The Departement Publieke Werken (DPW, Department of Public Works) served the building and infrastructural needs of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR, South African Republic) from 1877 to 1901. For the first ten years of its existence the department was in effect non-functional. This all changed in 1887 with the appointment of Dutch Engineer-Architect Sytze W Wierda as first Government Engineer and Architect. Over the following 13 years, until the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War, Wierda grew the Department from a one-man office to a large, well-oiled service unit bolstered by growing national revenues.
The legacy of this endeavour includes not only various architectural masterpieces, but also utilitarian buildings–police stations, post offices prisons–bridges and other civil works such as water works. It contributes to the rich heritage of South Africa, and in many cases still continues in public service on a daily basis. The input of this mainly Dutch group of draughtsmen, engineers and architects, changed the face of the many cities and towns and that of the building professions in South Africa and forms an important reside of shared heritage that links The Netherlands and South Africa, a continuous history that has its origin in 1652 and continues to this day.
This collection of drawings and Blue Prints is a selection from the holdings of the collection of the National Archive of South Africa from the Departement Publieke Werken (Department of Public Works ) and were digitised as a part of the ZA-Wilhelmiens research project of the Department of Architecture at the University of Pretoria. The publication: Bakker, KA, Clarke, NJ & Fisher, RC 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens. A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa is a result of this project.
For more information on the life and work of S.W.Wierda, please consult the following:
- An electronic version of the Ph.D. Thesis by H. M. Rex:: Die lewe en werk van Sytze Wopkes Wierda in Nederland met verwysing na sy betekenis vir die Zuid-Afrikaans Republiek.
- A paper copy is available at the Merensky Library: Die lewe en werk van Sytze Wopkes Wierda in Nederland met verwysing na sy betekenis vir die Zuid-Afrikaans Republiek.
- A paper copy of the MA Thesis by H. M. Rex is available at the Merensky Library : Die geskiedenis van die eerste ou goewermentsgebou en sy voorlopers in Pretoria.
Due to the cooperation between the Department of Architecture and the National Archives around the drawings of buildings from the C19th ZAR period for use in the ZAR Wilhelmiens project, and which process involved the Department scanning the blueprint hard copies at Document Warehouse at high resolution at our cost, and so providing the Nat Archives with DVDs of the scans at no cost to them, Mr. Wagener of the NA already provided us with oral permission to use the thumbprints for the ZAR WILHELMIENS COLLECTION on the UPSPACE and ABLEUP platform, promising to provide a letter to this effect. We are awaiting the letter, but I hereby provide as 'affidavit' the assurance that opening the collection on the UPSPACE and ABLEUP has received the NA blessing verbally, Prof Karel Bakker, Dept Architecture