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TURGEL, Donald D

Born: 1922
Died: 1999 06 01

Architect

SACA:
Reg No: 2096
Year registered: 1961

Dipl. Arch. (Rand), MIA

Born in London. A graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand School of Architecture (Wits school) in the years that Rex MARTIENSSEN taught there, and the only staff member he clearly recalled because of his remarkable attitude to history, leaving one such lecture with 'both feet firmly in the air.' (Chipkin, 1993:297)

He spent his formative professional years in the office of Steffen AHRENDS. Ahrends, in reacting to the chronic shortage of materials in the post-war years as well as the regulated limitations on house sizes at this time, created cottagey houses with thatched roofs on gumpoles, Broseley tiles tiled roofs on rafters, bagged walls, timber strip and quarry tiled flooring and hollow roofs of steep pitches with dormer windows for providing additional space for extra accommodation. This frugality and directness of material choice and uses proved an abiding influence on Turgel's work. Colleagues there at the time were Dan ROBINSON, John TAYLOR, Michael SUTTON, and David WALKER.

By 1950 he was in London when an unexpected inheritance allowed him to purchase a 1923 Citroën and with his wife, travel for three years through France and on to the then French Colony of Morocco. This had an enduring effect of the direction of his architecture. (Chipkin, 1993: 297)

Back in South Africa, he built their first house, called Marakesh. This was an exemplar of what were to epitomise Turgel's houses - following the dictates of South African climate and need of outdoor living, careful attention to costs - virtually the cheapest of their time. These were 'low-profile houses with privacy areas secreted from the street' having 'large wall surfaces of stock brickwork (then the cheapest surface-area available); low-level cut-out view windows screened with brick grilles; bagged surfaces from unsieved granular sand excavated on site; cost-effective local materials like slate or hard brick on floors; glazed inset tiles for wiped surfaces in wash areas set in wide mortar joints. The roofing is IBR galvanised sheeting at six degree slope, supported without purlins on ponderosa pole rafters stained carbolineum black, with split-pole ceiling and fibreglass insulation above' (Chipkin, 1993: 297-8). This economy and choice of materials all leant an African idiom to his work. This was augmented through use of local artists to craft doors, panels, and suchlike. This created houses experienced as a progression of enclosed, brick-paved courtyards with sculptures and pottery ledges or niches, walled gardens with brick piers and pergolas, white-walled interiors enhanced by black-slate floors, black-stained window-surrounds, simple sliding doors, protected by chevron-patterened brickwork grilles that diffuse light, all exuding 'a robust African spirit without sentimentality. (Chipkin, 1993: 298-9)

His engagement in the arts led to him acting on the editorial panel of the local but short-lived art journal, Fontein (1960).

On the death of his first wife he married a German émigré thirty years his junior, whom he widowed when he died.

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 TURGEL

Chipkin, Clive M. 1993. Johannesburg Style - Architecture & Society 1880s - 1960s. Cape Town: David Phillip. pp 287, 294, 295, 297-299, 306

Chipkin, Clive M. 2008. Johannesburg Transition - Architecture & Society 1950 - 2000. Johannesburg: STE Publishers. pp 379

ISAA. 1969. The Yearbook of the Institute of South African Architects and Chapter of SA Quantity Surveyors 1968-1969 : Die Jaarboek van die Instituut van Suid-Afrikaanse Argitekte en Tak van Suid-Afrikaanse Bourekenaars 1968-1969. Johannesburg: ISAA. pp 102, 135