Assessors' report: the non-European hospital at Durban, SAAR Apr 1932:95-100.
Buildings listed in Cleland's FRIBA nom papers (1925) were, he stated, those dealt with from sketch plan stage and in most cases to completion of the work; the list was not exhaustive.
Germiston: Hospital adds (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Bloemfontein: Hospital adds (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Cathcart: Cottage Hospital (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Caledon: Cottage Hospital (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Pretoria: Govt Printing Works (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; East London: Police Barracks (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Germiston: Police Barracks (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Boksburg: Police Barracks (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; East London: Post Office (FRIBA nom papers 1925; SAB Aug 1926:29 ill) 1925-26; Bloemfontein: Polytechnic and Hostels (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Glen: Agricultural College (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Cedara: Agricultural College (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Houtpoort: Industrial School (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; George: Industrial School (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Durban: Point Convict Station (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Cape Town: Post Office Annexe (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Art Gallery, first portion (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Bloemfontein: Appeal Court, sketches only (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Durban: Addington Hospital adds (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Penzance Rd Junior School, Congella (Kearney 1:49) 1918?; Johannesburg: School Clinic, Jeppe St (Plan, City Engineer) 1919; Girls' High School, Parktown (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Cape Town: Magistrates' Court (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; New Hospital for PWD, 31 Chiappini St, now the Roads Dept Laboratory (Rennie 1983:178) 1921; Bloemfontein: Hospital, adds (FRIBA nom papers 1925) n.d.; Cape Town: Delville Wood Memorial (source?) n.d.; Groote Schuur Hospital (source?) n.d.; Durban: Children's Hospital, Addington (Cumming-George 1933:151) ?1931; Pretoria: Govt Printing works, ext adds (SAB Jan 1932:47) 1932; Cape Town: SA National Gallery (SAB Feb 1933::11, 13) c1933; Potchefstroom: Hospital, adds (source?) 1924; Mental Hospital (source?) n.d.
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.