Competition for the Rhodes' University Building


The competition for a design for the University was held in 1911

with prizes of £200, £150 and £100, for plans of the Rhodes of the future. (Keath 1992:188)

The winning entry was a design from the firm BAKER & KENDALL and they

designed a central block of great character, dictated largely by the nature of the hard local sandstone, a blue-grey quartzite, which called for a strong design which Baker interpreted in a Romanesque fashion. It was to be an impressive building with a long front, having projecting wings at either end, which would rise above a wide terrace supported by a strong retaining wall and look down the High Street towards the Cathedral. It was planned with open arcades round quadrangles (in the medieval college tradition), with wide eaves and shutters against the sun, tall windows and a Great Hall dignified with a fine, open timber roof.' (Greig 1971:125).

But the competition had an unpleasant sequel for one of the team, Gordon LEITH, who appears to have made an unfortunate remark, eliciting the immediate response: 'Until you apologise for the disgraceful insinuation you made today against Mr Baker's honour, we must ask you not to come to the office again. We enclose a cheque for your salary this month, and a further cheque of £10.0.0, being your share of the bonus distributed on account of the firm's success in winning the Grahamstown Competition.' A fortnight later, on 13 March 1911, a blunt letter and 'a book from Lutyens' was sent to Leith at an address in Doornfontein. No doubt the young Gordon Leith relented, for he was to become one of Baker's most valuable and respected assistants and the first recipient of the Herbert Baker Scholarship, founded by Baker in 1912. (Keath 1992:188)