OH16 Rex Trueform, Monatic & SA Naval College: Andrews and Niegeman Monograph


The next Cape Town based OH will review the work of Andrews and Niegeman, focussing specifically on the architectural production of its founding partners  E. Douglas Andrews and Henk Th. O Niegeman.  The OH will include the Rex Trueform factories, Bertish factory (now House of Monatic) and SA Naval Staff College. Andrews and Niegeman are considered as Cape Town's pioneer modernist architects who produced innovative and creative work during the 1940s and 1950s. The work will be reviewed within the context of their time, taking stock of the kind of architectural space that was produced under the conditions of South African modernity such as racial segregation, industrialization and nationalism. 

Prior to coming to Cape Town in 1936/7 Dutch born and trained architect Henk Niegeman travelled extensively working in Europe, Asia and Russia. He also worked in Belgian colonized Congo and is photographed here in a one-wheeled rickshaw carried by two men with two others in the background. Photo courtesy of Dr Eitan Karol.

Example of the kind of work Niegeman was engaged in in the Congo prior to arriving in Cape Town. Photo courtesy of Dr Eitan Karol.

Henk Niegeman (left) teamed up with E. Douglas Andrews (right) in 1939 to start Andrews & Niegeman architects. Niegeman and Andrews worked in the office of Max Policansky (see OH13) where he was the project architect on the first Rex Trueform factory, Salt River, in 1938 (below). 

The top floor of the factory accommodated the cloak rooms which were divided along race and gender. The windows, visible from Main Road, illustrate these divisions. The windows to the cloakrooms of the last three rectangular bays and adjacent six port-hole windows were dedicated to the toilets and cloakrooms for 'Non-European Women'. The rest were, in sequence, 'Non-European Men', 'European Women', 'European Men.' Here, the form strictly followed function and the facade became a taxonomy of race and gender.

In 1944 a fire destroyed most of the building and Andrews & Niegeman was commissioned to rebuild and alter the building. The renovations included moving the toilets and cloakrooms to the back (with the racial and gender divisions organized along four different levels),  demolishing the side balcony and renovating the Main Road balcony. The image above gives an idea of A&N's new design, which is pretty much how it looks today.

Besides their renovation to the Policansky-designed factory,  a new factory for Rex Trueform (1948) and M Bertish (1951), both in Salt River, stand out as key buildings of the early practice.

Rex Trueform 1948

M Bertish (now House of Monatic) 1951

Rex Trueform in 2012. Photo By Chantal van Staden

M Bertish circa 1975-1980. Photo courtesy of Dr Eitan Karol

Henk Niegemen designed a house for himself called Alma Ata in Hout Bay. The location and  condition is unknown to me. Below are some photos of the interior and furniture that he designed, thanks to Dr Eitan Karol.

Finally, the SA Naval Staff College (pictured below by Heinrich Wolff) is also a great example of the firm's early work. 

Other examples and more history on the firm and the architects are listed here on the Artefacts website.


OPEN HOUSE ARCHITECTURE is an official participant in World Design Capital Cape Town 2014