Memory in Architecture: Chapter Three


For over 25 years, the Department of Architecture at the University of the Free State has acknowledged and celebrated the work of South African architects through an annual Sophia Gray exhibition and memorial lecture. In this, the third chapter on memory, I will highlight the importance of recording the work of seminal architects in South Africa and the importance that this year's laureate attaches to memory in architecture.


Archives form an important part of maintaining memory, but there are very few architectural archives in South Africa and fewer still with extensive collections1. Another form of archiving memory is through architectural publications, however few are devoted to the work of South African Architects that have not been produced by the architects themselves. Gilbert Herbert's book on the architecture of Rex Martienssen (1905-1942), Vio's book on the work of Roelof Uytenbogaardt (1933-1998) and Ilze Wolff's editorship of a limited publication on the work of Adele Naude Santos (1938-) are the only three examples of a critical review of architectural production. This was one of the reasons that Prof. Paul Kotze2 mooted the idea of an annual event to celebrate and record the work of local architects with the idea of establishing a national architectural archive. It was decided to name the memorial lectures after Sophia Gray, the first architect active in Bloemfontein (Kotze, 1998:35).

Sophia Gray (1814-1871)

Sophia Wharton Myddleton was born in Yorkshire, England. She accompanied her husband Robert Gray, the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town, to South Africa in 1848.

She has been "credited with having had some part in the design of about thirty-five Anglican churches in the Cape […] Although no architectural drawings by her survive there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the tradition of her active involvement in a number of church designs". ( By all accounts, Sophia Gray was the first recorded female South African 'architect'.


The first Sophia Gray laureate, in 1989, was Mira Fassler Kamstra (1938-) with an exhibition titled " Mimicry and Camouflage (Inspiration and Interpretation of Southern African Architecture). In 1990 Roelof Uytenbogaardt was honoured and in the following year Gawie Fagan (1925-)3. Since then another 23 architects have been lauded including this year's laureate, a Bloemfontein architect, Anton Roodt.

Anton Roodt

Anton Johannes Roodt was born in Welkom, in the Free State on 26 August 1955 and is a director and owner, of Roodt Architects in Bloemfontein. He studied architecture at the University of the Free State earning three postgraduate degrees, including one in town planning. He has won a number of awards for his architecture, including a national, South African Institute of Architects (SAIA), award of merit in 2011 for Fourth Raadzaal, Bloemfontein, a 2009 Award of Merit from the Free State Institute of Architects for the Urban Hotel in Bloemfontein and, in 2006, an Award of Merit (SAIA) for Thakaneng Bridge, the student centre on the University of the Free State campus.

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Anton Roodt - Entrance exhibition panel at the 2015 Sophia Gray exhibition at the Olievenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein © Arthur Barker, 2015.

"Big dreams in a small city: places of memory and spaces of imagination".

Roodt framed his evening memorial lecture at the Civic Theatre in central Bloemfontein, through an analogy of himself as an interpreter of dreams - those of the architect and the client. The structure of the presentation focussed on the two extremes of practice undertaken for over 30 years. These were "Places of memory (architecture with historical connections) and spaces of imagination (architecture of latent possibilities)". It was the former category of architectural production through memory that stood out most prominently.

Roodt's town planning background has sensitised him to buildings being integrally part of an urban continuum. His heritage responses take cognisance not only of their individual significance, but rather their current and future impact on the city. His contextual approach mediates the concerns of conserving built heritage with that of progressive development. It is in his architecture, a very sensitive hand seems to be at work. Roodt recognises the values and significances of each artefact and then skilfully inserts new functions and forms that powerfully foreground the original work. This approach can be seen in the new glass walls inserted behind existing balcony columns in the National Afrikaans Literary Museum and recent landscape insertions at the Vroue Monument. The removal of unsuited fabric in the JBM Herzog house presences the forms of an important Victorian architectural era. None of these approaches are formally overstated. Roodt adopts an attitude of "less is more" allowing the built artefact to reach its full potential, lessons we should all take to heart.

Our cities are layered with built "memories". It is our job, as designers, to recognise the inherent value of heritage, how it can facilitate the future and how we skilfully add, amend or take away from historic fabric to create new meaning for subsequent generations.


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Panel showing four works of 'memory' undertaken by Roodt in the centre of Bloemfontein © Arthur Barker, 2015.


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Entrance exhibition panel at the 2015 Sophia Gray exhibition at the Olievenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein © Arthur Barker, 2015.


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Top: View of the exhibition space at the Olievenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein. Bottom: Model of the 2006 Thakaneng Bridge Student Centre on the University of the Free State campus. © Arthur Barker, 2015.


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Top: Model of the National Afrikaans Literary Museum. Bottom left: Panel describing the heritage approach to Mapikela House in Batho. Bottom right: Refurbishment of St. Paul's Church and Archbell house in Thaba 'Nchu. © Arthur Barker, 2015.


  1. 1. Architectural archives in South Africa are mainly, and currently, housed at the Universities of Pretoria, Cape Town and Kwa-Zulu Natal.
  2. 2. Prof. Kotze was originally a staff member at the Department of Architecture at the University of Free State and lately at the University of the Witwatersrand.
  3. 3. For a full list of laureates see the 2014 publication 25 Sophia Gray: Memorial Lectures and Exhibitions 1989-2013, and


Sources and further reading:

  1. 1. Fox, J. (ed.) 1998. Revel Fox: Reflections on the making of space. Cape Town: Rustica.
  2. 2. Herbert G. 1975. Martienssen and the International Style: the modern movement in South African Architecture. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.
  3. 3. [accessed 15 September 2015].
  4. 4. [accessed 13 September 2013].
  5. 5. [accessed 13 September 2015]
  6. 6. [accessed 13 September 2015]
  7. 7. [accessed 13 September 2015]
  8. 8. Joubert. 'O. 2009. 10 years + 100 buildings: architecture in a democratic South Africa. Cape Town: Bell-Roberts.
  9. 9. Kotze. P. 1998. In memory of Sophia Gray. In South African Architect. September. p35-44.
  10. 10 Noero, J. & Sorrell, J. (eds.). 2009. Jo Noero: the everyday and the extraordinary. Three decades of architecture: Jo Noero Architects 1982-1998 and Noero Wolff Architects 1998-2009. Vlaeberg. Cape Town: A.D.A.
  11. 11 Pretorius, H, Verster, W and Viljoen, M. 2014. 25 Sophia Gray: Memorial Lectures and Exhibitions 1989-2013. Department of Architecture. University of the Free State.
  12. 12 Raman, P.G. and Olivier, J. 2009. Architecture of the third landscape: award-winning buildings of the Free State. Xposure. Bloemfontein, South Africa.
  13. 13 Vio, G. 2006. Roelof Uytenbogaardt - Senza Tempo/Timeless. Padova: Il Poligrafo.
  14. 14 Wolff, I. (ed.). 2012. Adéle Naudé Santos & Antonio de Souza Santos, Monograph, Cape Town work. Cape Town: Open House Architecture.