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NICOLAY, George William

Born: c1852
Died: c1940


'Architecture seems to have become a sport, a thing to be played with ... styles mixed up ... to form a sort of lucky bran tub, from which are drawn ... works of art in various styles' (Afr Archt Dec 1911:141). Nicolay's important contribution to the profession and the public in South Africa was his writings on architecture, mostly concerned with historic architecture but also with contemporary and even futuristic trends. Nicolay was probably born in Britain; he was a pupil of Alfred Waterhouse, RA, FRIBA, in London. After serving articles he remained as Waterhouse's assistant for over twenty years, Waterhouse retiring in 1901. Nicolay's date of arrival in South Africa is uncertain; he was listed in the Longland's Johannesburg and South African Republic Directory for 1897. He was also listed practising in Bulawayo as GW Nicholay (sic) in 1898 but seems to have returned briefly to Johannesburg before the Anglo-Boer War. Because of the war he left Johannesburg to work in Port Elizabeth where he was responsible for the erection of the Beach Hotel before returning to work in Johannesburg where he remained for most of his life. His architectural work consisted mainly of rather large houses for wealthy clients in Johannesburg and his main interest was writing. He began to contribute articles to the African Architect in 1911 and wrote for the successive architectural and building periodicals until about 1926. Among his articles were three describing an imaginary future city 'Trenton' which appeared in 1925, in keeping with parallel interests in Literature elsewhere. Nicolay was also keenly interested in the South African Academy [of Arts] and his portrait, painted by AE Gyngell, was exhibited at the South African Academy Exhibition in 1921. He was a Fellow of the Society of Architects, London and a past president of that society. Among his few recorded buildings is a house he designed for the builder James Thompson around 1923 in Johannesburg, a curious mixture of historic styles, castellated porch, tile-roofed veranda with dormers, and two projecting wings, double-storeyed with half timbered gables, the asymmetrical composition of the building had many counterparts among the architects of the Arts and Crafts in England and is well represented in the pages of Academy Architecture. His eyesight deteriorated badly towards the end of his life and he returned to England in about 1938 to live at St Cross Hospital in Winchester where he died.

Pres TIA 1913-14; FRIBA 1925. (FRIBA nom papers (1925) 2331; Longland's Jhb & SAR dir 1897; Longland's Tvl & Rhod dir 1903; RIBA biog file; RIBA Kal 1938-9; SAB Jul 1923:13 port)

Publ: Retiring President's Report 1913-14 Afr Archt Sep 1914:10-12; Words. Art explained in language, Afr Archt Dec 1911:140-3; Style, Jnl ATA Jun 1916:18-19; Truth, Jnl ATA Mar 1917:53-55; Past pleasures, Jnl ATA Dec 1917:105-6; Maker or manufacturer, Building Mar 1919:237-9; Beginnings, Building Jun 1919:200-2; The planning of a town, Building Jun 1919:269-71; Methods, Building Sep 1919:294-99; The dawn, Building Dec 1919:325-25; Progress, Building Mar 1920:351-53; The shadow of the wolf, Building Sep 1920:386-87; From east to west, Building Dec 1920:410-12; The beginning of freedom, Building Mar 1921:439-41; Seed time, Building Jun 1921:468-71; The matrix (no 1), Building Sep 1921:507-9 The matrix (no 2), Building Dec 1921:526-28; The aggregates, Building Mar 1922:19-20; Ex tenebris, Building Jun 1922:51-52; Ad lucem, Building Sep 1972:84-85; A luminia ad nebula, Building Dec 1922:128-30; Sub umbra opera magnorum, Building Mar 1923:10-12; Fors exempli, Building Jun 1923:68-70; Ad finem I, Building Sep 1923:73-75; Ad finem II, Building Dec 1923:117-19; The orient, Building Mar 1924:26-28; The orient 2, Building Sep 1924:72-74; The orient 3, Building Dec 1924:84-85; The orient 4, Building Mar 1925:10, 12, 17; The orient 5, Building Jun 1925:52-5; The orient 6, Building Sep 1925:77-9 The orient 7, Building Dec 1925:101-3; The art and mysteries of building thro' the ages, SAB Jul 1923:15-17; Egypt, SAB Aug 1923:13-15; Greece, SAB Sep 1923:13-17; Rome, SAB Oct 1923:13-15; Assyria and Babylon, SAB Nov 1923:13-15; Byzantium and Venice, SAB Dec 1923:21-23; Europe in the middle age part I, SAB Jan 1924:19-23; Europe in the middle age part II, SAB Feb 1924:19-21; Europe in the middle age part III, SAB Mar 1924:17-19; Europe in the middle age part IV, SAB Apr 1924:17-21; Europe in the modern age part 1, SAB May 1924:17-19; Europe in the modern age part 2, SAB Jun 1924:17-19; Europe in the modern age, part 3 SAB Jul 1924:15-17; The third millennium of the present era, SAB Aug 1924:15-19; Building materials and methods of twentieth century, Building Sep 1924: 16-17; Building materials:the new world, Building Oct 1924:13-15; Building materials: The shop, Building Nov 1924:13-15; Dead level, Building Jan 1925:19-21; Drive, Building Feb 1925:21-23; Wind & weather, Building Mar 1925: 19-21; The quarry, Building Apr 1925:19-21; Use & refuse, Building May 1925:17-19; Time and tide, Building Jun 1925:21-23; a.m., Building Jul 1925:23-25; Lifelikeness, Building Aug 1925:25-27; Trenton, 1975 I, Building Sep 1925:25-27; Trenton 1975 II, Building Oct 1925:17-29; Trenton 1975 III: Building Nov 1925:27-29; Building in the future: a forecast, SAB Feb 1926:49;

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.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Beach Hotel: 1918 : 1923 - 1928. Humewood, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape - Project Architect
House James Thompson: Riviera: c1923. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Joel, Barnato Park: c1923. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House JR Couper: 1896. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House MI Adams: The Rondavels: c1914. Illovo, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect