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Architects object to plan to flatten Jo'burg landmarks

Posted On Monday, 28 November 2005 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Architects and heritage consultants have lodged a request for an urgent appeal against a controversial decision by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) to demolish 10 historic Art Deco-style buildings in Johannesburg's inner city.

Pallo JordanNine of buildings are regarded as significantly important. Five of them are more than 60 years' old, and a permit is required to demolish them.

Eight architects, represented by Herbert Prins, are objecting to a lack of transparency over the proposed Kopanong Gauteng provincial government precinct, in particular the cost, as well as a lack of consultation, as is required by the National Heritage Resources Act.

The group insists that they are not opposed in principal to the extension of Beyers Naude Square to create a larger area for public gatherings, provisionally called Heritage Square.

What they are concerned about is the loss of important heritage buildings to the south of the square, suggesting that less significant buildings could be sacrificed to the north.

The group and heritage consultants also raise concerns about the decision to create an underpass in Market Street, between Sauer and Harrison streets, arguing that it would change the face of the city and could result in traffic problems because of a loss of lanes and could affect shops at street level in the area.

Buildings affected include the Rand Water Board building, which Prins says has been described as an "architectural gem", Clegg House; the South African Reserve Bank Building; Custom House; the People's Bank Building and the Volkskas Building.

Sahra believes the precinct will have important "socioeconomic" benefits for the city.

The architect, Fanuel Motsepe, believes the square will "provide space for elements of historically marginalised cultures to find expression in the centre of the financial and political power of the city".

The plans, which were altered slightly to include the facade of the Rand Water Building to be included in another building, propose an amphitheatre, a replica Tswana homestead, an orientation wall, a street underpass and four skywalks.

The process could be further delayed by confusion over who should hear the appeal, Sahra or Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan.

Prins said they had applied to both groups, but believed it was a matter for the minister as Gauteng did not have a provincial heritage branch, and the decision to demolish the buildings was taken by Sahra's national body.

Whoever it turns out to be, they will be required to appoint a tribunal of three experts with knowledge of the situation to review the decision.

In the meantime, the Gauteng government, which bought 22 buildings in the city for R300m, is required to look after the 10 buildings until a decision is taken

Sahra argued in its recent decision to demolish the buildings that there were at least 70 other Art Deco-style buildings in the city that could be considered better examples of the style.

The architects argue that the buildings' demolition sets an unfortunate precedent for future development.

"If this application were to succeed, a precedent will be set which will mean that no heritage structure is safe when a case is made for demolition on political grounds," said the group.

 

Last modified on Saturday, 17 May 2014 11:17

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