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References

WAYBURNE and WAYBURNE

Established: 1930s
Ended: 1960s

Architect


Issie WAYBURNE came out of the 30s, designing, for example, House of Life, the Art Deco influenced propylea to the West Park Jewish cemetery in 1939, with arched windows to represent some kind of vague Byzantine connection.

Wayburne, together with his brother Cyril WAYBURNE, ran a small practice with a "pretty smart draughtsman" named Paxton. Cyril had been a fireman and was now chiefly involved with specifications, administration work and staring out of the window.

At some point WAYBURNE's luck turned. Twentieth Century Fox were starting up operations in South Africa to challenge Schlesinger's cinema monopoly and began franchising a chain of suburban cinemas. From this source WAYBURNE picked up work in the late 30s. Alan WATSON, a recently qualified young architect, joined the firm - "a very solid, competent and amenable fellow", BERNSTEIN called him. BERNSTEIN himself had switched to WAYBURNE & WAYBURNE and worked under WILSON. Together the office designed approximately seven suburban cinemas in all, including three landmark venues - The Astra in Orange Grove, the Apollo in Doornfontein and the Odeon in Rosebank.

The WAYBURNEs, in the post-war years, building on their pre-war cinema connections, moved into the new 'Drive-In' cinema field c. 1947. With BERNSTEIN back in the firm, they designed the first of these drive-in cinemas on the old Pretoria Road - the precedent for a whole string of cinemas that contributed to that peculiarly South African exuberance.

But the WAYBURNES had bigger fish to fry. In the 1940s the Glazer Brothers became clients, resulting in possibly their first large project, the Skyline Hotel in Hillbrow. With this connection, operating through African City Properties, they were now linked to the growing power of Volkskas’ development capital, which, after the Nationalist Party victory of 1948, was well situated to become an economic giant. With BERNSTEIN the principal designer (though not always the sole author), WAYBURNE & WAYBURNE now mushroomed into a large practice operating on the top floor of the new Loveday House, an eclectic modern development with sandblasted glass panels by SHAPSHAK in the lift lobbies. In 1955 the practice had five major Glazer Brothers projects on the go in Eloff Street alone - African City at the completion stage; Marlborough House rising at a frenzied rate, the contractors being Miodownik & Co; Walter Mansions (later renamed Medical City) then at ground level; Bosman Buildings at its initial stages, as well as renovations to Davidson Mansions. It was in the entrance foyer of Davidson Mansions that a medallion of Alan Davidson, founder of African City Properties, had been placed according to a report in the South African Architectural Record of March 1925. Somewhere along the line Davidson Mansions had become the Waldorf Hotel, and it was the old Waldorf that was undergoing renovations in 1955.

The designs produced by the firm can be seen as an eclectic modernism, a product of many hands - a design process characteristic of the WAYBURNE office, since there was never a design from start to finish by one hand, there always being too much work at one time to dedicate individuals to single design. A strong design influence in the WAYBBURNE office in the 1950s, when CHIPKIN joined them working under BERNSTEIN, had emanated from Gordon Bunshaft's Lever Building on Park Avenue, New York (1952) - a refined glazed curtain wall high-rise slab block on a two storey podium - reinterpreted in the WAYBURNE Office at African City (1954), Marlborough House (1956), and Bosman Building (1956) - all Eloff Street properties - in precast concrete cladding and ponderous detailing - a misinterpretation of intent.

BERNSTEIN's sudden resignation in 1956 was the beginning of the end of the WAYBURNE partnership, which carried on with Oddie ISRAEL as a partner for a while. In July 1962 the South African Architectural Record recorded ISRAEL's change of address to England, traditional home of exiles. African City Properties changed architects to STAUCH VORSTER in Pretoria, a more compatible alliance. Cyril WAYBURNE died, leaving the practice virtually a one-man concern, as it had begun, then faded into virtual oblivion.

(CHIPKIN 2008:111)

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.