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PABST, Wilhelm Bernhard

Born: 1905 12 16
Died: 1964 06 30


Year registered: 1936

Was born in Germany. In 1929 he took the final examination at the Technical High School in Berlin (Berlin-Charlottenburg), the professor at the time being Hans Poelzig. He became architect and clerk of work for the German Department at the Exhibition at Barcelona (architect Mies van der Rohe) in 1929 and in 1930 was employed as architect by the Societe Nouvelle de Constructions in Paris. He returned to Germany in 1931 and was employed in the town planning department of the Mannheim municipality before practising on his own account in Mannheim from 1932 until 1935. Direct and active confrontation with Nazism in Germany (he spent a year in prison allegedly for anti-Hitler activities) led him to leave Germany. He came to Johannesburg where he was employed by KALLENBACH, KENNEDY & FURNER in 1935. He passed the special examination in Johannesburg and designed his first house in South Africa (House Dr Jokl 1935) the same year. An architect who had trained in pre-war Germany in the ambit of the modern movement, Pabst explored 'movement and countermovement' in order to give his structures more than a rational dynamic. As a result his solutions have the eccentric energy of timeless relevance. According to Patrick JONES (Credo 18), the most important philosophical influences in Pabst's life were Nietszche and Klages. The majority of Pabst's work was built in the 1940s. Ivor PRINSLOO (Credo 18) compares Pabst's relationship to the modern movement in South Africa to Hugo Harding's position in relation to the modern movement in Europe: 'they were convinced that architectural quality would be lost if there was a general acceptance of the over rationalizations made by the protagonists of the International Style.' Prinsloo invites a comparison between Guiseppe Terragni (1904-43) and Pabst, between Terragni's Novocomun building at Como and the Chinese Club, Johannesburg.

Pabst's name remained relatively obscure to the public but he always attracted the attention of architects. It was architectural students who, hearing he was still alive in 1960 (?), found him, a prematurely old man, on a bench in Joubert Park. They established much about Pabst's working life which had not been known before and were largely responsible for a reappraisal of his controversial and forward-looking buildings. Among his buildings are the Esselen Hospital, Hillbrow (1943); the Chinese Club, Commissioner St; Patidar Mansions, President/Kort Sts; Academy House (dem 1960); Rex cinema (interior), Greenside and the Colin Gordon Nursing Home - all in Johannesburg. He seems to have designed Westbridge Court in Westcliff, Johannesburg in about 1950. It has not yet been ascertained whether this block of flats was built or not. In 1936 he was living at 65 Hearn Drive, Northcliff and in 1938 his office was in Dorchester Mansions. Pabst was a classical musician and an athlete of merit. He died in Johannesburg. The Braamfontein Cemetery Cremation Register confirms that Pabst died of a brain tumour on 30 June 1964, was cremated and his ashes taken.

(Arch SA Mar/Apr 1992:26-7 ill; Credo Aug 1969:18, articles by Ivor Prinsloo and Patrick Jones; ISAA mem list; Pretoria News 1.4.1955:1; SAAR Feb 1936; Style Mar 1990:141 (PA Guedes); Sunday Star 18.3.1990:3; Weekly Mail 21-27 Feb 1986:20; Welz 1986)

These notes were last edited on 2020 08 18

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

Academy House: n.d.. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Colin Gordon Nursing Home: 1943. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Crown Heights: 1945. Burghersdorp, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Durban Street 42: n.d.. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Esselen Hospital - Colin Gordon Nursing Home: 1943. Hillbrow, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Dr A Jokl: n.d.. Northcliff, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Dr Berryman: 1938. Northcliff, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Dr E Friedman: 1937. Westcliff, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House JS Fotherham, Bedford Estate via Linkfield: 1937. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Maré: 1948-1955. Westcliff, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
New Garage and storeroom for M Rainier: 1939. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Patidar Mansions: 1947. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Rex Cinema: n.d.. Greenside, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
United Chinese Club: 1948. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect

Articles by PABST

PABST, W B. 1963. The hen on her egg. For Us 28-31 ill

Articles citing PABST

Bremner, L. 1993. Some works of Wilhelm Arnold Heinrich Pabst (1905-1964) in Johannesburg. Architecture SA. Vol 31 Issue 7 46-47

Nel, C. 1992. Partnership with Pabst. Architecture SA. Vol 12 Issue 3 26-27

Joubert, 'Ora. 1994. Afro-pean symbiosis. Africa Insight. 24 4