This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol6", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
Ecclesiastical Buildings (Contributed by H. S. East, A.R.I.B.A.)
Some brief consideration of the various other buildings common to South Africa, as well as most other countries, is necessary, although many of the differences in planning, methods of construction, and the use of materials noted in the foregoing chapters apply equally to buildings of all kinds, whether of a private, semi-private, or public character.
Considering ecclesiastical work first, it can hardly be said that church buildings as a whole reach the same artistic level as the modern houses and buildings of a more or less private nature.
The many Dutch churches scattered over all the colonies are usually of large size in proportion to the towns or townships in which they are situated, owing to the fact that at certain times they are required to accommodate the farming community for a wide area, as well as the people in the immediate neighbourhood. These churches, including those built within the last decade, are as a rule deplorably deficient in architectural quality, and often constructionally unsound, owing to the lack of suitable materials and efficient workmen. Generally designed in a debased Gothic style, instead of being the most interesting and beautiful of all the neighbouring buildings, and a dignified landmark for miles around, they are monumental in their ugliness.
Even the very few churches now existing, which were erected during the early days, have unfortunately little of the happy effect of the old farmhouses and other buildings of the same date.
No doubt, in course of time a suitable and characteristic style will be evolved, but progress in this seems very slow, and the immense possibilities both of suitable planning and picturesque appearance are but little appreciated and understood by the majority of local architects entrusted with church work. Most of the churches too, erected, or rather designed, by English or foreign architects, who lack experience of local peculiarities, climate, and materials, are elaborate without being in the least degree suitable or in harmony with their surroundings, besides being very costly. In fact, they are often more offensive failures to the trained eye than are the creations of local ignorance.
Broadly speaking, the primary needs of importance in church planning and design in this part of the globe are - firstly, the provision of ample shade and shelter from the sun rays; and secondly, plenty of ventilation and air space, with perhaps a larger allowance of floor area than is usual in colder countries.
To provide for the first of these, deeply recessed windows and broad overhanging eaves are necessary, and indeed often used, but a further and even more suitable provision might be made of open ambulatories round three sides of the church, thus completely shading all the lower windows and the entrances also, as well as providing the opportunity for a peculiarly suitable architectural effect externally.
Were this ambulatory commonly adapted, the greater portion of each window beneath it could be made to open and thus efficiently aid the ventilation.
Fig. 310 illustrates a fairly typical church for the Dutch Reformed Community, in which the needs and requirements of that body as regards church services are well studied. It affords accommodation for about 700 worshippers in the body of the nave and galleries combined, and has been built with the floor sloping from the west end (or main entrance) to the rostrum.
Architecturally it is far in advance of the usual church, and has been erected at a cost approximately equal to that of a church of similar size in an English country district. It is built of good hard bricks with red facing (obtainable some miles from the site) and local stone dressings, except the mouldings, which had to be executed in cement. The roof unfortunately had to be covered with galvanised iron (Canadian pattern), owing to the expense of railway carriage of any better material.
Fig. 311 shows a small Wesleyan church at Kearsney, Natal, which has been designed by Messrs. Stott & Kirkby with considerable regard to climatic necessities, as evidenced by the widely projecting eaves and small recessed windows. The exterior and interior are both very simply and economically treated.
The Anglican Cathedral for Cape Town (Fig. 312), designed by Messrs. H. Baker & Massey, is undoubtedly the most important church building either contemplated or being erected in South Africa at present. It is to be built on the same site as the existing church, but with a different axis (the present cathedral, designed on Greek lines, faces north-west) which enables a considerable portion of the new church to be finished and ready for use before the old one is demolished.
The portion at present to be built is shown on the plan and elevation illustrated, and the foundations for the greater part of it are already completed.
The design is perhaps somewhat continental in type, and shows a very lofty pile with carefully thought-out light and shade, and window openings well proportioned and deeply recessed between projecting buttresses.
The completed cathedral will have a finely designed square tower facing St. George's Street and the harbour, and is so planned as to form a noble finish to this important street. The eastern cloisters will be attached to the cathedral grammar school already erected.
It is to be built in hard local mountain stone as far as possible, with freestone tracery and dressings where necessary.