Timeline – Hilton College

Welcome to the FGG Architects “Timeline” series.

1953 | Hilton College

In each post we will cover one of the projects that were featured in our timeline for the SAIA-KZN Exhibition – Segregation & Integration exhibition.

We start this series in 1953 with the practice’s longest standing client, Hilton College. A relationship that has endured for over 65 years.

When the firm was established, Hilton College was one of our founding clients, as Deryk Franklin had been appointed as the school’s architect at the time.

A view down Mansergh Avenue at Hilton College.

We are proud of our long association with the college. Not only has it given us the opportunity to work on a large variety of projects over many years, but there is little doubt that it provided the springboard for FGG to forge and build lasting relationships with other remarkable schools across the country.

As mentioned, our work at Hilton is varied. It includes the projects you would expect, such as classroom blocks and several boarding houses; but it also encompasses a portfolio of diverse buildings such as the theatre, chapel, art galleries, gyms, sports pavilions, as well as the wildlife centre, bomas and hides on the school’s vast estate.

Lucas House, built in 1998, was the “new house” for many years but was completely renovated in 2019 as the final project in an extensive modernisation programme that would bring all boarding houses in-line with the facilities of Pearse House completed in 2012.

Architecturally the approach to working on the school grounds has been based on continuity and strengthening identity. With each new project the aim is to deliver modern facilities, encased in an envelope that blends seamlessly with the existing buildings on the ground, to the point where it would seem that they had always been there.

The Chapel, built in the 1920s, was widened at the transepts in the early 2000s to accommodate the entire school.

What this has achieved is an architecturally unified campus with a strength of identity that is an integral part of the Hilton College image.

The architectural style is fundamentally Cape Dutch, with prominent gables found on most of the buildings across the grounds. Unlike traditional Cape Dutch, the roofs are sheet metal or slate in lieu of thatch, sash windows make way for casement type, and shutters do not feature.

The Centenary Centre introduced Southern Colonial Architecture into the mix.

There is a prominent building at the school that bucked the trend, The Centenary Centre, built for Hilton’s centenary in 1972. The challenge was to create a building of substantial scale, which would be large enough to conceal the school’s theatre building when it would eventually be built a decade later.

As this would be difficult to achieve in traditional Cape Dutch, the building was designed in the, Georgian inspired, Southern Colonial Style, which would ultimately be sympathetic to the existing design ethos, yet introduce an additional element of grandeur as a focal point at the end of the school’s main avenue.

There are now a number of buildings, such as the Indoor Sports Centre, Crews Fitness Centre and the Hart Davis Scoreboard that have Georgian cues.

The Hart David scoreboard building has Cape Dutch and Cape Georgian cues.

This continuity based approach to design isn’t without its challenges. To a large extent it requires one to set aside their “architectural ego” when faced with a new project. The temptation is often there to depart from the design language and create something distinct and modern, but ultimately we believe this would prove to be to the detriment to the grounds as time passes.

In the early 2000s The Centre for Innovation (right) was built onto the school’s Memorial Hall, forming a courtyard between the two buildings.

We hope that you enjoyed our first timeline article. If you have any questions or would like to get in touch, you can drop a comment below or get in touch.

Next week we’ll be looking back to the 1960s when we showcase the landmark Durban Sugar Terminal.

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  • Latest Comments

    • Harry May
      2 months ago - Reply

      Great idea…please post more photographs.

      • Admin
        2 months ago - Reply

        Thank you Harry. In the future, we’ll be creating a substantial portfolio with photographs of all of the firm’s projects, including Hilton College. Also, keep an eye out for our 1960’s feature on the Durban Sugar Terminals.