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IN MY BACK YARD

- TEXT: MILA CREWE-BROWN Urbanism · Orson Scott Card

The fab­u­lous Lorentzvil­le de­vel­op­ment

Vic­to­ria Yards re­cently held its of­fi­cial open­ing with its maiden First Sun­days event. The pre­vi­ously derelict and de­cay­ing clus­ter of in­dus­trial build­ings in Lorentzvil­le, on the east­ern edge of the Joburg CBD, has been re­sus­ci­tated at the hands of Group 44’s Brian Green, the de­vel­oper be­hind 44 Stan­ley. This is why you’ve got to check it out:

1

Be­cause we’re pas­sion­ate about Jozi’s ur­ban re­gen­er­a­tion and this one is a phoenix. Built as a laun­dry in the early 1900s, the prop­erty ser­viced the min­ing and cot­ton nappy busi­nesses. Af­ter the lat­ter in­dus­try de­clined and the area gen­er­ally lost its al­lure, the prop­erty turned into a hub for chop shops and il­le­gal busi­ness, fall­ing into dis­re­pair. Ris­ing once again, Vic­to­ria Yards of­fers a mix of stu­dios, work­shops and gal­leries that strad­dle 30,000m² to the north and south of the Jukskei River which dis­sects the prop­erty.

2

Be­cause every first Sun­day of the month they like to cel­e­brate. Every month the stu­dios and work­shops all open their doors, per­form­ers pull in to daz­zle the au­di­ence and street food ven­dors open their hatches. Their mar­ket, held up­stairs in an open in­dus­trial space, of­fers ar­ti­sanal cheeses, kom­bucha, deli foods, spices and fresh veg from the prop­erty and sur­round­ing pro­duc­ers. “Joburg is des­per­ate for a real vil­lage mar­ket space and this is it,” Brian says.

3

Be­cause they’re devo­tees of so­cial de­vel­op­ment. Vic­to­ria Yards’ own­ers and share­hold­ers don’t claim to be so­cial in­te­gra­tors, so they work with change mak­ers like Si­mon Mayson of the Mak­ers Val­ley Collective, a val­ley that spans from El­lis Park to Bez Val­ley, fo­cus­ing on col­lab­o­ra­tions and skills de­vel­op­ment for mak­ers liv­ing in the catch­ment. “We’ve opened our doors to lo­cals first so that Vic­to­ria Yards can bring real pos­i­tive change to the area,” Brian ex­plains, adding that lo­cal fresh pro­duce mer­chants are of­fered free stall space at their weekly mar­ket. Fur­ther­more, some of their ten­ants, like Stitch, a so­cial en­ter­prise for bat­tered women who sew tex­tiles, are fully sub­sidised.

4

Be­cause it's home to some of the coun­try’s top artists and ar­ti­sans. Artists like Benon Lu­u­taya (who him­self is fi­nanc­ing vis­ual artists to ex­hibit abroad), Ayanda Mab­ulu, Bless­ing Ngob­eni and Roger Ballen all cre­ate their work from here. Highly sought-af­ter ar­ti­sans like David Kry­nauw have also taken up res­i­dence along­side other mak­ers, de­sign­ers, met­al­work­ers and pro­duc­ers, form­ing a sym­bi­otic com­mu­nity.

5

Be­cause they’ve given these her­itage build­ings their due re­spect. Rather than im­pos­ing their vi­sion into the ex­ist­ing ar­chi­tec­tural struc­tures, Group 44 has given them the light­est treat­ment, leav­ing their ar­chi­tec­tural char­ac­ter bare. Built in 1924 as a se­ries of work­shops and fac­to­ries, the gabled façade and saw-tooth struc­tures are all still in­tact. “Some­one had al­ready stripped the plas­ter by the time we got to it, so we looked at the de­tail­ing and used that as our guide,” Brian re­calls. What has been added is humble, raw and in­dus­trial.

6

Be­cause they sup­port sus­tain­abil­ity and re-use. This starts with the build­ings them­selves, which were given brown­field sta­tus (a term used in ur­ban plan­ning to de­scribe any pre­vi­ously de­vel­oped land that is not cur­rently in use). Food waste from the site — such as cof­fee grinds, peel­ings and mash from the gin dis­tillery — is re­cy­cled to make com­post for the farm. They use bore­hole wa­ter and fish waste to feed the plants. Car­pen­ter’s hard­wood waste is con­verted into char­coal, which pro­duces rich soil, and there are owl boxes to deal with po­ten­tial rat prob­lems. “We want to reach a zero-waste sta­tus,” adds Brian.

7

Be­cause of the food and drink. You can grab a cof­fee at Foakes, which roasts its own by hand in small batches on site. There’s a fan­tas­tic fish & chip shop, a gin dis­tillery as well as a mi­cro-brew­ery called Impi Brew­ery Co, which serves wood-fired piz­zas and fine craft beer and serv­ing it up along­side .

Vic­to­ria Yards: 16 Viljoen St, Lorentzvil­le, Jo­han­nes­burg. vic­to­ri­a­yards.co.za

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