Federal Council on Architectural Education



The Federal Council on Architectural Education became a reality when, on January 3 and 4 1924, it held its first meeting in Cape Town. It adopted two standard courses in architecture, the degree and the diploma; and accepted as the model for its own diploma the diploma course of the University of the Witwatersrand and the full course of the University of Cape Town. In the light of these decisions on standards, its executive met, in 1926, together with representatives of the Council of the Association of Transvaal Architects and the Board of Examiners, to discuss Architectural Education in the Transvaal. There were, at this time, two centres of architectural education in the Transvaal: Johannesburg and Pretoria. The Students of the Pretoria Technical College took the Diploma course in architecture of the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1925 the Faculty of Engineering had accepted Professor PEARSE's proposal that students in Pretoria successful in the University of the Witwatersrand examinations should be awarded the University's Diploma, and later in the year the University senate accepted the faculty proposal in principle. Despite the opposition of the Minister of Education, the combined meeting of 1926 endorsed the proposal, and formed a sub-committee to further the matter. It was not until 1929 that the Minister gave consent, but until this formality was accomplished the teaching of architecture in Pretoria, in practice if not officially, was under the aegis of Johannesburg, as the outcome of the policy of the architectural profession.

In 1929 the Central Council of the recently-established Institute of South African Architects and the Chapter of SA Quantity Surveyors asked the Rector of the Transvaal University College in Pretoria to establish courses in Quantity Surveying under the control of a professional director. As a result of these approaches, a department of Architecture and Quantity Surveying was established in the Faculty of Science, under Professor BELL-JOHN, a quantity surveyor who was the Chief Engineer of the PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT. Towards the end of 1930 a deputation including Professor Bell-John and Mr Gerard MOERDYK, a Pretoria architect, saw the Minister of Education to ask for the establishment of a Chair of Architecture in the University at Pretoria. The Transvaal Provincial Institute of Architects opposed this vigorously on the grounds that the University of the Witwatersrand was understaffed and ill-equipped, and on the principle that the moves for the establishment of Chairs in Architecture should be made only through the Central Council. The following year, at a joint meeting of the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Pretoria, on 4 December 1931, it was decided to centralize Architectural Education at the University of the Witwatersrand and Quantity Surveying Education at the University of Pretoria. This decision was immediately ratified by the Standing Committee of Central Council. Full responsibility for architectural education was transferred from the University of the Witwatersrand to Pretoria University only in 1943 when the Pretoria Chair in Architecture was established.

It may be seen that the Architectural Profession played an important role in the determination of the location of Schools of Architecture, and that it appeared to be the policy of the Central Council to encourage strongly centralized Schools rather than a proliferation of weak and under-developed Schools of Architecture in many centres. As Pearse had argued:

Is it not better, therefore, to concentrate on one or two well equipped schools, to endow them with libraries, to encourage them in research, to provide travelling scholarships and maintenance scholarships or bursaries to enable those, who could not otherwise afford to attend, to take advantage of such training?

The policy of the Central Council was always a cautious one in the sponsoring of new Schools, and it consistently supported the University as the ideal centre for architectural education, despite strong pressure that was often brought to bear by the Technical Colleges and the Government and the strong vested interest of the profession in second level architectural education, to produce assistants rather than competitors.

[Extracted and edited from HERBERT, 1975: 12-16. NOTE: See original text for sources]