The 1918 flu pandemic and cross-continental trajectories in health-care design between the Netherlands and South Africa in the early twentieth century

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Abstract

The Great ‘Flu pandemic of 1918 struck a drought-ravaged South Africa hard. Within seven weeks 140 000 people died (of a population of about 6 million). While previous epidemics, including bubonic plague in Johannesburg in 1904, had highlighted the need for improved sanitary conditions, and steps had been taken towards the provision of public health care facilities by central government from c1915 onwards, the 1918 pandemic served as clarion call, especially to civil society.

Communities, such as the small Dutch community in Pretoria, were galvanized to search for new ideas in health care. They were serviced by Dutch educated architects, who implemented radical ideas into community-funded general hospital design. Archives evidence the continued trans-continental exchange of ideas on, for instance, the implementation of the sanitarium type ideal hospital design, novel ideas on obstetrics and later, the industrialization of process flows in hospital layout.

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century Dutch trained architects remained at the forefront of hospital design in South Africa, serving as a continuous conduit of exchange of new insights in healthcare design between Europe and South Africa.

This paper explores the novel implementation of new insights in healthcare design in South Africa during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in chronological order, highlighting their origins and specially focusing on the contribution of Dutch educated architects. This built healthcare legacy has proven to be especially resilient to change the hospitals, clinics and even special needs schools-cum-children’s’ homes often still serve the communities they were designed for. The COVID-19 pandemic gives cause to present the origins of these significant historic innovations in the face of healthcare challenges and reflect on their perseverance through time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironments By Design
Subtitle of host publicationHealth, Wellbeing And Place
PublisherRoutledge - Taylor & Francis Group
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

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