World Architects : Why You Should Come To Durban This August ...


Forty years ago the South African government banned Africans from studying and practising Architecture in South Africa and reserved the profession for Whites, Indians and Coloureds.

Only one School of Architecture in South Africa rebelled; the Natal School of Architecture in Durban. The students shut down the School, ditched the apartheid curriculum and devised a new curriculum with the guidance and leadership of prominent Durban architects. The School flourished and continued to produce some of the world's finest architects until the politics of post apartheid Africanisation left it in the sterile state in which it finds itself today.

At that time the President of the International Union of Architects (UIA) was a distinguished Durban architect  -  Hans Hallen. Hallen was both a liberal and a progressive individual who had the unenviable task of informing the UIA's leadership of the South African government's policy of excluding Africans from Architecture.

The UIA's reaction was predictable; Hallen was instructed to inform the South African government that if it did not review its position the Institute of South African Architects would be booted out of the Union of International Architects.

The apartheid government backed down and allowed one single African to enter the Natal School of Architecture. It was a small concession designed to save face but it opened the doors and many more Africans followed.

Today South Africa has numerous African architects in positions of power and influence thanks to the UIA and the courage of the students and staff of Natal School of Architecture and the Natal branch of the South African Institute of Architects.

In August this year the Union of International Architects will hold its 25th World Congress in Durban. Over 6,000 local and international architects, students of architecture and related professionals are expected to attend. It is a very special event for world architects and South African architects are justifiably proud to be hosting this event.

As architects we have a duty and a mandate to protect the integrity of our Profession. This includes protecting it against putative governments and the criminals which it may harbour and protect.

Politics is the business of thieves and liars and one will struggle to find any architects in that murky world - architects which could bring to light the need to protect the Profession from political fiddling, maladministration and abuse.

To protect our Profession from political malfeasance we must look to ourselves.

The South African Architectural Profession is held together by a single representative body ; the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA). It is SAIA that has been entrusted by the UIA with the task of organising its 25th World Congress. SAIA's Organising Committee has done a phenomenal job of preparing for the UIA 2014 Congress in Durban this coming August; underfunded, understaffed and always under pressure SAIA is well on its way to delivering on its mandate.

It could be the last thing that it ever does.

Without your support it will be.

I am not, and have never been, a member of SAIA. I do not speak for SAIA nor do I consult with any of its members. Last year I withdrew my consent to be professionally governed by SACAP, so I am not a member of that organisation either. I am an independent architect and editor of this news network and it is in that capacity that I pen these words.

SAIA is the key to the future of the South Africa's Architectural Profession; without it the Profession will follow a path to extinction as evidenced in all African countries north of us. It is a real threat and a real possibility – if not yet a probability.

South African architects note with concern that SAIA will face untold hardships and possible implosion if its financial commitments are not met at the end of the UIA 2014 Congress. It is imperative for South African  architects, independent or otherwise, that the UIA 2014 event be a financial success and that SAIA not only survives the outcome but thrives beyond it.

This can only happen with your support. We need the world's architects to descend on the City of Durban this August in vast numbers. We need you now as we did in 1974.

It would be ironical if the UIA, the organisation that saved our Profession in the seventies, would be the one to unwittingly effect its destruction in 2014.

Don't let this happen.

Google UIA 2014, find the website and register. Start making travel arrangements; Durban is a wonderful city and the UIA 2014 Durban Congress will be a magnificent event - you will not be disappointed.

Pedro Buccellato
AA News Network