Treading in the footsteps of Martin Melck
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.