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Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 13:14

Heritage activists have reported that the Rotunda in downtown Johannesburg is being vandalised. The iconic roof is being stripped and if action is not taken soon the condition of the building will deteriorate rapidly. Passionate enthusiasts are trying to get the owners (PRASA) to allocate more security to the site.


Rotunda in 2013 (The Heritage Portal)


Rotunda in 2020 (Yolanda Meyer)


The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation attempted to get the building declared a Provincial Heritage Site in 2012 but the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority Gauteng turned down the request. Below is a statement of significance, compiled by heritage icon Herbert Prins in support of the JHF nomination, which will give readers an idea of the importance of the site:

"The Rotunda has architectural and aesthetic significance, but it also possesses cultural significance as defined in the National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA) as: "aesthetic, architectural, historical, scientific, social, spiritual, linguistic or technological”. With regard to the Rotunda, a case can be made for architectural, aesthetic, historical, social and technological significance. It is in addition, a landmark in the City.


Rotunda from above (photographer unknown - via Artefacts)


Aesthetic and Architectural

The Rotunda building can be seen to be a part of the architectural ensemble of buildings that includes the passenger hall, the tall office building on the north side of the complex and the interdenominational chapel. A quite memorable space is created below the domed roof. The Rotunda pertains to the architectural style of the rest of the buildings designed by Kennedy, Furner, Irving Smith and Joubert.


By virtue of it being part of major developments of the railway station, in the late 50s and early 60s the Rotunda should be seen as having historical significance.


Rotunda under construction in 1960 (Gordon Clarke)



As the place from which hundreds of thousands of passengers embarked, disembarked on or after journeys, and where they waited to be picked up by bus or by friends, the structure has some sociological significance.


The dome is interesting from a technological perspective and may in diameter be one of the biggest in Johannesburg.


Inside the Rotunda (Elizna Delport)


Landmark Value

The Rotunda is special by virtue of its form (round in plan) and dome capped volume.


Rotunda at night (Transnet Heritage Library)


Cultural Significance

The Rotunda is not protected in terms of Section 34 of the NHRA because, though close to 60 years, it is not there yet. At this time the architectural style is generally undervalued, but this is expected to change. Experience has shown that given another 10 to 20 years, expert opinion regarding the significance of the Rotunda (as with other architectural styles belonging to other epochs) is likely to swing.


Another shot of the Rotunda from above (Transnet Heritage Library)


The EHF is of the opinion that the Rotunda warrants Class II heritage status. Therefore it strongly supports the motivation of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, namely that it be a Class II Heritage Site."


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