Snippets from the north: Architects in Durban and their response to identity, common culture and resistance in the 1930s


  • Debbie Whelan University of Lincoln



Tudorbethan, Revivals, South Africa, Alan Woodrow, Gwelo Goodman


Previously colonized by both Holland and Britain, South Africans have always borrowed; many taking aesthetic clues from memories of ‘home’. Applied seemingly irrelevantly, these ‘clues’ often border on the pastiche. Pre and post Union in 1910, the British-controlled colonies of Natal and the Cape absorbed imported architectural influences which not only introduced an Arts and Crafts layer to Victorian Gothic and Classical revivals, but introduced vital new ideas, namely Art Deco and Modernism.

Somehow this polemic embraced another revival: a melange of Tudor and Elizabethan focusing on detail, craftsmanship and nostalgia. The ‘Tudorbethan’ Revival occurred at a vital point in the inter-war era, and it is contended that this style demonstrated a calculated resistance to the hybrid ‘Union Period’ architecture and its political role in forging a common diasporic identity and culture in the 1930s, rather than a mere application of fashion.

This paper situates the Tudorbethan Revival within contemporary architectural themes in Durban, South Africa, and contextualises the socio-political production of buildings between the wars before examining the works of architects who conceived this well-crafted, nostalgic and irrelevant architecture. It concludes by comparing this complex aesthetic with the contemporary architectural thread of ‘Gwelo’ Goodman’s Cape Dutch Revival suggesting the degree to which domestic architecture is able to support political positions in contested societies.


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Author Biography

Debbie Whelan, University of Lincoln

School of Architecture and the Built Environment


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How to Cite

Whelan, D. (2019) “Snippets from the north: Architects in Durban and their response to identity, common culture and resistance in the 1930s”, VITRUVIO - International Journal of Architectural Technology and Sustainability, 4(1), pp. 26–38. doi: 10.4995/vitruvio-ijats.2019.11774.