Born in Constantia, Cape Town where his father worked as the manager and winemaker on the farm, Mount Prospect. Schooling at Wynberg Boys’ High School. His passion for sketching and artistic interests led to his studies in architecture at the University of Cape Town in 1950 (Tymbios, 2017:119) where he obtained his BArch degree in 1954. Here he befriended a fellow student, Roelof S UYTENBOGAARDT, who had commenced his studies in architecture a year after in 1951. Pelser and Uytenbogaardt's friendship was characterised by mutual assistance resulting, for instance, in Pelser’s rendering a drawing for Uytenbogaardt’s submission for the Rome Scholarship in 1957 (Tymbios, 2017:119). Both Pelser and Uytenbogaardt had strong ties to the Dutch Reformed Church. Pelser’s prolific involvement with the Dutch Reformed Church and religious organisations not only influenced his career in architecture, as he claims to have designed approximately one hundred churches for various denominations but played a central role in his life. Pelser met his wife, Almarie, through his involvement with the ‘Jeug-tot-Jeugaksie’ youth ministry programme in 1974 (Tymbios, 2017:119).
Shortly after graduation he commenced his professional career with the design of a factory building for the South African Leadworks Company in Lansdowne. After finalising the plans for this structure, Pelser embarked on a four month tour through Western Europe with his former classmate, Fred Lighton. Upon return to Cape Town, Pelser was appointed by Professor THORNTON WHITE to complete the plans and oversee the construction of a new architecture school in the United Kingdom (Tymbios, 2017:119-120).
During the course of the following years, Pelser accepted the post at the University of Cape Town School of Architecture where he is listed in the staff registers of both 1960 and 1961 as an assistant lecturer. He subsequently worked in an architectural firm in London. In South Africa he completed numerous design projects, including the Friedheim apartment building in Rondebosch, Cape Town (Tymbios, 2017:120). In 1963 he established the partnership UYTENBOGAARDT and PELSER Architects, City Planners and Colour Consultants’ in the Bible House on Greenmarket Square, Cape Town (Tymbios, 2017:120). During their three year partnership, this practice was responsible for the design of the Van Zyl clothing store (1964) in Paarl, the church for the Welkom West Dutch Reformed congregation (1966) and the Bonwit Clothing Factory (1967) in Salt River (Tymbios, 2017:120). Both the Van Zyl shop and Bonwit factory received the Bronze Medal from Cape Provincial Institute of Architects in 1964 and 1968 (Tymbios, 2017:120). As far as the Dutch Reformed Church in Welkom was concerned, Uytenbogaardt was the principal architect of the commission and Pelser merely featured as member of the project team (Tymbios, 2017:120).
After terminating the partnership with Uytenbogaardt in 1966, Pelser continued practicing and received his first commission to design a church building for the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in Belhar in 1968. This commission launched his career as a designer of many churches for both Dutch Reformed congregations and others in southern Africa.
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