Hidden Pretoria: UP lecturer highlights architectural gems on Hatfield Campus in new book

Posted on November 25, 2019

A new book by Johan Swart of the Department of Architecture at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and IT and photographer Alain Proust explores the architectural beauty of Pretoria, and was recently launched at an event attended by more than 200 people. The launch included a photo exhibition and was held at the Link Gallery and UP’s Architecture building.

Hidden Pretoria dedicates an entire chapter to various architectural structures on UP’s Hatfield Campus. “The Hatfield Campus is a microcosm of architectural development; a rich cultural landscape comprising historical buildings, infrastructure, vegetation, open spaces and objects,” Swart writes in the book.

Swart, whose academic interests include heritage conservation techniques, was commissioned by Penguin Random House to write Hidden Pretoria, which is the third in a series, the first two being Hidden Cape Town and Hidden Johannesburg


Hidden Pretoria author Johan Swart.

At the book launch, in discussion with Sarie magazine book editor Phyllis Green, Swart and Proust discussed the important role that communities play in the preservation of heritage sites such as the Mariamman Temple, Queen Street Mosque and various churches in Pretoria.

UP embraces heritage preservation, as evidence by initiatives such as the groundbreaking Master of Arts in Tangible Heritage Conservation, offered for the first time this year.

Among the “rich cultural” pieces at UP are the Old Merensky Library, the Old Arts building, the Mathematics building and the red-brick-clad staircase in the Natural Sciences building.

“It can be argued that the many heritage spaces on campus and the significance of known and unknown buildings are often overlooked by the bustle of students, staff and visitors,” Swart said.

In the chapter on UP, the authors trace the development of certain buildings in tandem with the political mood at the time. The Old Arts building (1911) “marks the formalisation of a new campus along an English model, while architectural and academic diversification can be [seen] in the Old Agricultural building a decade later.” Some of the buildings, such as the Old Merensky Library (1939), carry suggestions of “the cultural identity of the former Afrikaans campus, while its more neutral contemporary identity is expressed in the Law building (2004)”.

Swart recommends that staff have a look at “interesting hidden spaces such as the red mosaic-clad staircase in the Science building where the Foucault Pendulum has been installed, as well as the beautiful spiral staircase in the Administration building.”

Hidden Pretoria will play an important role in revealing the heritage of the city to a much wider audience.

Hidden Pretoria is a unique publication,” Swart said. “It is the first academically researched and professionally photographed documented overview of architectural heritage in Pretoria. The capital city contains an incredible amount of historically significant and architecturally fascinating spaces that are waiting to be discovered by the public.”

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