Tread­ing in the foot­steps of Martin Melck

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

and com­pat­i­ble struc­ture and does no harm to the old build­ing”.

In a force­ful ar­gu­ment in 2011, Rashiq Fataar, founder of Fu­ture Cape Town, a web­site and so­cial me­dia plat­form pro­vok­ing de­bate about the fu­ture of the city, wrote: “It is clear to some that block­ing the de­vel­op­ment merely paci­fies the par­ties who were out­raged by the mere thought that old and new ar­chi­tec­ture can co-ex­ist. The real threat posed by the re­de­vel­op­ment pro­posal... may be to con­ser­va­tive mind­sets, rather than our her­itage”.

For the Au­goustides, the may­oral com­mit­tee’s ap­proval of the re­de­vel­op­ment of the block ear­lier this month – sub­ject to an ap­peal process now un­der way – will, they hope, bring fi­nal­ity to a costly, weary­ing on-and-off nine-year strug­gle to find a way of ex­er­cis­ing their busi­ness rights in a dis­tinctly pub­lic-spir­ited way... by restor­ing the re­main­ing his­toric fab­ric of the build­ing, and making it ac­ces­si­ble.

As Week­end Ar­gus re­ported a year ago, “At the heart of the own­ers’ con­tention is that the re­de­vel­op­ment of what was once a ware­house in the late 1780s will en­sure the preser­va­tion of the build­ing’s few re­main­ing au­then­tic fea­tures, re­store the look of the ex­te­rior of the build­ing to match its his­toric pre­de­ces­sor, and make it more ac­ces­si­ble and aes­thet­i­cally co­her­ent”.

In its lat­est en­dorse­ment , the Cen­tral City Im­prove­ment Dis­trict noted this month that “it en­sures that what will be pre­served, will be pre­served with dig­nity and pur­pose, and be­come part of a vi­brant build­ing that will once again have sig­nif­i­cance for Capeto­ni­ans”.

The ware­house saga, as Rashiq Fataar has writ­ten, falls at the “cross­roads be­tween a brave new Cape Town and the sta­tus quo”.

Melck, were he around, would surely have recog­nised the essence of the chal­lenge – that cities grow and en­dure by en­ter­prise and change rather than by suc­cumb­ing to the sta­sis of nostal­gia.

Casey Au­goustides be­lieves their project is “a good ex­am­ple” of a co­op­er­a­tive pro­ce­dure. “If ev­ery­one (own­ers, ar­chi­tects, her­itage au­thor­i­ties and of­fi­cials) can all work closely to­gether like this, you can achieve a lot in pre­serv­ing the his­toric fab­ric while cre­at­ing at­trac­tive, vi­brant build­ings”.

For Fataar, the “jux­ta­po­si­tion of old and new ar­chi­tec­ture, struc­tures and styles plays a cru­cial role in strength­en­ing the her­itage, au­then­tic­ity and vis­ual di­ver­sity” of cities.

MUCH THE SAME: Church House in Queen Vic­to­ria Street is part of St Ge­orge’s Cathe­dral. It com­prises of­fices, once the head of­fice of the Arch­dio­cese, and a hall. The orig­i­nal cathe­dral build­ing dates back to 1830 – it was re­placed by the cur­rent cathe­dral in the early 20th cen­tury – but the Church House foun­da­tion stone was laid a cen­tury later, in 1931. The main dif­fer­ence is the ad­di­tion of the build­ing sell­ing sec­ond­hand books and bric-a-brac. Run by Pat El­lis with a team of what she calls ‘fab­u­lous vol­un­teers’, the shop raises R225 000 a year, which goes to the cathe­dral’s mu­sic fund, the cathe­dral fund, and char­ity. Be­tween the cathe­dral and Church House on the left of the pic­tures is what used to be St Ge­orge’s Gram­mar School, now in Mow­bray. The school now houses the cathe­dral labyrinth. The ‘then’ pic­ture comes from the web­site Down Mem­ory Lane, while Week­end Ar­gus pho­tog­ra­pher Leon Lestrade took the ‘now’ pic­ture this week.

Send in pic­tures of old Cape Town, with any date and back­ground in­for­ma­tion you have, to Box 56, Cape Town, 8000; to 122 St Ge­orge’s Mall, Cape Town, 8001; or to arg­pix@inl.co.za. Please mark them clearly for the Week­end Ar­gus Pic­ture Ed­i­tor – Then and Now. If you want your pic­ture back, please in­clude your ad­dress.

RE­NEWAL: An artist’s im­pres­sion of the re­de­vel­op­ment pro­posal for the Bree Street build­ing con­tain­ing rem­nants of an 18th cen­tury ware­house.

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