PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT: Architect
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Two Examples of Small Post
Article from the journal of the Public Works of South Africa. November, 1940. pp 17
THE designing of a small village post office is, generally speaking, a problem which calls for considerable ingenuity. It is a problem in which the architect has no opportunity for grandiose conceptions. On the other hand it is one in which many pitfalls abound, for, in seeking an apposite style, he has to resort to the very fundamentals of architecture in order to express, within small compass, not only function, but the dignity and character expected in a public building.
Two attractive post office designs are reproduced here, with commentaries by Mr. Turner Newham. They are the post office at Irene, near Pretoria, and the post office at Caledon, Cape. The Irene post office has already been built. Both were designed by the Union Public Works Department, Pretoria.
Caledom Post Office:
A START is soon to be made on the proposed new Post Office and Telephone Exchange at Caledon, Cape Province. This is also a small building, although larger than that at Irene. Its cost will be approximately £9,500 (R19,000).
Here again the design is on simple lines, incorporating the picturesque with utility. The main body of the structure will be built of golden brown brickwork surmounted by a white plaster cornice. Foundation stonework, main central entrance, subsidiary entrances and chimney breasts, etc., will be constructed of granite. The roof is to be covered with multi-coloured slates from an approved South African quarry.
The building is a self-contained block. On the east it faces Church Street. The yard entrance is on the west off Plein Street, and there are small lanes on each side of the building. It will be seen from the plan reproduced here that the public spaces lead off from a central entrance loggia reserved for Europeans [sic]. On the south there is a smaller entrance lobby for non-Europeans [sic]. The large circulation branch forms the main part of the building at the rear. This section is flanked on the right-hand side by the telephone exchange, power, battery and apparatus rooms, etc., and on the left by the electrician staff, telegraph and store rooms, etc.
Surmounting, the entrance doors to the public space there are fanlights carved in teak. Over the loggia and exchange entrances are built-in wrought-iron grilles, painted white. On either side of the main entrance doorway are cartouches carved in granite. In addition, a "post office stone", also in granite, will be let into the threshold. This stone will take the form of a carved galleon, similar to the historic stone under which mail was hidden at the Cape in the days of the Dutch East India Company.
The front elevation of the New Post Office is to be attractively finished with stone garden pocket-walling and raised lawns. In the design of this building the idea has been to use colourful materials as far as possible so that the post office will blend with the scenic beauties of this part of the Cape. With its large windows and simple treatment, the new Caledon Post Office should form an attractive addition to the postal buildings of the Cape Province. The building was designed by the Public Works Department, Pretoria.
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.