A day in the life at the University of Pretoria. 15 April 1939

Posted on April 15, 2024

On this "Day in the life of the University of Pretoria" the Merensky Library was formally opened by adv. H. A. Fagan, the Minister of Education. Dr. Merensky, one of the main donators, as well as UP staff, students and government officials attended this opening.  


The construction of the building started in 1937. Apart from Dr Merensky’s donations, UP personnel contributed £1,841 and a fun fair raised a further £3,200. The municipality donated £2,000 and the students managed to raise £373 during a dance on the tennis courts. UP history books notes that in:

…designing the building, architect Gerhard Moerdyk was influenced by various styles, including Art Deco, Neo-Classicism, Arts and Crafts, as well as local styles such as Cape Dutch and Regency. Moerdyk himself described the building as a study in Persian style, with influences from Africa including the Zimbabwe and ancient Egyptian ruins. He used local materials and incorporated symbols of African origin. The prominent zigzag pattern, for example, is taken from the Zimbabwe ruins and represents water and fertility. The curving of the walls symbolizes an open book. The green beveled glass windows were imported from Italy and helped to minimize heat from the sun and also protected paper against ultraviolet light. The design of the building is a source of controversy and speculation with some claiming that Moerdyk used it as a practice run for the design of the Voortrekker Monument, as there are many similarities between the two buildings. Today this national monument serves as the Edoardo Villa museum and art exhibition room.


The University of Pretoria Archives (UPA) preserves the history of the University of Pretoria. The UPA has an extensive photo and clipping collection. The volumes of the University’s history captured in Ad Destinatium i-v, as featured here, also forms part of our collection. Please contact us on [email protected] to share your memories of Tukkies or access our collection virtually

- Author Alida Green

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