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Transvaal University College (TUK)

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The university was founded as a school in Kimberley in 1896 as the "South African School of Mines". Eight years later, in 1904 the school moved to Johannesburg and changed its name to the "Transvaal Technical Institute". The school changed its name in 1906 to the "Transvaal University College". In 1908 the Pretoria branch of the school was established. On 17 May 1910 the Johannesburg and Pretoria campuses separated, each becoming an independent institution. The Johannesburg campus being reincorporated as the South African School of Mines and Technology which in 1922 became the University of the Witwatersrand, while the Pretoria campus retained the name of Transvaal University College until 1930 when it became the University of Pretoria.

(Wikipedia)

The establishment and development of the Wits School of Architecture and Quantity Surveying and subsequently of the Wits Faculty of Architecture are closely intertwined with the development of the Witwatersrand region and of the great city whose name is part of the university's official title, the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

The economic reconstruction following the end of the South African War in 1902 engendered much building and re-building, particularly in Johannesburg which, based as it was on its gold mines, was the focus of economic activity. It was here in an air of optimism and confidence in the future of this mining town that architectural education and training in South Africa were first instituted on a formal basis. In 1904 Austin LEECH was a senior lecturer in architecture at the Transvaal University College in Johannesburg, but no mention of him is found after 1907. In 1905 classes in Architecture and Building were held at the Transvaal Technical Institute. This was the successor to the South African School of Mines and Technology which had been founded in Kimberley in 1896 and was transferred some eight years later to a group of temporary wood and iron buildings, formerly the municipal offices, in Eloff Street, Johannesburg, to which, on a site now part of the present Attwell Gardens for the Blind, was added a corrugated iron structure affectionately nicknamed the "Tin Temple". Classes were conducted in the Tin Temple as part of a new programme of architectural training which, because the students all worked as assistants in architects' offices, was part-time. But so effective were the courses of study that according to Geoffrey Eastcott PEARSE, who as a student pursued them in those early days and who was later to become the first Professor of Architecture in South Africa, they were "the foundations of architectural training in Johannesburg". MORRIS became a member of the Transvaal Institute of Architects in 1903 and a Council member of the Institute in 1904, a position he held until 1907. He was also involved in teaching architecture at the Transvaal University College during this time (the Tin Temple). GE PEARSE mentions that Seton Morris, 'a lovable character', taught history of architecture.

The new training programme, however, barely survived the inimical conditions of the post- South African War years in this financially rich and avaricious but culturally poor boom town and, due to inadequate facilities and demoralization of the teachers, many students left to complete their education and training overseas.

With the passing of the Transvaal Architects Act in 1909 the Association of Transvaal Architects was brought into being as a statutory body, as much, it would seem, for altruistic as for self-interested reasons, as, indeed, its subsequent history has shown. One of its first concerns was for the education of its future members. So it turned for assistance to the South African School of Mines and Technology, which in 1910 succeeded the Transvaal University College, this being the new name that was given in 1906 to the Transvaal Technical Institute previously referred to. The outcome was that in 1911 a four-year academic course and the holding of annual examinations were instituted and a four-year period of practical and professional experience after the academic period was required as a prerequisite for registration. From about 1911 William Lucas was employed by the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT in Pretoria and lectured in history at the Transvaal University College (c1911).

Several other local architects and quantity surveyors, notably, C DOWSETT, who, in 1903 was employed in the Town Engineer's Department, Municipality of Johannesburg and lectured in Building Construction with PJ HILL, who was at the time the head of the Architecture and Building Survey branch of the City Engineer's Department, were lecturing at the Transvaal University College in 1911, WH GIBSON, while employed with the PWD also lectured (1911) in design at the Transvaal University College in Pretoria. R HOWDEN and AJ MARSHALL, assisted the School as teachers and examiners. MJ HARRIS was an examiner in architectural practice at the Transvaal University College, Johannesburg from 1905 until 1912.

Gordon LEITH, having worked briefly in London in Baker's office, assisting with drawings for New Delhi, returned to South Africa in 1913, working in Johannesburg where he taught at the South African School of Mines and Technology in Johannesburg from 1913 to 1916.

The courses progressed until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. This brought architectural development and education to a halt in Johannesburg as in the rest of the country, for there was little if any development until the end of the War in 1918 and practically all of the students had left on active service.

On the outbreak of the First World War TW ELLIS took charge of the PEARSE & ELLIS partnership's Johannesburg office and he and HW SPICER both assisted in keeping the architectural classes going at the School of Mines and Technology, Johannesburg thus helping to lay the foundations of a University of the Witwatersrand School of Architecture (Wits school).

But despite the national anxieties and preoccupations due to the First World War, it was during the war years that decisive steps were taken towards the achievement of university education in Johannesburg and on the Witwatersrand. Contrary to Government policy at the time in establishing new universities, the people of Johannesburg and the Reef felt that facilities for higher education in the form of a University and not merely of a School of Mines and Technology were essential to a region which not only had the largest concentration of white population but was the main source of the country’s wealth. As the result of overwhelming popular demand plans were set afoot in 1916 for the expansion of the South African School of Mines and Technology with the view to preparing it for university status and to converting it as soon as possible into the University of the Witwatersrand, for which a site some 33 hectares in extent at Milner Park had already been granted by the Town Council of Johannesburg. To this end a widely representative Witwatersrand University Committee of 72 members was formed and at the beginning of 1917 it appealed to the people of Johannesburg and the Reef for financial support. The response was such that in 1918 an architectural competition was held for the layout of Milner Park as a university campus and two years later, by an Act of Parliament, the South African School of Mines and Technology, which in 1916 had been incorporated in the University of South Africa, became the University College, Johannesburg. Finally, in 1921, the University of the Witwatersrand was established by an Act of Parliament which came into operation on 1st March 1922. It was through the concern of DMcC BURTON with architectural education that he 'first helped establish a chair in Architecture at Johannesburg University College' (Building Sep 1920:377-9) to which he donated a number of books, actively assisting in the establishment of the School of Architecture library.

As one of the statutory bodies with a representative of its own on the Witwatersrand University Committee, the Association of Transvaal Architects was actively involved in this achievement, and although architectural classes had once again been re-started at the South African School of Mines and Technology in 1910 and there were 21 architectural students there by 1920, it was clear to the profession as a corporate body that its educational needs could only be satisfied by means of a permanent organization such as a university. With this aim in view and with the generous support of its members - they contributed £ 1000 - it prevailed on the University College, Johannesburg, to establish a Chair of Architecture. And so, early in 1921 and within a period of less than six years, the first Chair of Architecture and, indeed, also the first University School of Architecture and Quantity Surveying in South Africa were brought into being at Wits. At the some time, G E PEARSE, who in 1920 had returned to Johannesburg to practice, after serving with distinction in Mesopotamia, Egypt and India during the First World War, was appointed as the first Professor of Architecture in South Africa.

On the outbreak of the First World War Ellis took charge of the partners' Johannesburg office and he and HW SPICER helped keep the architectural classes going at the School of Mines and Technology, Johannesburg thus helping to lay the foundations of a School of Architecture for the future University of the Witwatersrand.

Gordon McINTOSH became a part-time lecturer in Engineering at the Transvaal University College, Pretoria. He was closely involved with the development of the College through to its acquiring University status and in particular with the development and organisation of the School of Architecture.

AF LAWRIE lived with his parents in Johannesburg but worked in Pretoria until about 1925 where he was appointed a part-time lecturer in architecture with WG McINTOSH at the Transvaal University College until enrtering practice on his own account in 1933. CE TODD lectured for many years on building construction to artisans in the building trade at the Pretoria Technical College and to students of architecture and quantity surveying at the University of Pretoria.

From 1921 until 1925 F WILLIAMSON lectured part-time in architectural design at the School of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand and was later one of the senior examiners there. In 1929 he retired from the public service. Under his aegis in the same year a Department of Architecture and Quantity Surveying was established within the Faculty of Science at the Transvaal University College in Pretoria in response to a request to the Rector of the College by the Central Council of the Institute of South African Architects and the South African Chapter of Quantity Surveyors; BELL-JOHN was appointed part-time Professor of Architecture and Quantity Surveying in this Department. The chair of architecture was established at the University of Pretoria only in 1943 (cf AL MEIRING), the year following Bell-John's death.

While with the Public Works Department JR BURG studied architecture part-time at the Transvaal University College in Pretoria, studying building construction under C DEUCHAR, who, by 1923 was lecturing at the architectural classes in Pretoria, quantity surveying under H BELL-JOHN, design under AF LAWRIE and art under Grace Anderson (who later married the artist Walter Battiss). Burg considered the training in building construction at the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT to have been good since trainees studied on site at works such as the Pretoria General Hospital. In 1931 Burg's mother died and Burg qualified the same year with a Diploma in Architecture from the University of Witwatersrand. Burg's thesis, in Spanish Mission style for he knew LEITH was the examiner, was for a Country House and quarters (Burg 1989). AV NUNN commenced extra-mural classes from 1923 at Pretoria University College where he studied to 1928.