WORLD renowned South African architect, teacher, writer and urban planner, Hans Hallen returned to his hometown Durban, for a nostalgic site visit of his buildings.
This week, he visited three of the UKZN residences at Howard College, John Bews, Mabel Palmer and Scully Hall, which were all designed and built in the 1960s.
Michele Jacobs, architectural librarian at UKZN said Hallen’s exciting visit was a special occasion because the architecture department is currently digitizing Hallen’s original technical drawings to be part of the University’s extensive archival collection of buildings in Durban. “Hans Hallen is a legendary architect who has built some of the most interesting buildings in in Durban,” she said.
Hallen is also responsible for the Glass House (Hullets head office), St Olav’s Church and Mangosuthu Technikon, and The Little Top/Beachball on Addington beach in the 1970s.
Now 85, and walking with some aid but in good spirits, Hallen, was happy to see his UKZN residences put to use. “This is my building, you’ve got to let me in,” he joked with one of the security officers at Mabel Palmer residence on the tour. “I guess when you see buildings you designed more than fifty years ago surviving well over the years, still looking great and well cared for and being used for their intended purpose, it is a lovely feeling. Good for my ego,” he joked.
Kudzai Mukaratirwa a final year law student living at Mabel Palmer was so excited to meet the famous architect on the tour that he ensured they took a “selfie”. “I’m so glad to meet him, I think this building is really well designed. It’s almost like a beehive, because everyone knows campus is always very cool, but in here its cool when its hot outside and its warm in winter, just like a beehive! I always talk to people about the design because its so interesting,” he added.
Hallen was trained at the University of Natal, Durban from 1949 to 53, and gained experience in local offices and at the London County Council. He also travelled widely in Europe and lived and studied in Rome for a period. In 1959 he entered into private practice in Durban. His early houses are distinguished by their white modulated surfaces, interior–exterior. Hallen emigrated to Australia in the late eighties and hadn’t returned to Durban in 15 years.