OH11 Barnett Kantorowich Monograph

I’ve never been a fan of face brick. I always thought it is a harsh material. It also has this eerie-municipal quality which I have always disliked. That is until I came across the work of Roy Kantorowich and the magnificent building on the corner Long and Shortmarket Street, called Federate House, which he designed. Kantorowich worked in the 40’s and 50’s and unlike the other modernists obsessed with a streamlined, white plastered aesthetic, he wanted to exploit the durable (and decorative) qualities of face brick to come up with a unique expression. My research showed that he was a mentor to Jack Barnett and it only made sense to show their work in conjunction. Because little is known about Kantorowich, Professor Julian Cooke agreed to sketch a picture of the time in which he worked – an era which he terms as New Empiricism, a post-war rejection of the purity of the Modern Movement aesthetic as propagated by Le Corbusier. Barnett continued with this thinking in the 60’s and 70’s with the Baxter Theatre being his most famous expression of this ethos. In a great essay that Cooke wrote in the 1993’s July August edition of Architecture SA, he writes that the New Empiricists rejected two things of the International Style: one the lack of aesthetic expression beyond motifs and patterns and two, the lack of ‘warmth, richness and human quality that came with the abstract purity of the International Style aesthetic. With this in mind one can understand why the UCT Baxter Women’s residence, built in the 50’s, with its face brick exterior and pitch roofs does not look like your run of the mill Modern Movement building. The courtyard, is however the strongest part of the building as it is here where Kantorowich tried to insert the human quality he thought was lacking in the Modern icons of its day. Photo credits: H Wolff


Federated House - Roy Kantorowich

Federated House - Roy Kantorowich

Federated House - Roy Kantorowich

Baxter Theatre - Jack Barnett

 
Milnerton High School - Jack Barnett

Milnerton High School - Jack Barnett


Baxter Women's Residence - Roy Kantorowich


Baxter Women's Residence - Roy Kantorowich

 
Baxter Women's Residence - Roy Kantorowich
 
Baxter Women's Residence - Roy Kantorowich
 
Baxter Women's Residence - Roy Kantorowich

4 comments:

  1. I am Jack Barnett's son and very interested in seeing more published on my father's work. If anyone has any information, or is compiling any information please contact me adambarnett199@btinternet.com. I have the start of a biography by Peter Melvin (RIBA, now sadly deceased) and a pile of letters from my father to a friend in London that dates from 1960 just after he was released from detention, to his death in 1996, and includes some very interesting bits of SA history, including the visit of Mandela to my parent's home after his release.

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    1. Dear Adam
      I am from UCT and as UCT Legacy Officer I run the UCT Legacy Society. Being a UCT Opera Alum the Baxter has always been part and parcel of my 'up bringing' and I was here in 1977 when it opened. I am very interested in your DAD and would love to talk to you about him Where do you live and how can I get in touch with you

      Regards. Rene Nolte UCT

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  2. Correction - Milnerton High School is by Jack Barnett, not Kantorwich who left SA in the early 60's. The school dates from 1982.

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    1. Paul Besener (Headmaster)May 3, 2016 at 12:38 AM

      From all accounts this is not true as the school was built in 1959. It was in existence for 23 years in 1982 but we are not sure of how involved Kantorowich and Stacel (they are named on the brick plaque at the school) were in the design of the building.

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