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Established: 1927


This was the Johannesburg partnership between JC COOK and M COWEN from April 1927 in Johannesburg. The firm was responsible for a great number of apartment blocks in the city produced over a period of about fifteen years of the prime growth in Johannesburg between 1927 and 1940; the work of Cook & Cowen provides an important facet of the city's architectural history, their work displaying the changing styles of the period. Perhaps because of is utilitarian style, their work has not attracted the attention gained by more glamorous buildings of the period. Towards the end of the 1930s the firm's designs were marked by the contemporary shift in fashion towards streamlined mass and their design for the Boksburg public library (c1939) was praised for its 'restrained modernism' (PWSA Sep 1939:27-28). The firm probably designed the following buildings in 1939 : the Lake Cinema later known as the Gem cinema) in Parkview, Johannesburg and Jenner Chambers and Harley Chambers in Jeppe Street, Johannesburg. After Cook's death the firm continued under the same style, the partners being M COWEN and his son J COWEN. In 1959 the address of the practice was 510, J.B.S. Buildings, cor. Commissioner & Joubert Streets, Johannesburg.

(Herbert 1975; COWEN 1984)

Chipkin refers as follows to the J.C. Cook & Cowen practice: Going into the 1930's, there was the 'prolific firm' of Cook & Cowen: 'Mark OBEL [of OBEL & OBEL] once recalled: 'We were considered the first architects of that period' - a position hotly contested by the prolific firm of J.C. Cook & Cowen, who designed vas Art Deco piles and were working, at the beginning of 1934, on fourteen major buildings. Cook & Cowen were the architects of Dunvegan Chambers, noted for its sculpted relief decoration, and Broadcast House, as well as buildings like Dorchester Mansions in Rissik Street and Stanhope Mansions in Plein Street, both embellished with startling Art Deco relief patterns.' Later on, he states that there is no doubt in his mind 'that, like the Obels, Maurice Cowen had also walked the sidewalks of New York: breathing in the atmosphere, studying the Manufacturers Trust Building, absorbing Art Deco details along lower Broadway, responding with youthful enthusiasm to the concocted world of New York modernity.'

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 COOK and COWEN

Chipkin, Clive M. 1993. Johannesburg Style - Architecture & Society 1880s - 1960s. Cape Town: David Phillip. pp 90, 100, 114, 115, 116, 141, 143, 151, 152, 261

Herbert, Gilbert. 1975. Martienssen & the international style: The modern movement in South African architecture. Cape Town - Rotterdam: AA Balkema. pp 85