Architectural Preservation

I first encountered the work of Nic Coetzer when searching for information about the South African presence at the series of Empire exhibitions held in Britain before the Second World War. I was intrigued by his analysis as to why the South African pavilion, for example at the Wembley Empire Exhibition of 1924/25 and again the Glasgow exhibition of 1938 at Bellahouston Park, should have been designed in Cape Dutch architectural style.

This is one of those dozen or so "must have in a Johannesburg collection of books". Published in 1979, it is a book that reminds one of the passage of time. How recent now seem one's young days and yet how long ago it all was. A friend recently commented that it is impossible to stop the march of progress, when I bemoaned the impact of the new Rea Vaya on Louis Botha Avenue which, as a result of the road works, instead of revitalization, has become a hazardous obstacle course.

From Mining Camp to Metropolis the buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940, Gerhard-Mark van der Waal, 1987, publisher Human Sciences Research Council and Chris van Rensburg publications, 268 pages, illustrated, with maps.

Hannes Meiring: My Country in Line and Colour - An Unconventional Look at South African Architecture. Fernwood Press, 2004.  Meiring was a fine architect who died in 2010. He was a sensitive conservation and heritage professional.  Published some 11 years ago this finely produced volume is a compilation of many of Meiring's architectural sketches and water colours .

In 1906 there were 160 licensed drinking places in Cape Town including hotels, taverns, inns and bottle stores. The link between hotels, a license and a bed for the night was much deplored by the temperance movement who argued that "billiards and brandy, the two curses of Cape Town prevail". This book tells the story of the hotels established or upgraded in Cape Town over the two decades and beyond. It was the hey day of hotels that appealed because of their excellent beer, a soft bed and reasonable food.

It would be true to state that, from a legislative and practical point of view, historical conservation in this country is an unmitigated disaster, and has been one since the demise of the old National Monuments Council in 1999. For all its ideological faults and Broederbond associations the NMC had a national infrastructure which its successor, the South African Heritage Resources Agency, SAHRA, had every opportunity of taking over and transforming to meet the needs of the new South African democracy.

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