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COWIN, John Norris

Born: 1907 10 03
Died: 1991?


Reg No: 585
Year registered: 1935

BArch, ARIBA 1930, MIA, TIA 1935

Eldest son of NT COWIN and brother of DM COWIN, was born in Muizenberg, Cape and was educated in Johannesburg. He studied at the University of Liverpool School of Architecture, England from 1924 until he graduated in 1929; he shared first place with another student in a competition for the White Star Line prize with his design for the interior decoration of a liner in 1928 In the same year he spent six months in the office of Carrere & Hastings in New York, associate architects with CR Reilly for Devonshire House, Piccadilly, London (Reilly was head of the University of Liverpool School of Architecture and professor of architecture there for thirty years.) On Cowin's return from America, he spent six months (1929-1930) in Sir Herbert BAKER's office in London after which he returned to America, his Associate membership papers for the RIBA were witnessed in 1930 by Aliwyn Best, New York. He then spent April to October 1930 in A Lindenberg's office and toured the eastern states of America and Canada. Cowin exhibited a number of drawings in the South African Academy [of Arts] annual shows from 1928. Those exhibited in 1929 included several executed in America of the Telephone Building and the Seaman's Bank in New York and the Railway Station at Forest Hill on Long Island and in 1931 he exhibited a drawing of the Empire State Building, New York.

He returned to South Africa in 1931 and began work in COWIN, POWERS & ELLIS. In the South African Academy exhibition of 1934 he exhibited a drawing of the Christian Brothers' College in Boksburg. On the outbreak of the Second World War Cowin enlisted and served as Lieutenant in the South African Engineers' Corps and was later promoted to the rank of Captain in the Abyssinian Campaign, thereafter to Major in the Italian Campaign. After the war he returned to Johannesburg where he became a principal in the firm of COWIN & ELLIS and where he spent the rest of his career. He was Past President in Chief of the Institute of South African Architects (1954-5). He resigned on retiring from the Institute of South African Architects in 1980.

On 1933 11 18 he married Margaret Isobel McKie by whom he had two daughters and a son.

(ARIBA nom papers (1930) 4493; Arch Rev 1927 vol 1:15; Arch Rev Jun 1953:406 port; ISAA mem list; SA Academy exhibition catalogues) Publ: NT COWIN, obit SAAR Jun 1942:182

Recipient of the Medal of Distinction from the South African Institute of Architects.


A transcript from the Who's Who of 1957.

COWIN, John Norris, ARIBA, B.Arch., M.I.A., Archt.; b. 3rd Oct 1907, Muizenburg.; educ. Parktown B.H.S., Liverpool Univ.; s.o.l. Norris Tynwald Cowin; m. 18th Nov., 1933, Margaret Isobel McKie; 2 d., 1 s.; Lt. S.A.E.C. 1940, served in Abyssinia as Capt., Italy as Maj.; Mem. Governing Body Athlone High Sch. and Parktown High Sch.; Past Pres. in Chief Inst. of S.A. Archt.; Club: R.J.G.C. Rec.: Photography, Golf. Add.: 30 Grace Rd., Mountain View, Jhb.

Ref: Donaldson, K. (Ed). South African Who's Who 1957. Ken Donaldson (Pty) Ltd, Johannesburg. 1957: pg 174. Submitted by William MARTINSON.

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.