Disease and design in twentieth-century South Africa

exploring the consequences of the 1918–19 Spanish Flu pandemic through contributions of émigré Dutch architects

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Abstract

During the most of the twentieth century, design and construction (architecture) in South Africa closely followed western trends. A recent publication Common Ground: Dutch-South African Architectural Exchanges 1902-1961 highlights conclusions on research into the legacy of émigré Dutch built environment professional in the built environment of South Africa today. A surprising discovery was the critical role Dutch educated architects played in the design of health care facilities. This further essay explores the historically novel implementation of new insights in healthcare design in South Africa during the early twentieth century in chronological order, highlighting their origins and specially focusing on the contribution of Dutch educated architects. This built healthcare legacy has proven to be especially resilient to change: the hospitals, clinics and child care facilities and institutions often still serve the communities they were designed for. At the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic gives cause to present the origins of these significant historic innovations in the face of healthcare challenges and reflect on their perseverance through time.