WORK AND PLAY IN PE

BAAKENS VAL­LEY

In Flight Magazine - - TOTALLY TASTY - { TEXT: MONIQUE VANDERLINDEN | IMAGES © JOU­BERT LOOTS }

THE RE­CENTLY DE­VEL­OPED BAAKENS VAL­LEY IS ONE OF THE FIRST COM­MU­NITY-BASED SPA­CES CRE­ATED IN THE CITY OF PORT EL­IZ­A­BETH FOR WORK AND LEISURE. HERE, CRE­ATIVES, AR­TI­SANS AND SMALL BUSI­NESS OWN­ERS FIND A SENSE OF COM­MU­NITY, COL­LAB­O­RA­TION CAN TAKE PLACE, AND IN­SPI­RA­TION CAN BE FOUND.

At the heart of Port El­iz­a­beth, a short walk­ing dis­tance from the city cen­tre, har­bour, and very close to the Windy City’s favourite beaches, lies the Baakens Val­ley. It is si­t­u­ated within a raw piece of na­ture that cuts Port El­iz­a­beth straight through the mid­dle, a ge­o­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non very unique to the area, some­times re­ferred to as Port El­iz­a­beth’s “in­verted Ta­ble Moun­tain”.

The city of Port El­iz­a­beth, in fact, owes its in­cep­tion to the Baakens River, a 23 km river me­an­der­ing through the res­i­den­tial sub­urbs and cul­mi­nat­ing at the city cen­tre be­fore flow­ing into the Al­goa Bay Har­bour. It pro­vided fresh wa­ter for Dutch sailors in the late 18th cen­tury. Its name was coined by the Dutch East In­dia Com­pany who placed a bea­con at the mouth of the river to claim the right to the wa­ter source.They termed this source “Baak­jes Fonteyn”, which ul­ti­mately be­came short­ened to “Baakens”.

Today this area has par­tially been turned into a com­mu­ni­ty­based space for work and leisure – with sim­i­lar a vibe to Cape Town’s Old Bis­cuit Mill – by some of PE’s most ca­pa­ble and cre­ative com­mu­nity mem­bers lead by Strukt Ar­chi­tects. In­Flight caught up with the Founder and Head Ar­chi­tect at Strukt, Niel Bas­son, as well as can­di­date ar­chi­tect Inka Nie­der­meier to pick their brains about the Baakens Val­ley de­vel­op­ment, and what it has in store for the city of PE.

The area of the Baakens Val­ley was al­ways used for in­dus­trial pur­poses, which, ac­cord­ing to Bas­son, never re­ally made sense, as most in­dus­trial build­ings wouldn’t gen­er­ally be si­t­u­ated in the heart of a city. To­gether with the own­ers of th­ese prop­er­ties, like­minded in­di­vid­u­als, and the com­mu­nity, they saw an op­por­tu­nity to breathe life back into one of Port El­iz­a­beth’s most beau­ti­ful set­tings, and to con­vert the in­dus­trial na­ture of the build­ings and spa­ces into some­thing with more of a hu­man touch.“We then found some amaz­ing cre­atives, ar­ti­sans and small busi­ness own­ers that had been long­ing to work in a space where there is a sense of com­mu­nity – a place where col­lab­o­ra­tion can take place and in­spi­ra­tion can be found. Now, we con­stantly re­fer to each other as the ‘Val­ley Fam­ily’,” Bas­son says.

Strukt Ar­chi­tects started work­ing on the Baakens Val­ley de­vel­op­ment in 2014 af­ter the own­ers of two of the blocks asked to be pre­sented with a mas­ter plan.They had the en­thu­si­asm and vi­sion to see the area’s un­der­ly­ing po­ten­tial and com­mis­sioned Bas­son’s com­pany to con­tinue with the project, play­ing a crit­i­cal part to­gether with their project man­ager. “We did the project in phases over two years with a small build­ing team and met ev­eryThurs­day – a meet­ing I now miss, be­cause we be­came such close friends af­ter meet­ing ev­ery week for two years. The first block was fin­ished at the be­gin­ning of 2017 and named Chicky’s

Yard, as it was orig­i­nally the two own­ers’ late fa­ther’s yard area. We are still busy with the sec­ond block, which is very close to com­ple­tion,” Bas­son says.

The de­vel­op­ment is not only a big project for Strukt, but also hugely ben­e­fits the sur­round­ing area as well as the com­mu­nity. “For an area that no one used to go to be­cause of the usual stig­mas that sur­rounded it, it has changed into one of Port El­iz­a­beth’s most pop­u­lar and ac­ti­vated ar­eas, with loads of peo­ple flock­ing to the many mar­kets, like Food Truck Fri­day, The Val­ley Mar­ket and the Val­ley Night Mar­ket, as well as the restau­rants – Remo’s, Foongs and Fredrick and Son – and to the beer gar­den, RHBC, of course.This re­ally cre­ates a hub of ac­tiv­ity and a place for fam­i­lies to en­joy a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Strukt Ar­chitechts also share their phys­i­cal work­ing space within the joint de­vel­op­ment with a sculp­tor, Jo­sua Strumpfer, and the artist Joff.The rest of the build­ing is taken up by Ja­son Er­lank Ar­chi­tects and Greame Eck­ley Ar­chi­tects. “We have col­lab­o­rated with al­most all of them on some of our projects, which is al­ways an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence as you see the project from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.We reg­u­larly ask their opin­ion on some of our projects, which is re­fresh­ing as they chal­lenge us to some­times see a project a lit­tle dif­fer­ently to what we are used to,” Bas­son says.

Some of the other busi­nesses in the com­mu­nity in­clude WERK_, a de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany which has been there from the be­gin­ning and played a mas­sive role in the up­lift­ment of the area.“They have con­verted three ware­houses to de­sign and busi­ness hubs, one of which houses my favourite restau­rant, Remo’s Ital­ian Restau­rant. The build­ing also houses An­gel Wings Ceram­ics,Yo Me­dia,The Val­ley Crags Climb­ing Wall, Kanaan In­te­rior De­sign,and many more lo­cal artists and cre­atives.”

The very pop­u­lar Shag High Volt­age Hair also moved into the precinct at the be­gin­ning of the year, and has not only made a name for them­selves for the hair­styles that they do, but also for their in­ter­est­ing shop.

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