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List of Projects

TOMASELLI, Ugo Rinaldo

Born: 1915
Died: 2004 08 18


Born in Johannesburg in 1915, but spending a few years of his childhood in Italy, he graduated from Parktown Boys High in 1934. He worked as an architect in London in 1938 and in the Office of Gio Ponti in Milan, graduating from Wits with distinction in 1939. Tomaselli insisted on enlisting in the army at the time of WW II, despite his poor eyesight, working as an architect. This act indicated a social commitment which characterised his life and work as a whole. After the War he worked for the National Housing and Planning Commission, and then joined Wits in 1946, retiring in 1980 as Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture. He was a member of STUDIO SEVEN, a group of lecturers who had an office on campus for commercial projects.

Part of the modernist movement, Ugo TOMASELLI's knowledge of Church architecture finds its apex in his design of the Dove-Hobkirk Funeral Chapel in Braamfontein. This building is an existential masterpiece which meshes natural lighting with comforting interior design features, creating an all-encompassing solace which encodes the spiritual significance between life and death. Providing private spaces (or cloisters) encouraging "withdrawal" into the spiritual underpinned Ugo Tomaselli’s Church and funeral chapel design philosophy. Human scale and needs, linked to lighting, functionalism and movement, provided his foundational existential aesthetic.

Ugo's extensive architectural legacy and intellectual contribution is evident in his articles and editorship of the South African Architectural Record (1949-1955). Where his lectures evaluated history and theory, his design applied these in material form in his professional practice.

An avid amateur film maker and photographer in his early adulthood, Ugo TOMASELLI returned to his cognate interest in water colour paintings after a stroke rendered him without speech in 2002. His painting captured scenes from his extensive travels, 76 countries in all, encoding an architect's eye for scenic pattern, hue and form, of individuals, houses building and vehicles located in tranquil natural settings and busier cityscapes.

Ugo served for 12 years on the Governing Bodies of Parktown Boys High and Greenside Primary Schools respectively, and also Greenside High School (1962-1967). He served in the Emmarentia Ratepayers' Association, and volunteered his professional services to St Columba's Church, amongst other organisations. He freely lent his architectural expertise to deserving organisations - a generosity which extended to all spheres of his very full life. A lifelong tennis player well into his late '80s, Ugo also took up bowls. He played sport as he played life – with zest, integrity and with sportsmanship.

Such was Ugo TOMASELLI's cachet with his graduates that he was invited by one group to join their new architectural partnership, even though he was then 80 years of age.

Ugo Tomaselli died on 18 August 2004 after a short illness.

[Keyan Tomaselli (son)
21 August 2004]

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Dove-Hobkirk Funeral Chapel: n.d.. Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect

Books citing TOMASELLI

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp 153