Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
13 January 2021 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Lund Humphries
Prof Jonathan Noble has published a book on the work of internationally acclaimed and award-winning architect Peter Rich.

“We see what we want to see, and we make it our own”, is the opening line of Prof Jonathan Noble’s new book The Architecture of Peter Rich: Conversations with Africa. Quoted from a Ndebele woman, this captures the very essence of ‘everything’ because, says Rich, a creative life is one that takes and remakes; a way that finds the ‘open path’ in life.

Prof Noble has recently published a book on the internationally acclaimed and award-winning architect Peter Rich. 

Prof Noble is the Head of the Department of Architecture at the University of the Free State (UFS). He taught design, history, and theory of architecture for 20 years at the University of the Witwatersrand and completed his research master’s at the same institution in 1998 with collaboration from the Department of Comparative Literature. Later, between 2003 and 2006, he did his PhD at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, which was to result in his first published book with Ashgate, African Identity in Post-Apartheid Public Architecture: White Skin, Black Masks (2011).

Quirky and original

“I wanted to share the unique quality of Rich’s work with the world. Peter's work is quirky and original. He is one of the most original architects in South Africa; his style and manner is quite unique and very African!”

“The title 'Conversations with Africa' was chosen because the quest for a modern, African architecture underpins everything he does,” says Prof Noble, who was taught by and later worked for Rich.  

Rich’s work has received wide recognition. He is a South African Institute of Architect Gold Medallist, as well as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). His work on the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre also received the Building of the Year prize at the 2009 World Architecture Festival.

Prof Noble explains that he is inspired by Rich’s philosophy that architectural solutions should evolve from circumstance, which gives his architecture a ‘fresh, bold, fearless and original’ quality. 

“He knows how to build with low budgets in tough circumstances, with simple building technology. He learns from the genius of vernacular architecture, and he talks to ordinary people.”

In his blog, Prof Noble notes that Rich creates ‘an architecture motivated by observation and drawing, tuned to the circumstantial, the ordinary, and spiritual qualities of life’.

African space making

The book focuses on Rich’s fascination with indigenous settlements, especially his documentation, publication, and exhibition of Ndebele art and architecture. 

Noble explains, “It also explores what Rich calls ‘African space making’ and its forms of complex symmetry. It includes examples of various collaborative community-oriented designs of the apartheid and post-apartheid period, especially Mandela’s Yard in Alexandra township. Also incorporated in the content of this book are Rich’s timbrel vaulted structures, constructed from low-tech hand-pressed soil tiles derived from his highly innovative and award-winning work at Mapungubwe; and his more recent organic work in China.”

“The book shows how Rich combines African influences with an environmental awareness aligned to modernist design principles,” Prof Noble says. 

In his blog, Prof Noble indicates that it was important to experience the architecture, taking time to wander, to observe, to sketch and jot down those sudden surges of imagination, and to look for the captivating moments that might illuminate the narrative. 

“It was a remarkable five-year long journey, in which I learnt and grew as an author, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share this book,” he concludes. 

The Architecture of Peter Rich: Conversations with Africa became available to the reader market in South Africa in October. It can also be ordered online and will be available in local bookstores by the end of the year. 

News Archive

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.