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SCHAERER, Theophile

Born: 1874 11 17
Died: 1948 12 20


Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Schaerer trained as an architect /engineer at Winterthur, Switzerland where he qualified in 1894. He continued his studies at the Polytechnic in Stuttgart and at the Academy of Fine Arts, Milan, attending the latter from 1894 to 1896. In writing Schaerer's obituary (1948), PEARSE mentioned Schaerer's experience at the Ecole de Beaux Arts, Paris. Here it seems that Schaerer was for a time a student under the French architect and Prix de Rome scholar Pascal . Schaerer worked for some time in France, appointed assistant to Chedanne, Architect-in-Chief to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris. He worked on the Elysee Palace Hotel in Paris and several large buildings for the Compagnie Wagons-Lits among which were the Riviera Palace Hotel at Monte Carlo and the Royal Palace Hotel in Ostend. Schaerer also worked on the French Embassy in Vienna. At some stage he worked with Hennebique, pioneer of the use of reinforced concrete, as well as visiting and supervising work at St Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw.

He was on his way to Peking when the Boxer Rebellion broke out in China and in 1903 he arrived in South Africa where he remained, working on and off for about forty years, mainly in Johannesburg. Soon after his arrival in Johannesburg he won the competition for the Liederkrantz Club (1904-1905), later the Queens Hall, Claim St in Johannesburg for the German community. According to Benjamin (1979:26), he submitted two different sets of drawings for this competition and was placed first and second. Following this success he was invited to enter a limited competition for the Transvaalische Bank. Schaerer invited his Ecole des Beaux Arts friend, Jean TALLIENS, to work with him on the project, they won the competition (1904), (Talliens was living in Cape Town in 1904/1905), having submitted two designs, one a Cape Dutch design which Schaerer preferred and the other a Baroque design with a corner tower, the latter design winning the competition. Anton VAN WOUW was commissioned to carry out the sculptural detail. Schaerer was first listed in Johannesburg in 1905, but appears to have been affected by the depression in South Africa as he left on a visit to Europe in 1907. It is not certain how long he was in Europe but he had returned to the country by 1909. He was commissioned to carry out work for AEG and for the Victoria Falls & Transvaal Power Company (n.d.). In December 1912 he won the competition for the Park Synagogue (the Great Synagogue), Wolmarans St, Johannesburg, which apparently remains the 'largest Jewish edifice in South Africa' (The Star, Nov 8 1984). Earlier in 1912 the foundation stone of the Lutheran (Friedenskirche) Church, Twist St, designed by Schaerer, was laid. By 1915 he shared an office with Charles SMALL in Johannesburg; neither were listed under practising architects but they did execute buildings. There does not seem to have been any formal partnership. Letters signed by Charles Small in 1935 have both architects' names one above the other but they never appear as Small & Schaerer. Nevertheless, as they worked on a number of buildings together, partnership has been assumed here (cf. SMALL & SCHAERER). Small carried on Schaerer's practice when Schaerer left for London in 1915 on his retirement from practice in South Africa.

In London Schaerer carried out work for the ABC and for the Selection Trust, working for four years in London with Charles J Smithers, FRIBA, and designed House AF Suter, Colley Hill, Reigate, Surrey. He won first prize in the Daily Mail Ideal Homes Competition, Class B (n.d.). As architect to the Selection Trust Co he designed a number of buildings for the Roan Antelope and Mufulira Copper Mines, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). He briefly revisited South Africa in 1931, before resettling in the country in 1935 and recommencing practice here in 1935 (cf Small & Schaerer). His son WR SCHAERER was also an architect in Johannesburg, practising from 1945. Anton van Wouw made his home with Schaerer on van Wouw's return from his travels and studies in Rome (c1911?). His grandson Mark SCHAERER also became an architect.

FRIBA 1927; AI Struc E. (Afr Archt Jun 1913:214, 215, xiii; Afr Archt Jul 1913:233; Benjamin 1979:26-29; FRIBA nom papers (1927) 2543;SAAR Sep 1931:104; SAAR Mar 1935; SAAR Dec 1948: 340 obit; SAAR Dec 1945:275; SAMBF Jnl Sep 1905 SAWW 1908, 1910, 1916; S v d Stel Bull Jun 1975:71; UWA)

Publ: The Late Mr HH SNOWBALL, Afr Archt Jun 1914:23-24; Anton van Wouw, sculptor, artist, SA Lady's Pic Jun 1914:56-57; A few notes and impressions, Building Dec 1919:315-17; The age of reinforced concrete, SAAR Aug 1936:262-67

Johannesburg: Albert Buildings, proposed, Braamfontein (SAB May 1939:62) 1939

Submitted an entry for the Competition for the new Prime Minister's Residence - unplaced.

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

Albert Buildings, proposed: 1939. Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Darjeeling House: 1910. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Federal Cold Storage: pre-1910. Tshwane (Pretoria), Gauteng - Architect
Friedenskirche (German Lutheran Church): 1912. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Great Synagogue: 1912-1914. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Hotel Alexander: 1912. Germiston, Gauteng - Architect
House Anton van Wouw: 1913. Doornfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Isaac Lewis - Vereeniging Country Clubhouse: c1910. Vereeniging, Gauteng - Architect
House Kaumheimer - Silver Pines: 1936. Lower Houghton, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
J Frenkel & Co, warehouse: pre-1927. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Liederkranz Club - Queens Hall: 1904. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Messrs. Angehrn and Piel: 1911. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
National Bank of Switzerland: 1919. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Nel's Rust Dairies: n.d.. Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Northwards: 1904 : 1912. Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Offices and Stores at Newtown: 1914. Newtown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Shop, Office, Garage and Stables: 1914. Germiston, Gauteng - Architect
Tower Garage: 1936. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Transvaal Soap Co. building: 1909. Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Transvaalsche Bank en Handelsvereeniging (later Security House): 1906. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
University House: 1912. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Wevell Bros bldg: n.d.. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect

Books citing SCHAERER

Benjamin, Arnold. 1979. Lost Johannesburg. Johannesburg: Macmillan South Africa (Publishers) (Pty) Ltd. pp 26-29

Chipkin, Clive M. 1993. Johannesburg Style - Architecture & Society 1880s - 1960s. Cape Town: David Phillip. pp 50

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp

Greig, Doreen. 1970. Herbert Baker in South Africa. Cape Town: PURNELL. pp

South African Institute of Architects. 2016. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2015/2016. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pp 70

van der Waal, Gerhard-Mark. 1987. From Mining Camp to Metropolis - The buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 119, 120, 121, 124, 129

Walker, Michael. 2013. The pioneer architects of Johannesburg and their buildings (1886 - 1899) with postcard illustrations. St James: The Kalk Bay Historical Association. pp 63