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Post Office
Irene, Gauteng

William Benjamin Turner NEWHAM: Design Architect
PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT: Architect

Date:1940
Type:Post Office
Status:Extant

 


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Coordinates:
25°52'31.68" S 28°13'24.56" E

The post office is remarkable for the outstanding brickwork. The tiled panel "The Voortrekkers" was done by the artist Rosa Somerville HOPE for the Ceramic Studio in 1940.

The building is currently [2010] being used as an art shop.

______________________________

Two Examples of Small Post
Office Design

By
TURNER NEWHAM

Article from the journal of the Public Works of South Africa. November, 1940. pp 14

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.

Irene Post Office:

IRENE, a small village situated 11 miles (18 km) south of Pretoria and famed as the home of General J. C. Smuts, has recently acquired a new Post Office and Automatic Telephone Exchange. This building is one of the satellite group of Pretoria post offices. It was designed and executed by the Union Public Works Department at an approximate cost of £2,500 (R5,000).

Although only a small building, this Post Office is of considerable architectural interest, for in a structure of its size it is difficult to create the character and dignity expected in a public building. In achieving a satisfactory solution to this problem the Public Works Department has adopted a "Georgian" style, in which the picturesque has been combined with utility.

In the design of this building full consideration has been given to maintenance and durability. Construction has been carried out in red face-brick, which, together with the red garden pots, white windows and rough stone pocket-walling, forms a fresh and colourful conception. The multi-coloured "Mazista" slate roof is echoed by that of the railway station situated immediately behind the Post Office.

Embellishments to the new building are directly in keeping with the historic associations of Irene. On the south facade the main feature is a large ceramic panel of glazed coloured tiles. This panel records, in a symbolical scene, the 1938 commemoration of the Voortrekker Centenary, the celebrations of which were held in the neighbourhood. Designed by Miss Rosa Hope, who made drawings of the Voortrekker camps and wagons during the celebrations, the panel was executed at the Ceramic Studio, Olifantsfontein, by Miss G. C. Short, A.R.C.A., and Miss J. Methley, A.R.C.A.

The European and non-European [sic] public spaces are on the east side of the building, and the apparatus and battery rooms are situated at the rear.

The corner entrance loggia, containing the public telephone, posting boxes and private boxes, is decorated with picture tiles of old Cape Dutch houses and portraits of General Smuts, Mr. P. J. van der Byl and Mr. Nelmapius, names which are intimately associated with Irene. The village was named after Miss Irene Nelmapius, daughter of the original owner of the farm.

The new Post Office is situated on the main road from Pretoria to Germiston, and forms the central feature of the village.

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.