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BLUEPRINTS (article first published : 2002-05-6)

The Durban concern Solo Collective recently published Blueprints in Black and White: The Built Environment Professions in South Africa -- an Outline History which was launched on April 19 at the KwaZulu-Natal Institute for Architecture.

The book was commissioned by the Department of Public Works from the architect and urban planner John Bizzell to accompany the launch of the Council for the Built Environment.

In an A4 format, 144 pages with an attractive four-colour cover the book includes nearly 150 illustrations, many in colour. With its clear and clean layout design, it should provide fascinating reading for those interested in the growth of the professions and the questions facing them in the present.

Blueprints examines the process of change from South Africa's earliest beginnings. It looks at the various forces that moulded the inherited built environment and outlines the history of the professions, their associations and training programmes. It records achievements both great and questionable, a story sometimes quirky and humorous, sometimes tragic, peopled by many extraordinary, larger-than-life personalities.

The text boxes in the side margins contain apt quotations, explanations for terms used or relevant statistics. This design aspect makes it a good coffee table book, something that can be dipped into at will that offers immediate snippets of information over and above its impressive whole.

The author has interviewed experts and practitioners from many different fields: engineers, architects, planners, large and small-scale builders. Their daily encounters with new problems bring new insights, as the interviews explore the challenges ahead.

The built environment professions have always been in the thick of history, often acting as a litmus of social change. This is a book for anyone interested in South African history, and essential reading for anyone interested in the country's future.

After graduating from the University of Natal in 1961, author John Bizzell helped Hans Hallen get his ground-breaking architectural practice in Durban under way and was in fact Hallenís first employee. Later he opened his own short-lived Johannesburg partnership, BAKR, which he had to abandon in the post-Rivonia turbulence.

He and his wife Maggie were forced into exile and lived in Canada, where he read for his Masters in Urban Design at the University of Toronto under Jack Diamond. Later he helped Diamond start his prestigious Toronto-based practice, and headed the research team under him on the seminal 1970 study: Housing: Density, Distribution and Costs funded by Canada's Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. After 1994 they returned to South Africa to work mainly on rural based projects - John in construction and Maggie in education. He currently practises as an architect and project manager near Durban.

The Built Environment Professions in South Africa -- an Outline History costs R125 (VAT incl). More details from Solo Collective, 4 Elgin Drive, Cowies Hill, 3610. Or contact phone 031 266-5178, fax. 031 266-1100, e-mail: straussp@eastcoast.co.za or visit www.soco.co.za




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