Magistrate's Court, Office and Dwelling; 53 Commissioner Street, Krugersdorp
This particular Magistrate's Court appears to be the largest and grandest of this typology in the region as compared others of this period.
It conforms to the established typology of magistrate's courts in that:
- It makes use of an entrance portico consisting of four classical columns;
- It makes use of a large central hall in line with the portico, with two wings on either side.
The building, however, is much larger than any of the other magistrate's courts of the period. The smooth plastered finish and detailed pediments, particularly above the portico, indicate a differentiating image of grandeur present in few other buildings.
Almost all magistrate's courts of the period were usually combined with post and telegraph offices in one building. This building, being larger than almost all the combined-function buildings of the period, was also dedicated to the magistrate's court on a programmatic level.
The plans of this building are not available and, due to its uniqueness, the plans of other magistrate's courts of the time can not be used as an indication of the plan of this building.
Sytze Wopkes Wierda and the Public Works Department designed most of the major public buildings for the Republican government, creating a style which has since been named the Republican Style (http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/arch_bottom_left.php?archid=1892).
This building is an ideal example of this style, which falls under the Wilhelmine period in South African architecture. According to the Lexicon of the South African Built Environment (http://www.artefacts.co.za/), Wilhelmine architecture is "an umbrella neologism to cover the area of influence of northern European architects in South Africa. It is the equivalent of Victorian in that both show eclecticism and revivalist styling (particularly Neo-Romanesque and Neo-Gothic), but differs in the sources and treatment of style elements, particularly domes and decorative trimmings." (http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/style_det.php?styleid=33)
The building is more than a 100 years old but is still in prime condition. The museum is open to the public, making it an excellent place to visit to view the architecture of the period.
Current known heritage status
It is currently subject to Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999), as the building is older than 60 years.
Possible interested and affected parties
- Mogale City Municipality, the current owner of the space and organiser of the museum it houses.
- Family and other parties associated with the Afrikaner peoples who are honoured in the museum.
- All artists and associated parties who have work exhibited in the art gallery.
- Regional and associated persons with Afrikaner heritage; as this is displayed in the museum.
- Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria.
- South African Institute of Architects (SAIA)
The building was commissioned in 1890, shortly after the official founding of the town of Krugersdorp in 1887 (http://www.joburghappenings.co.za/krugersdorp_homepage.htm) to meet the consequent demand for a magistrate's court. Sytze Wopkes Wierda had arrived in South Africa from the Netherlands in 1887 and had been appointed in the new position of Government Engineer and Architect to the Transvaal Republic and then in the two posts of Chief Engineer and Architect to the Zuid Afrikaanische Republiek. He was consequently appointed to design the new Magistrate's Court as well as many other buildings in the area and the country (http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/arch_bottom_left.php?archid=1892).
The resultant collective style became known as the Republican Style. When criticized on his design for the similarly styled Palace of Justice, Wierda defended his choice of styling by saying 'that the true Old Dutch (and not 'half-baked' Old Dutch) would be very expensive, while Italian Renaissance would be reasonable in cost and would look well'. (http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/arch_bottom_left.php?archid=1892)
The Republican style falls under the Wilhelmine period and style in architecture, a name derived from both Wilhelm II (1859-1942), German emperor and ninth king of Prussia, and Wilhelmina (1880-1962), Queen of the Netherlands. It is largely due to the influence of northern European architects in South Africa. Though originally imported into South Africa by German missions, later practitioners of the style were Dutch architects imported by the Department of Public Works. They spread the style through use in public buildings but it spread even further as those architects who left the department started their own private practices (http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/style_det.php?styleid=33).
Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces
The building is situated in the centre of the old Krugersdorp, next the the old post and telegraph office. It lies on Commissioner Street, a busy main street in the area.
The large plastered building with its embellishments is typical of the Wilhelmine period and this particular building is a stylistic example of what later became known as the Republican Style (http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/arch_bottom_left.php?archid=1892).
It incorporates a large portico entrance with 4 classical columns with Corinthian capitals. These support a large pediment with extravagantly decorated tympanum, including spandrels. The wall of the portico incorporates pilasters and arched windows with emphasized keystones, a pattern repeated on the rest of the facade.
The building is slightly elevated on street level on a podium. Some of the pediments along the rest of the facade are flanked fleurs on pedestals. A concrete parapet lines the edge of the roof.
The interior of the building makes use of exposed timber ceilings with mouldings (currently painted white). The roof of the main courtroom is raised above clerestory windows.
The interior of the courtroom and the rest of the building makes use of intricate timber carpentry which is still intact today. The timber doors, window frames and staircase are all still intact although the staircase is badly worn.
Changes and alterations
The outside of the building has remained mostly unchanged. The building has, however, been reappropriated as a museum of regional Afrikaner history, an art gallery and a children's museum.
The Afrikaner history museum and art gallery make use of removeable installations, leaving the permanent structure largely untouched.
The Children's Museum also makes use of mostly removeable installations. They have, however, painted the internal walls with bright colours and used brightly coloured installations. Though this is obviously to keep children interested, the exhibits mostly consist of photo's and pictures which won't keep children interested. The appropriateness of the children's museum and its consequent use of bright colours which do not fit the building can therefore be called into question.
References to and listings of the building:
Information about the architect:
Lexicon - Wilhelmine. 2012. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/style_det.php?styleid=33. [Accessed 22 May 2012].
Sytze Wopkes Wierda: Information from Answers.com. 2012. Sytze Wopkes Wierda: Information from Answers.com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.answers.com/topic/sytze-wopkes-wierda-2. [Accessed 22 May 2012].
Architect details. 2012. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/arch_bottom_left.php?archid=1892. [Accessed 22 May 2012].
www.krugersdorp.org. 2012. www.krugersdorp.org. [ONLINE] Available at: http://mzone.mweb.co.za/residents/k75/touristattractions.html. [Accessed 22 May 2012].
Krugersdorp Johannesburg - Krugersdorp History - Krugersdorp Information. 2012. Krugersdorp Johannesburg - Krugersdorp History - Krugersdorp Information. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.joburghappenings.co.za/krugersdorp_homepage.htm. [Accessed 22 May 2012].
Lexicon - South African Republic. 2012. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/style_det.php?styleid=339. [Accessed 22 May 2012].
Court House Details. 2012. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/bldgframes.php?bldgid=9529. [Accessed 22 May 2012].