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Gilbert Herbert

(Distin)

(b Queenstown, Cape Province, Feb 26, 1905; d Pretoria, Aug 23, 1942).

South African architect and writer. He was appointed lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand and an editor of the South African Architectural Record in 1932, both under G. E. Pearse’s tolerant tutelage. For the next decade he dominated the School of Architecture and the journal, using them as levers to bring about an architectural revolution, which swept South Africa into the mainstream of the Modern Movement. He was the principal motivator of the small revolutionary cadre, and, with Gordon McIntosh and Norman Hanson, stood at the heart of that band of enthusiasts that Le Corbusier dubbed the ‘Transvaal Group’. Martienssen’s writing, a heady mixture of erudition and passionate advocacy, articulated the philosophy and provided the informational data base; his teaching enlightened and inflamed the younger generation. His friendship with Le Corbusier gave status and legitimization to the geographically and culturally isolated group.

Martienssen was a talented designer, but not a compulsive architect. His few buildings should be considered as teaching exemplars, which demonstrate an architectural point, rather than as the productive continuum of architectural practice. His short-lived association with ...