Travel | 02 Nov 2014 | By Sun International
The Architecture of Herbert Baker
Inspired by the architectural masterpieces of Sir Herbert Baker, the Flamingo Casino in Kimberley is a popular entertainment venue, attracting punters and fun-seekers from across the Northern Cape and beyond. Architecturally, the Flamingo Casino blends in with its surroundings, as it's situated within a 400 hectare area of water and wetland that's home to breeding flocks of lesser Flamingos.
Beyond the Casino's design however, the buildings also reflect Kimberley's dazzling past as the hotspot for South Africa's diamond rush. With elegant lines and the casino's bright lights reflecting, the Flamingo Casino sparkles and shines.
We could tell you that the Flamingo Casino's structure and design were inspired by Sir Herbert Baker, but probably means nothing unless know who he is. So, who was this man and why is he so well known in South African circles?
An Architect for South African Buildings
Simply put, Sir Herbert Baker is one of South Africa's most famous architectural minds. Born in Cobham, England, Sir Baker travelled to Cape Town in 1892 to visit his brother and was commissioned to design and remodel Groote Schuur. At the time, Groote Schuur (Dutch for "big barn") was the home of Cecil John Rhodes and the residence was located on the slopes of Table Mountain.
After the development was completed, Sir Herbert Baker's reputation as the architect of choice in South Africa was set. He travelled to a range of countries to learn more about other architectural styles and construction methods and thereafter returned to South Africa. Sir Baker settled back into designing, constructing and remodeling homes and other buildings for the country's British Colonial settlers.
Thanks to his strong connections to governors and British Colonial leaders, Sir Baker decided to set up a permanent practice in South Africa, under the name "Herbert Baker, Kendall and Morris". It's through this firm that Sir Baker's portfolio of work grew even more and he created some of South Africa's most well known buildings.
Sir Baker's influence on South African architecture is unparalleled. His design and construction influence can be seen in Rhodes University, the Pretoria Railway Station and many of South Africa's more upmarket schools like the Roedean School in Johannesburg. Sir Baker would also go on to build homes and design homesteads for a number of wealthy mining magnates, which means that in today's age in the upper suburban areas of Johannesburg his architectural themes and distinctive style still stand out.
The Union Buildings
Perhaps most famously, Sir Herbert Baker was commissioned to design the Union Buildings in 1909. The very first building block for the Union Buildings was laid in 1910 and construction completed in 1913. It was after this construction project, that Sir Baker left for New Delhi in India, before returning to England. During his time in India, Sir Baker was instrumental in designing and constructing buildings for New Delhi, which would later become the British Raj capital.
And while the country of South Africa may be growing at a rapid pace with industrial developments and commerce dominating much of the skyline, there's still a strong reminder of the influence of Sir Herbert Baker. While time may pass and buildings change, the essence of his work still stands tall throughout South Africa.
Look carefully, next time you're near any of the buildings Sir Baker designed, and you'll find a little piece of South African history.