Art Deco, modernity, and the politics of ornament in South African architecture, 1930–1940

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2 Citations (Scopus)


For most architects practicing in South Africa during the 1930s, the notion of modernity was a question of style rather than substance. The development of the Art Deco style as a vocabulary of self-conscious modernity in South African architecture of the 1930s must be viewed against two intertwined socio-political factors. First, the abandoning of the gold standard in 1932, and second, the coalition, in 1933, of JBM Hertzog’s predominantly Afrikaner, pro-republican Nationalist Party and Jan Smuts’s predominantly English, pro-commonwealth South African Party. Architects in South Africa were increasingly incorporating depictions of African animals and people into their decorative programs, particularly in public buildings. The challenge to the orthodoxy of colonial classicism began to assert itself in the early 1930s, particularly in Johannesburg. As land values increased and buildings began rising higher, the stylistic problems of maintaining the conventions of the essentially domestic vocabulary of the colonial classical style on an ever-increasing vertical plane inevitably led to experimentation with other forms.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Art Deco
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780429629044
ISBN (Print)9781472485144
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Engineering


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