Navigation – Plan du site
Articles

Love and loathing in Cape Town

Roelof Uytenbogaardt and the demise of the Werdmuller Centre
Noëleen Murray

Résumés

De nos jours, le Centre Werdmuller, œuvre de l’architecte et urbaniste sudafricain Roelof Uytenbogaardt, à la forme platonique et moderniste inspirée par Le Corbusier, tranche avec son environnement, un quartier délaissé et délabré de Claremont au Cap. Ce bâtiment, à l’origine d’une controverse lors de sa construction dans les années 1970, est de nouveau au centre d’un débat. Le processus d’évaluation pour « intérêt patrimonial » dont il a fait l’objet a attiré l’attention publique de notre époque postcoloniale et post-apartheid sur la signification contemporaine du travail d’Uytenbogaardt. La ville du Cap a été nommée Capitale mondiale du design en 2014 et le centre Werdmuller, presqu’en ruine, est emblématique des tensions existantes à l’égard du design et des bâtiments modernistes dans la ville contemporaine. La démolition du Centre Werdmuller, situé sur un emplacement considéré par ses propriétaires comme ayant un potentiel commercial, est contestée par des architectes qui soutiennent le fait que le bâtiment mérite d’être classé. Le futur du bâtiment est encore incertain et le débat en cours depuis l’annonce du projet de destruction s’est intensifié en 2013, révélant le caractère contesté de l’architecture moderne dans l’Afrique du Sud après l’abolition de l’apartheid.

Haut de page

Notes de l’auteur

A version of this paper was presented on 29 April 2013 in the Vakgroep Architectuur & Stedenbouw, Faculteit Ingenieurswetenschappen en Architectuur, Ghent University, Belgium, introduced by Johan Lagae. Comments and discussion from this seminar are gratefully acknowledged.

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza temp/Timeless, Padua: Il Poligrafo, 2006, p. 7.
  • 2 There is an extensive collection of newspaper articles from the 1970s onwards documenting the publi (...)
  • 3 James. C. Scott, Seeing Like a State. How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Faile (...)
  • 4 Noëleen Murray, Architectural Modernism and Apartheid Modernity in South Africa: A Critical Inquiry (...)
  • 5 For a discussion of this, see: Nick Shepherd and Noëleen Murray, “Introduction: Space, memory and i (...)

1Writing in a monograph entitled Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, Uytenbogaardt’s biographer, Venetian architect Giovanni Vio, terms the Werdmuller Centre in Claremont Cape Town an “urban wreck”. In Vio’s eyes, the neglect that has befallen this monument to modernist design is a tragedy.1 Yet for many people in Cape Town, it is hard to imagine why this complex might be considered heritage worthy as its brutalist modality has long made it an object of public loathing.2 Locating the Werdmuller case in broader debates about modern architecture’s legacy complicates heritage debates in cities such as Cape Town. As James Scott has argued, modernism’s brutalist concrete forms and mega-projects, mapped out on the landscape of particular colonial contexts, highlights such complexities.3 In the case of South Africa, modern architecture and planning coincided directly with apartheid and the ideological shift was that spatial design professions were charged with designing for designated and racially classified publics.4 Considering these sites in the category of “heritage” has become a process of negotiating identity in the post-apartheid period.5 Much like at Brasilia, Chandigarh and many other cities in Africa, South America and India, Cape Town has only just begun to think through the meanings and legacies that this work represents. The notions around “saving” the Werdmuller as a key example of modern architecture sit rather uncomfortably with the building’s legacy of apartheid-era segregationalist design and negative public sentiment. The underlying legacies of colonial and apartheid buildings are potentially intense and fraught, and these tensions are acute when the presence of this failed elite shopping destination is considered.

  • 6 Jean Nuttall, “Roelof Uytenbogaardt,” KZ-NIA journal: journal of the KwaZulu Institute for Architec (...)
  • 7 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, February (...)

2Conceptualised as both a building and an urban intervention, the Werdmuller Centre was an ambitious project that is widely thought to have failed, perhaps even in Uytenbogaardt’s mind.6 The building has survived since its completion in 1977, precariously balanced between massive negative public sentiment and being celebrated by architects who have consistently defended its continued presence in the cityscape. It has been threatened with demolition by its owners, the insurance giant Old Mutual Properties, for the past twenty years on the basis of its commercial failure as a shopping centre. Since 2007, new plans have been afoot for its destruction, with the redesigning and reconceptualisation of Claremont as a suburban commercial hub of contemporary Cape Town (fig. 1).7

Figure 1: Aerial view of Claremont.

Figure 1: Aerial view of Claremont.

Aerial view of Claremont showing the two malls built by Old Mutual Properties in the 1970s, a period of experimentation with new retail forms.

Source: Google Earth.

  • 8 The term coined for the UIA 2014 Durban Conference theme, see: URL: http://www.uia2014durban.org/ab (...)
  • 9 For a review of this, see: Leslie Witz and Ciraj Rassool, “Making histories,” Kronos, vol. 34, no.  (...)
  • 10 Leslie Witz and Ciraj Rasool, “Making histories,” op. cit. (note 9).

3As a study of modernism “beyond Europe”, this paper considers an instance of apartheid-era (understood as “late colonial”) architecture in relation to the postcolonial actors and interests at play in the contestations over the building’s future. It seeks to unpack the notions of the importation of metropolitan forms and doctrine onto the African context as a local response to the “otherwhere” of European modernism.8 Concerned, as I have been for many years, with critical readings of public space in Cape Town, I have applied the ideas and readings aimed at resistance to dominant discourses of space prevalent in the spatial disciplines and the ideas contained in the group of scholars in “Public History” at the University of the Western Cape who draw onnotions of historical space being produced and authored through particular conceptions of space-making.9 I am interested in how such theoretical and methodological tools might be applied to a discussion of modernist architecture and planning though an analysis of Uytenbogaardt’s work. In such an understanding, buildings and urban spaces are viewed through their modes of production and construction beyond the material manifestation, to include consideration of the constructedness of the process behind the built form.10

  • 11 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman and Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft H (...)
  • 12 The extent of the collection is detailed in Index Guide to Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt Collection, BC12 (...)

4Methodologically, this paper presents an account of the contemporary contestation over the building as a way into an inquiry about its foundational ideas and the process of its conceptualization and ultimate construction, as well as its continued presence and proposed imminent demise in the city of Cape Town. The research draws on a notion of an archive that has emerged largely online and from the records of public meetings and the official process of the Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) drafted in response to the debates about the building’s future.11 The archive constituted in the public domain makes it possible to examine the building though reflection rather than only as actual construction. Previously, this archive existed in conversations that have long circulated in architectural and popular circles in the city. As a web-based archive, its status is one of a set of debates, informed by the views of practitioners, collaborators, colleagues and admirers of the building. My reading of these texts in this paper is not as a priori fact but as part of the production of arguments for and against retention of the building. The importance of this emergence should also necessarily be considered in the context of the absence or relative silence in the formal archive. In the Uytenbogaardt Collection at the University of Cape Town (UCT), the “job files” and other documentation pertaining to the construction of the project are missing, although there are miscellaneous items contained in newspaper clippings, site photographs, drawings, and documents. The original client, Old Mutual Properties, claims it no longer has records of the project, and the city of Cape Town’s records contain only the approved plans.12

  • 13 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 71.
  • 14 This formulation of “tropes” is elaborated on Noëleen Murray and Nick Shepherd, “Introduction,” in (...)

5Quite intentionally, this paper also seeks to highlight the bizarre nature of some of the arguments and rationalisations deployed by architects and spatial practitioners in the heritage debates at play in the post-apartheid present, where the building exists as a type of ruin of Uytenbogaardt’s utopian dream, Vio’s “urban wreck,” a dangerous, hated and abandoned space.13 The interplay between the heady dream space of the designer’s idealism and what was ultimately transposed into the material concrete structure of the building becomes in some way a unique instance of the complicated nature of modern architecture’s presence as part of the technologically driven dream space of apartheid South Africa. At Werdmuller, Uytenbogaardt’s own search for “an architecture of discovery” is invoked by his biographer, Giovanni Vio when, writing about the Werdmuller Centre, he claimed that this resulted in a “timeless” quality of architecture, somehow abstracted from the building’s apartheid reality. The arguments presented in defense of the building all somehow allude to the idealism of the architectural “dream” quality of the building. As I have explored elsewhere, my examination of Uytenbogaardt has also sought to contribute to a project of recasting architectural history. Going beyond the simple periodisation and classification of styles—into a reading of “tropes of the South African landscape” enables a discursive move towards discourses of colonial reception and metropolitan dependency involved in the production of the South African landscape.14

Roelof Uytenbogaardt’s Oeuvre of works

  • 15 The international significance of Uytenbogaardt’s work is recognised in a letter dated 13 December (...)

6During his lifetime, Roelof Sarel Uytenbogaardt was little known outside South Africa. Yet, in the current moment his work is gaining international attention. Born in Cape Town in 1933, Uytenbogaardt died there in 1998. He was and remains a prominent figure in the disciplines of architecture and urban design in the country.15 As a prolific practitioner and academic at the UCT, he exerted far-reaching influence. His interest in design was inexhaustible, from his student years at the UCT, through his years in Italy as a Rome Scholar, his subsequent studies under Louis Kahn at the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania, in the United States, his return to Cape Town, and until his death. Located in his alma mater at the UCT, his collected drawings and papers make up an archive that assembles known works and projects. Allowing for some gaps in his project files, the archive provides fascinating records of his buildings, urban plans, teachings, and information about his professional engagements, both as an academic and a practitioner. There is extensive evidence of his achievements through local and international awards, received from bodies such as the South African Institutes of Architects and Urban Designers. These include awards for early works from the 1970s, such as the Steinkopf Community Centre, the University of Cape Town’s Sports Centre, the Belhar Group Housing, and later the Community Hall. In the 1980s, he designed the Sports Centre at the University of the Western Cape, the Durban Library Complex, Salt River Community Hall, and the Simonstown Garden of Remembrance. Throughout these later years, working with Norbert Rozendal the work in the 1990s include the Springfield Terrace housing in Woodstock and the Hout Bay Library, as well as smaller projects such as his own house at Kommetjie and one in Betty’s Bay, amongst many others.

  • 16 These are detailed in Index Guide to Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt Collection, BC1264, op. cit (note 12).
  • 17 Fabio Todeschini, “Uytenbogaardt—a great South African architect-urbanist,” Obituary, The Monday Pa (...)

7Along with various collaborators, he entered and won a number of key competitions, most notably the Durban Library Complex (1989) also with Norbert Rozendal. His lifelong career achievements were recognised in a number of ways, such as the Sophia Gray Memorial lecture, a peer review award and exhibition of work. Uytenbogaardt published many writings, most notably in collaboration with David Dewar and the Urban Problems Research Unit at UCT. Taken alongside schemes for urban design projects, these constitute a substantial record of his urban design philosophies and practice. Key projects over his life time include: the Rand Mines Properties Project in Johannesburg, schemes for the Cape Town Foreshore, Mitchells Plain, Belhar, District Six, Salt River, Steinkopf, Hout Bay, projects for Cape Town’s Olympic Bid and others at Marian Hill, the Wits Technikon, and in Luderitz in Namibia. Close examination of the archive repositories at the UCT concerning these many projects reveal distinctive design characteristics developing over the years of his practice.16 Instead of presenting a comprehensive overview of Uytenbogaardt’s full body of works, this paper explores the story of one project in detail, drawing on the insights gleaned from knowledge of the complete archive.17

  • 18 Philip Harrison, Alison Todes and Vanessa Watson, Planning and Transformation: Learning from the Po (...)
  • 19 Barabara Southworth, City Squares in Cape Town's Townships—Public Space as an Instrument of Urban T (...)
  • 20 Linda Stafford, Architect of the Century: Roelof Uytenbogaardt pushed design beyond the ordinary-qu (...)

8Over the years since his death, Uytenbogaardt’s spatial design legacy has taken shape, and his influence can be seen frequently in the particular form that “New Urbanism” has assumed locally and specifically in Cape Town, under his ex-colleagues David Dewar, Piet Louw, Fabio Todeschini, Martin Kruger, and others.18 There has also been an intensification of interest in the city as a site of urban renewal and change. Ambitious projects have been framed for urban integration, new public spaces in townships, inner city renewal, housing and new buildings, using the influential sets of ideas articulated by Uytenbogaardt and his colleagues.19 He has been hailed posthumously as “Architect of the Century” in the publication Business Day, which cited his influence on and contribution to architectural urban thinking through his buildings, urban design projects and writings.20 With South Africa opening up to new globalising influences, his ideas have been hailed as local solutions, enabling his legacy to move into a new category of local scholarship. Yet somehow Uytenbogaardt’s admirers have largely failed to examine his heavy dependence on metropolitan examples and ideals. And so, inadvertently, his spatial dictums have entered into the narratives of spatial and social reconciliation and urban reconstruction.

  • 21 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1).
  • 22 The exception to this is the work by Ilze Wolff, “Werdmuller Centre—an artefact of an ephemeral con (...)
  • 23 Other readings include: those in Chapters 3 (Welkom Church) and 4 (Belhar Housing) in Noëleen Murra (...)

9In this period there has also been a flurry of biographic interest in writing about—and claiming—authorship of Uytenbogaardt’s architectural history by colleagues and passionate followers of whom there are many across the South Africa and beyond. Amongst others, these include close colleagues and admirers: architect, urban designer and fellow professors at UCT Fabio Todeschini and planner David Dewar; United States-based architect Etienne Louw; University of the Witwatersrand Professor Paul Kotze; and Italian architect Giovanni Vio, whose interest resulted in the architectural monograph publication Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza Tempo/Timeless.21 The mood has been hagiographic and largely celebratory. Both within the academy and in practice, this has prevailed and it has appeared difficult for those so intimately linked to the man to narrate a fuller story of Uytenbogaardt’s life and work. There has also been a reluctance to connect his life temporally and spatially to the period of apartheid and this is often curiously absent from the writings internal to the architectural discipline and practice.22 The relatively few writings that have emerged concentrate on spatial concerns removed from their socio-political contexts, as if somehow reinforcing Uytenbogaardt’s own notion of a “timeless” remove from the apartheid reality in which he was practicing. In writing this paper, I have asked questions about how to extend the biographical mode of the established genre of the architectural monograph to include social history and critique in an attempt to fill a historiographic gap with a thematic examination of his work in relation to the public spheres and public histories in which the works were produced and received. Writing from a contemporary perspective, with all the attendant pitfalls of reflection and reconstitution of the historical subject, I have tried here and elsewhere, through epistemic instances such as this one, around the Werdmuller Centre, to give examples of readings of his work and to provide accounts that rely on the archive as well as acknowledging broader sources of influence.23

Uytenbogaardt’s “love affair” at Werdmuller

  • 24 A number of articles and writing have appeared following this: Ilze Wolff and Heinrich Wolff, “Werd (...)
  • 25 For histories of forced removals see variously: Sean Field and Centre for Popular Memory (Universit (...)
  • 26 Old Mutual’s property portfolio in Claremont acquired in this time included the Werdmuller and Cave (...)

10While the current story of the planned destruction of the Werdmuller Centre begins in Claremont in 2007, the history of the project goes back to the late 1960s when Uytenbogaardt received the commission for the building under high apartheid.24 South Africa was experiencing an unprecedented building boom. The economy was growing, and the policies of the apartheid government had been effectively implemented. Despite the international oil crisis, South Africa projected an image of a modern industrialised state to the rest of the world. This was prior to the 1976 Soweto schools uprisings and the South African state believed it was in a stable position. With forced removals the nature of the landscape of Cape Town was being refigured as “non-white,” and “black” and “coloured” populations were being classified and removed from the city centre and its older suburbs onto the newly established Cape Flats area on the periphery of the city.25 This had the effect of opening up large tracts of land for redevelopment. These parcels of land, distributed across the city from its centre through the peninsula from the Southern Suburbs to Simons Town, were being sold off cheaply. Developers jumped at the opportunity to acquire prime land through which they could turn massive profits. With the booming economy, there was cash around, and companies such as Old Mutual purchased many key sites.26

  • 27 According to the Oral History Interview with John Moyle 29 July 2008: “Sites developed post forced (...)
  • 28 For a discussion on oral history method see: Lynn Abrams, Oral History Theory, London; New York: Ro (...)
  • 29 According to the Oral History Interview with John Moyle, 2008, op. cit. (note 27): up until the ear (...)

11With all this land in their possession, the Old Mutual sought the services of architects to assist with their development.27 In the process of tracing the history of the project, I interviewed one of Uytenbogaardt’s oldest colleagues and friends, a retired UCT academic from the architecture department, John Moyle.28 While Moyle’s relationship with Uytenbogaardt had been close since their student days, and was personal as well as professional, he was not an uncritical follower of Uytenbogaardt, unlike many of his other peers and collaborators. In addition, given the significant biographical contests over Uytenbogaardt’s legacy and history, Moyle was important to interview as he played no part in this. The interview with Moyle throws light on how Uytenbogaardt came to land the commission for Werdmuller. “By the time Werdmuller came along they [the Old Mutual] used many architects to spread work”. Moyle’s father Jack Moyle had been the assistant general manager of Old Mutual Insurance and “had by default acquired the property development portfolio without the particular qualifications, although he had the integrity and business skills”.29 John Moyle describes how he had been “impressed by Roelof and organised work for him”. He used to “nag [his] father about appointing young architects” and “persuaded” him to award commissions.

  • 30 Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt (RSU) Collection, BC1264, Architectural Collections, Department of Manuscri (...)
  • 31 Interview John Moyle, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).
  • 32 Fabio Todeschini, The Proposed Demolition of the Werdmuller Centre: Some Further Information and C (...)
  • 33 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman and Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft H (...)
  • 34 John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

12The initial project for Werdmuller was the site along the Main Road as the Old Mutual had not yet acquired the railway line site. The client for the Werdmuller job was the Board of Old Mutual, and an entity known as LHC Properties. Later on, once the railway line side site had been purchased and added onto the commission, the project schemes became known as LHC1 and LHC2.30 Only later was the name Werdmuller given to the building after the outgoing head of Old Mutual, World War Two veteran Brigadier Werdmuller.31 Uytenbogaardt was in partnership with Mackaskill and Pelser for the project. From descriptions by various colleagues at the time, a picture emerges of a vibrant office with many young architects collaborating towards the production of the design scheme with the large-scale model and the extensive technical documentation required for a building of this size and complexity (fig. 2).32 The Old Mutual is also described as having “standards for development” that must have in some ways been communicated to the architects. In the absence of documentation relating to the initial brief, this was confirmed by Moyle and others.33 Although as John Moyle describes he does not think “the Mutual ever came to terms with their own intentions [for the site], and gave Roelof the go-ahead without understanding what they were getting”.34

Figure 2: Werdmuller Centre, large-scale timber (project).

Figure 2: Werdmuller Centre, large-scale timber (project).

Black and white photograph of the large-scale timber model that Uytenbogaardt constructed as a design tool during the design process for the Werdmuller Centre, showing the LHC 2 (left) and black and white photograph of the large-scale timber model that Uytenbogaardt constructed as a design tool during the design process for the Werdmuller Centre, showing the LHC 2 scheme’s railway line elevation (right).

Source: RSU Collection BC1264.

  • 35 Ibid.
  • 36 John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27). Davies had previously worked in Zambia with other (...)
  • 37 John Moyle, Interview with Noëleen Murray, 1999.
  • 38 See CIFA Comments; David Dewar and Piet Louw, The Proposed Demolition of Werdmuller Centre, Claremo (...)

13The initial site was a “Grey Area” in apartheid’s terms of segregationist implementation of the Group Areas Act from 1050 onwards “with a small shopping strip along the Main Road and run-down buildings clustered around the station, and semi industrial back yards”.35 The extensive site survey photographs in the files in the collection at UCT show the nature of the site quite clearly. A detailed site analysis was also part of the initial interdisciplinary methodology used by Uytenbogaardt, based on working with Louis Kahn and others at the University of Pennsylvania. He sought to understand the ways in which people used the spaces of old Claremont. Urban geographer David Hywel Davies, who was known to peers of Uytenbogaardt’s through work in Zambia, was commissioned to prepare a report. Moyle further describes the interdisciplinary process of Uytenbogaardt’s endeavours, but emphasises that he sought to “read Kahnian urbanism into that part of Claremont...” although adding that “[this] was a bit wrong as it could never be like that”.36 The inference that Kahnian urbanistic approaches might not have been the best way to approach the Claremont site, relate to Moyle’s previously cited views on “Kahn’s moral theory of architecture”. The Kahnian set of ideals, as suggested, were not entirely applicable to the local conditions and especially those under apartheid.37 This view differs markedly from the rationalisations made by colleagues Dewar and Louw as part of the 2007 heritage process discussed later in the paper.38

14From the outset the relationship between the clients and the architect appears to have been somewhat strained. Different expectations emerged alongside different approaches to the brief for a shopping centre. The first report prepared for the Old Mutual contained Davies’s assessment of the site and Uytenbogaardt’s Kahnian analyses. Describing the first client meeting, Moyle says, “Roelof blew up [enlarged] his little Kahnian sketches, this was not as slick as they [Old Mutual] had expected (fig. 3)”.

Figure 3: Early sketch of the plan for the Werdmuller Centre.

Figure 3: Early sketch of the plan for the Werdmuller Centre.

Early sketch of the plan for the Werdmuller Centre in Uytenbogaardt’s hand showing the main ideas of the scheme developing around the concept of the internal street imagined as a route through the building (top left). Elevational sketches in Uytenbogaardt’s hand showing the envisaged Claremont Bypass elevated freeway (top right). Three-dimensional sketch study in Uytenbogaardt’s hand for the railway line site which was added to the commission for the Werdmuller Centre, known as LHC 2 (bottom left). Elevational sketch study in Uytenbogaardt’s hand emphasizing the addition to the scheme on the railway line site which was added to the commission for the Werdmuller Centre, known as LHC 2 (bottom right).

Source: RSU Collection BC1264.

  • 39 John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).
  • 40 Ibid.
  • 41 Ibid.

15It was a “painful experience for all involved”.39 The idea for the building was one of “mixed use” and “the whole idea [presented by Uytenbogaardt] was to create shopping opportunities for people travelling to and from the station”.40 The key ideas of using the pathways that crisscrossed the site as “desire lines for movement across the scheme” and the extensive social analysis undertaken by geographer David Davies somehow baffled the clients. Tensions were emerging between the professional team and the clients, who were increasingly expecting an internalised mall along the lines of the successful American suburban model. The conflict intensified as the project progressed and subsisted until after its completion. Moyle describes the huge disappointment that Uytenbogaardt felt about the project all his life and that Uytenbogaardt was self-critical on reflection. Sharing with Moyle that it was a project that “he had to get out of his system,” a “love affair,” misguided perhaps but exciting and idealistic certainly.41 As Uytenbogaardt said himself:

  • 42 Jean Nuttall, Roelof Uytenbogaardt, op. cit. (note 6), p. 15: Roelof Uytenbogaardt, speaking about (...)

Making this building was one of most exciting experiences we have ever had, yet it is believed by many to be our most inhuman work. The realisation that people have found it difficult to accept has been very sobering. It is too severe—I was trying to be very purist. I think it has to do with materials, the unrelieved concrete. The finishes should be more friendly and less light absorbing—one begins to lose light on the first ramp. I did not want to distinguish strongly between the public space outside and the inside of the building, and so the paving slate was increased as the building was penetrated. Had there been concrete paving slabs outside, the spaces could have been lightened as one got into them. I should have known about opening the building to the wind. You slightly lose your head in the way you want to form space. It was idealism, a love affair.42

  • 43 Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op. cit. (note 24 (...)
  • 44 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman, Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft Heri (...)
  • 45 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p.75.

16Writing about the building, architect Etienne Louw, emphasised that “The Werdmuller Centre was the lightning rod for architectural debate in the 1970s”.43 The “love affair” that Uytenbogaardt refers to, in all likelihood, is a reference to the playfulness with which he explored Corbusian-inspired platonic forms and the expressive ways in which these forms were used in the design of the building. Uytenbogaardt revered designers he considered to be masters, and this can clearly be seen in his emulation of Le Corbusier’s “five points of architecture” in the building. So much so that submissions made in defense of the building cite its didactic relevance as a demonstration (and rare extension) of Corbusier’s famous spatial dictum.44 Uytenbogaardt’s passion for Corbusier’s work—his “love affair”—resided in the revolutionary approach to the making of built form that Corbusier’s work presented. Biographer Vio cites Uytenbogaardt’s “infatuation” with Corbusier from an interview with him in which Uytenbogaardt described the Swiss architect as “one of the most innovative space makers we have known. Even making the drawings I was influenced by him”.45 The emulation of this form that the building embodies also appears to make direct reference to one of Corbusier’s key buildings, the Carpenter Center from the mid 1960s which Etienne Louw describes and Uytenbogaardt is known to have visited while in the USA:

  • 46 Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op cit. (note 24) (...)

In the mid 1960s Le Corbusier had completed the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, which featured a ramp that connected two parallel streets by rising up and through the building which housed work space for students engaged in sculpture. The building employed pilotis and flat concrete slabs with bris-soleil mediating between the inside and outside and protecting spaces from the sun. It also acted as a filter providing some privacy to the sculptors from pedestrians that engaged the activities while passing through the building. It is hard not to believe that this building was influential in what Uytenbogaardt attempted to do at the Werdmuller.46

17This strong invocation Corbusian influence and actual precedent is very much a characteristic of Uytenbogaardt’s architectural work. The degree to which this influence operated in Uytenbogaardt’s design process has been the subject of much studio-based debate, with his supporters alluding to the notion of influence as a type of spatial intellectualism, while his detractors accuse him of a more crass form of copying. Whichever view one adopts, there is no doubt that the Carpenter Centre bears a close resemblance to the Werdmuller Centre. As Etienne Louw suggests, it was a strong design informant for Uytenbogaardt, and many of its key ideas are contained in the scheme that was eventually built in Claremont.

  • 47 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p.75.
  • 48 Laurie Wale, “Werdmuller Centre, Claremont, Cape,” Architect and Builder, May 1976, p. 3.
  • 49 Planning and Building Developments, Sept-oct 1975, M7A UCT, RSU Collection BC1264.
  • 50 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 75-76; Laurie Wale, (...)

18The shopping centre as eventually built is described by Vio as “a psychedelic experience of fluid movements, sometimes going up, sometimes going down, made rhythmic by continual changes of light and shade accompanied by a sequence of stainless steel doors and shop signs and, above all, of staggered planes”.47 What became known as the Werdmuller Centre was in reality two buildings, after the Old Mutual extended Uytenbogaardt’s brief to include the site closer to the railway line. The second parcel of land was acquired once the design for the first part was almost complete. At this late stage, Uytenbogaardt set out to design a new yet complementary additional part to his original scheme. “The Werdmuller Centre really consists of two buildings linked with a bridge and a service core”.48 As the plans for the building show, the scheme was organised around the centralised open “urban street” manifest as an “integrated system of ramps” on four levels along the “desire line” of the established route from Claremont Station to the Main Road.49 The idea of the street was further reinforced through the black slate floor finish on the centre’s ground level. It intentionally blurred the boundaries between inside and outside, and between street and building, creating an “atmosphere of pavement shopping lined with numerous stores each having its own character”.50

Ideals of design at odds with attendant publics

  • 51 Uytenbogaardt retained many of these from the Cape Times and The Argus Newspapers, which are now pa (...)
  • 52 Jean Nuttall, Roelof Uytenbogaardt, op. cit. (note 6), p. 14.
  • 53 Ashley Lillie and Andre van Graan, Draft For Comment By Interested And Affected Parties Impact Asse (...)

19Once the building opened, the resultant complexity of forms and spaces it presented was initially a curiosity to people, and was widely reported in the press.51 However, following this brief period of infatuation, fascination, and success, the clients began pointing out what they believed were the building’s flaws. This early dissatisfaction gave rise to opposing views emerging around the client’s management and understanding of the building. The openness of the building became a major factor in its functional failings, because Uytenbogaardt had not properly considered the harsh environmental characteristics of Cape Town’s weather.52 Far from being a convivial open street, the building was hammered by the south-easterly winds and driving rain, making it a cold, wet and windy tunnel space that people avoided rather than were drawn into using. Over the next years measures were taken by Old Mutual to mitigate against these functional performance failures. Roofs were added, and terrace and balcony spaces were enclosed. Many of these additions were made by maintenance teams in the Old Mutual Properties division in ways that architects have considered to be insensitive to the original design. Indeed, many of these were crude, practical solutions overlaid on Uytenbogaardt’s more poetic forms. In addition, as South African cities became more dangerous, the openness of the building proved an increasing headache for the owners, as the building was almost impossible to secure and control. So, instead of being a busy social street space, the building had become a dark, risky space, controlled, patrolled and emptied by its owners. This atmosphere contributed to the inability of shops to survive and the eventual abandonment of the building by most tenants. Without the shops as draw cards for movement through the space, and given the dangers of being attacked, the owners did not invest in the centre’s upkeep.53

  • 54 James. C. Scott, Seeing Like a State. How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Faile (...)

20By Uytenbogaardt’s own admission, the building performed poorly, despite its compelling design approach. Architects continue to celebrate the design, even in the face of the hard facts that it performs poorly and fails to fulfil its intended purpose as a commercial shopping centre. In its current state the building is perhaps misunderstood, but also fatally flawed, saying less about architecture as high art and more about architectural modernity’s failures to understand its attendant publics’ needs and desires for liveable urban spaces. This is part of the tragic dimension of modern architecture, as James Scott details, in the post-apartheid present in Cape Town, and indeed in many parts of the world.54

  • 55 Todeschini and Japha Architects, Conservation Study for Newlands, Claremont, Kenilworth and Wynberg(...)
  • 56 Sean Field and Centre for Popular Memory (University of Cape Town) (ed.), Lost communities, living (...)
  • 57 “Roof-wetting at Claremont Complex,” Cape Times, 9 March 1972. (Newspaper clipping contained in The (...)
  • 58 There are many newspaper articles in The Uytenbogaardt Collection Files: H13 BC 1264 Roelof Uytenbo (...)
  • 59 Personal notes from public meeting as part of the HIA process 27 November 2013.

21Yet at the same time, Claremont’s Main Road landscape has been transformed since the 1960s, from its village-like character with small shops behind colonnades, to a landscape of “signature buildings” designed by a succession of Cape Town architectural practices (fig. 4).55 Nostalgia for old Claremont was, it seems, designed to disappear, aided by massive and traumatic forced removals and the acquisition of properties by large commercial interests, who benefited from the low land prices after the removals.56 Werdmuller was the first of the architect-designed interventions on the lower side of the Main Road, completed just a year before Cavendish Square, whose great commercial success signalled the new trend.57 But after the short period of initial success, Werdmuller caused massive controversy even at the time of its construction in the 1970s.58 In a sense, aided by this history of negative public reception of the complex, it has become the building that is easiest to get rid of for the current owners, despite being the original sign of this twist of apartheid-era change, and the only building with any real design integrity. At the time of writing in 2013, Old Mutual Properties appear to have given up the struggle to redevelop the beleaguered centre and are in the process of negotiating its sale to New Property Ventures, who own many adjacent properties. It is New Property Ventures’ stated intention to demolish the structure, to realise the potentials for development of massive bulking of the site for commercial gain.59

Figure 4: Claremont Main Road 1960s.

Figure 4: Claremont Main Road 1960s.

Signature buildings along Claremont Main Road, 2007. Stadium on Maina building successfully turned into a commercial success by New Property ventures who are in the process of purchasing the Werdmuller Centre.

Source: RSU Collection BC1264 (left); Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback” in The Property Magazine, February 2007 (right).

  • 60 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit.(...)
  • 61 Unpublished research by Pia Bombardella and Martin Hall in 2000 details this extensively.
  • 62 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit.(...)

22In Claremont however, the Werdmuller’s failure has been continually juxtaposed against the continued success of Cavendish Square, which changed the entire landscape of Claremont irrevocably.60 This mall, built on the site of major forced removals of people from Claremont under apartheid and also developed by Old Mutual Properties, is a much more conventional shopping centre.61 Its designers had no aspirations to reinvent the internalised box-form of malls world-wide. This simple manifestation built on the mountain side of Main Road and away from the supposed “complications” of the public transport interchange and informal traders along the Main Road remains one of Cape Town’s elite shopping spaces.62 The now unoccupied Werdmuller Centre, which sits surrounded by active informal traders and their stores, it seems, is doomed as an elite shopping destination and its owners are unrelenting, refusing to reimagine its possibilities as a central market place along different lines, in a commercial scene that has ironically shifted towards the kinds of use that Uytenbogaardt idealistically imagined in the post-apartheid city.

  • 63 Newspaper collections contained in the Roelof Sarel Uytenbogaardt Collection, BC1264 Manuscripts an (...)
  • 64 The Centre is currently boarded up. Largely unoccupied at present, with the exception of long time (...)

23Historically, at Werdmuller, designed under high apartheid, it is a fair assumption that Uytenbogaardt was asked to design a shopping centre for white consumers. Retail space was expensive to rent when the Centre first opened with major chain stores as its anchor tenants.63 With the removals out of the way and the small scale shops demolished, the Centre was intended to cater for elite, white, moneyed shopping publics and as top grade office space, a far cry from the marginal mixture of activities that occupy the space today.64 Old Mutual Properties’ vision was never to be, for the building was disliked by the very publics it was intended to serve. Instead of providing a mall along the lines of the fashions of the time, Uytenbogaardt designed what he believed to be a more idealised space for shopping in Cape Town. As opposed to emerging new forms of internalised mall spaces, growing in popularity internationally in the 1970s, Uytenbogaardt’s idea centred on the idea of a “souk”, based on his admiration of the “bazaar” or market spaces of Middle Eastern cities. The architect saw it as a better, more inclusive model on which to base notions of shopping. The slippage that occurred, between the Old Mutual’s vision for the building and Uytenbogaardt’s, resulted in an awkward building with a confused identity and spatial programme. In all likelihood, this confusion led to what has variously been described as its “commercial failure” or its “misinterpretation”. However, in contemporary Cape Town, markets where retailers large and small come to trade are now becoming increasingly popular with shoppers, across income groups and in different areas of the city.

24But somehow the history of Werdmuller’s failure, along with its “severe” concrete aesthetic, propelled it into urban mythologies as the most hated building in Cape Town, where its qualities of experimental design and expressive modernist sculptural form-making continue to escape public recognition (fig. 5).

Figure 5: The severe concrete aesthetic of the Wedmuller Centre in the 1970s (left). The modernist “icon” described by Heinrich Wolff, a photograph of Uytenbogaardt in the dark suit on the right at the building at the time of its completion.

Figure 5: The severe concrete aesthetic of the Wedmuller Centre in the 1970s (left). The modernist “icon” described by Heinrich Wolff, a photograph of Uytenbogaardt in the dark suit on the right at the building at the time of its completion.

Source: RSU Collection BC1264.

25The centre stands as a sort of awkward anti-monument to high modernist design, its commercial success hampered by perceptions of its position on the “wrong side” of what developers term the “San Andreas fault” of the Main Road.

  • 65 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit.(...)

In Claremont you had the most extraordinary contradiction: you had world-class buildings such as the Vineyard Hotel and the Norwich Oval—internationally acclaimed as one of the finest office developments in South Africa. You had the Swiss Re building, Norwich on Main, and Cavendish Square was undergoing this huge makeover. But then there’s this unbelievable “thing” called Claremont Main Road—Claremont’s equivalent to the San Andreas Fault—and, as a result, on the one side of the road you have success and happiness and on the other it’s an economic disaster.65

  • 66 Documents prepared by Justin Snell for DHK Architects, 2008.
  • 67 Interview with Justin Snell, 18 June 2009.

26Although the protests by the architectural community have been relatively marginal, they do seem to have complicated its planned destruction and contributed to the developers coming up with proposals for its partial retention and for the inclusion of some form of memorial space to its creator.66 Shelved as a project during the 2008-2011 economic downturn that almost paralyzed the local property market, interest in developing the site has been renewed in 2013.67 This temporary stay of its demolition may well have signaled some hope for its future. With the passage of time, other key works of Uytenbogaardt’s from the period have been desecrated. The sports centres at both the universities of Cape Town and the Western Cape have either already undergone or will undergo massive alterations. At UCT, the characteristic black slate cladding of the centre has been removed, and the concrete painted with a grey coloured “Earthcote” product, significantly altering the raw concrete conceptualisation of the building. UWC has approved a plan to radically overwrite the sports centre by architect Jo Noero, which will leave the building’s initial form and design residual. The award winning Steinkopf Centre in the Northern Cape is in a state of ruin and the Bonwit Factory in Salt River, although retained, has been adapted beyond recognition. So Werdmuller, conspicuous for its modernist architectural qualities, but perhaps more for its derelict, neglected state, in the row of mainly modern buildings along the Main Road, continues to signal its troubled history of existence and the unrealized plans of its surroundings, described as a “disaster zone” (fig. 6).

  • 68 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit.(...)

The disaster zone is, however, home to the heartbeat of Claremont’s economy—the railway station, taxi ranks and bus depots that bring thousands of workers, shoppers and informal traders into the area every day. But urban creep has resulted in crime and grime of note.
Chris continued: The bus station is non-existent, the taxi rank is terrible, the station is unsafe and then there’s the Werdmuller Centre [a concrete structure built in 1973 and which never took off as a commercial centre]—you can’t have that level of contradiction in an urban area that is meant to be first-class.
68

Figure 6: Planned elevated highway 1969.

Figure 6: Planned elevated highway 1969.

When Uytenbogaardt started working on the commission for the Werdmuller Centre, the “San Andreas Fault” of Main Road was to have been solved by plans for a bypass road that were part of the ambitious urban imaginary apartheid. Source undated feasibility study LHC 2.

Source: RSU Collection BC1264.

  • 69 Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op. cit. (note 24 (...)
  • 70 Oral History Interview, Jack Diamond, Bloemfontein, August 1999.
  • 71 John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27) and Jack Daimond, Interviews, 1999 op. cit. (note 7 (...)

27What the process around the failure of Werdmuller did was ruin Uytenbogaardt’s commercial architectural career, as his prospects of securing another wealthy client were clouded by the problems encountered at Werdmuller and at the UCT Sports Centre, attributed in both cases to their “inhumane” design.69 Instead Uytenbogaardt withdrew into the space of the academy and concentrated his efforts towards building the urban design programme at UCT and UPRU. The early promise described by peers of Uytenbogaardt’s career as an architect was not to be, and the damage caused to his name in the public mind has never yet been repaired.70 This manifested itself as tragic dimension to his life, and limited the number of achitectural commissions he was to receive after the Werdmuller project. As a result, the Werdmuller Centre is an important remnant of the “promise” for his career, described by colleagues like Jack Diamond refer to when speaking about the qualities of the man after he left the USA.71

Modernist architecture and post-apartheid heritage

  • 72 Ashley Lillie and Andre van Graan, Draft For Comment by Interested And Affected Parties Impact Asse (...)
  • 73 National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA): South Africa, November 1999.
  • 74 Anna Edwards, “‘Soulless’ tower block designed by architect Goldfinger is given listed status despi (...)

28As it stands, rundown, in disrepair and neglected, even the recent occupation by a range of marginal activities (few of which were commercial), the Werdmuller has since 2012 been hoarded up and emptied of its last tenants. It seems likely that the building might disappear from Claremont without a trace. A public meeting on site, on November 27, 2013, for “registered interested and affected parties” constituted a renewed effort in application for demolition.72 Technically it is not over sixty years old, as is the requirement for heritage status as outlined in the National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 (NHRA). Therefore, it was initially not regarded as heritage by the relevant planning authorities, despite calls from architects about its heritage significance as a key example of modernist architecture.73 In other contexts, such as in the United Kingdom, buildings can be listed after thirty years, and there have been successful lobbies to save some of the “worst examples of post-war development” as examples of modernist design such as Ernö Goldfinger's Metro Central Heights housing complex.74

  • 75 Peter De Tolly, Henry Aikman, Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft Heri (...)
  • 76 Two Facebook Groups were created: “Save the Werdmuller” and “Keep the Werdmuller,” and a Blog entit (...)
  • 77 Imagining Werdmuller’ Exhibition of student work by the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomat (...)
  • 78 See, for example, some of the interchanges on the Facebook Group.
  • 79 Interview with John Moyle, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

29The Cape Town campaigns were mounted following the presentation of the draft Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) at the Cape Institute for Architecture (CIFA), called for by Heritage Western Cape (HWC) which identified “architects” as an affected “community”.75 Following this meeting, in which sentiments ran high about the ways in which the owners of the building had consistently misunderstood its unique qualities, groups were formed on social networking sites such as Facebook and through blogs. Photographs and comments about the building were posted, presenting arguments for its retention and its potential “adaptive reuse”.76 The campaign, although relatively short-lived, was largely supported by individual architects rather than public interest. The concerns for the retention of Werdmuller were framed rather narrowly around its architectural design significance and its misinterpretation by the public. The news spread amongst spatial practitioners, and architects and urban practitioners, both young and old, posted information. A second Institute meeting was held at the CIFA along with a debate and an exhibition of student work from a studio design project entitled “Imagining Werdmuller”77 (fig. 7). However, the issue of Werdmuller’s future still did not make much public impact. Given the history of major public sentiment against the building, it would in all likelihood have been quashed, in any case. The negative response still lingers in the public mind.78 It centers on the presence of brutalist modern architecture, the focus of public loathing of the building in Cape Town. Arguing that the city “was not ready” for this “forward thinking” approach, architects express the significance of the building as demonstrating an exemplary manifestation of Corbusian modernism in Cape Town. However, this is only one reading of the design influences, the most visible but perhaps also the most superficial. Researching the processes that informed Uytenbogaardt and his team reveals that many of the components of the idea behind the “urban street” were primarily drawn from his experiences at Penn University under another architectural master, Louis Kahn, whose methods underpinned the Corbusian formalism in an eclectic manner.79 So while the building certainly reflects an outwardly Corbusian formal influence, it is less easily defined as Corbusian in process. This is a key factor that the architects missed in their submissions and debates, and raises the question of whether the Corbusian influence on Uytenbogaardt was as pure as many claim.

Figure 7: Poster graphic (left) created for the student exhibition, UCT Pamphlet 2008 and (right) poster created by Gaelen Pinnock for the campaign to save the Werdmuller Centre.

Figure 7: Poster graphic (left) created for the student exhibition, UCT Pamphlet 2008 and (right) poster created by Gaelen Pinnock for the campaign to save the Werdmuller Centre.

Source: Courtesy Ilze Wolff 2008.

  • 80 Derek Japha, “The heritage of modernism in South Africa,” in Ron van Oers and Sachiko Haraguchi, UN (...)
  • 81 Roger Fisher, Hannah Le Roux, Noëleen Murray and Paul Sanders, “The modern movement architecture of (...)
  • 82 In recent years too, other buildings of Uytenbogaart’s have been altered and adapted for new use. O (...)

30What is at stake is more than a matter of saving a building—or even determining whether it is a demonstration of Le Corbusier’s famous “Five Points of Architecture”. Actually, the issue is the question of legacy. In many ways, in recent cases across South Africa, modernist buildings dating back to the 1930s have come under threat from developers. Their presence in the contemporary landscape of South Africa has mostly been celebrated by architects who espouse the values of high modernism and tend to ignore the complex contexts in which this modernism was produced. The general public has demonstrated little interest in retaining these buildings, because people tend to be ambivalent about both the aesthetic merits of these buildings and their heritage value, in a country where older colonial buildings tend to be the ones formally recognised as being heritage worthy.80 Modern architecture or more precisely architecture designed during the modernist phase of the early twentieth century in South Africa has increasingly become a new category to be considered as heritage.81 The simple transition presented by the passage of time from the classification of modernist architecture to heritage architecture, is however not an easy one to argue. Modernist architecture and planning in South Africa are deeply embedded in the apartheid project and their legacies require problematising. Celebrating modernist architecture as heritage is difficult in this context and it requires critical engagement beyond the buildings’ spatial, formal, and aesthetic significances as works of architecture. The legacies of individual architects’ work are therefore not quite as easily managed as heritage practitioners might like.82

  • 83 Roger Fisher, Hannah Le Roux, Noëleen Murray and Paul Sanders, “The modern movement architecture of (...)
  • 84 Ron van Oers and Sachiko Haraguchi, UNESCO World Heritage Papers 5, op. cit. (note 80).

31Over the last decade or so, international heritage groupings such as the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement (DOCOMOMO) have begun to address the incorporation of modernist architecture into a new category of heritage significance.83 Most of the initiatives aimed at the preservation and protection of modern architecture have been motivated by rationales related to their modernist design, as a way of according them a place in national listings of heritage buildings.84 These groups view modern architecture as historical and representative of a particular period of building. Restoration and adaptive reuse projects have been encouraged as a means of conserving these buildings. To a very large extent these preservation projects have been successful in the economically buoyant centres of Western Europe and North America, where private benefactors have contributed to their restoration. Much like modern art, these buildings have been celebrated for their avant garde qualities and their adherence to the heroic aspects of the project of modernism. While modern architecture has certainly taken its place alongside other older forms of architecture as a new form of heritage concern, the problematising of modern architecture’s modernities has hardly been considered in any systematic manner by architects.

  • 85 Lindsay Bremner, “Re-imagining Architecture for Democracy,” The Digest of South African Architectur (...)
  • 86 Neil Fraser, “Kopanong,” 2005. URL: http://architectafrica.com/bin0/KopanongIndex.html. Accessed 15 (...)
  • 87 At the centre of this debate too, is the question of the place of the architectural “idea”.

32In a similar contestation over the retention of key modernist buildings in Johannesburg, where the reconceptualisation of urban space in the city centre for the creation of the Kopanong Gauteng Provincial Government Precinct raised issues around modern and art deco architecture from the early 20th century. The arguments presented by its architect Fanuel Motsepe for redevelopment and demolition contained an idea of redress in the colonial city, asserting the insertion of what Motsepe claimed were more African (specifically Tswana) space making principles.85 In reaction the groups formed to oppose the development in Johannesburg argued for the architectural qualities of the ten buildings under question as key examples of their period.86 In Cape Town the case for saving the Werdmuller centred on the architectural significance of the building as a key example of an esteemed practitioner’s body of work. These two instances of debate, involving the presence of modern architecture in the post-apartheid city in South Africa, point to many useful comparisons with regard to the processes whereby these debates took place. In both cases, ethnicised notions of space making were invoked as motivations for the development. In Johannesburg, case it was Tswana architecture and space making that was put forward; in Cape Town, the case was made around the democratic souk-like quality of the space as an argument for the retention of the building. These ideas, of Africanness and the “souk” as precedent, deployed a culturally inspired argument for each project.87 In each case ethnicised motivations were aimed at arguing for relevance in the postcolonial, post-apartheid present, mobilised in some way in opposition (although obliquely) to the European-influenced colonial forms commonly used by architects previously.

  • 88 Ciraj Rassool (Chairperson), Report of the Commission of Inquiry for SAHRA, Johannesburg: SAHRA Arc (...)

33Likewise, in both cases, these arguments were used despite radically different spatial manifestations. At the Werdmuller, the Corbusian brutalist modernism dominates the idea of the souk, stylistically obliterating the idea from all but those in the know. In the Johannesburg case, the stylistic language of the architecture is even more baffling, given the claims to Africanness. Postmodernist forms drawn from the classical forms of ancient Rome and Greece are scattered over the space in what appears to be a random manner.88 The slippage between the arguments which have been used in these recent cases and their material imaginaries seems to highlight the confusion around the relationship between language and spatial form. This points, perhaps, to the troubled nature and limits of debate about spatial identity in the spatial disciplines in the post-apartheid city, where new ideas are used to rationalise old forms.

Architects’ architecture versus democratic architecture

  • 89 Interview with Andrew Berman, 22 June 2009. Noëleen Murray, Architectural Modernism and Apartheid M (...)
  • 90 Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op. cit. (note 24 (...)

34Many of the motivations presented in defense of the Werdmuller Center have alluded to the spatial, formal and stylistic importance of the building’s design as an example of architectural excellence. Most of the contributions also acknowledge the building’s functional shortcomings. As such, the question of Werdmuller Centre’s future has presented a conundrum for both heritage practice and development. In an interview Andrew Berman, an architect and urban designer and one of the heritage consultants who worked on the HIA for the project, suggested that at the centre of the criteria for assessing the building’s significance lies the claim that an argument can be made for “architects” architecture. He points out that “you can have a musicians’ musician, a painters’ painter, but you can’t really have an architects’ architect because of the functional aspects that architecture demands, even as an art form”.89 The conundrum presented by the building can be seen as a form of epistemic rupture in the confident discourses present in the spatial design disciplines, around modern architecture’s ability to rationalise its future. The case of the Werdmuller Centre brings this into sharp focus as an architect’s legacy is mobilized to justify one of his most problematic creations.90

  • 91 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman and Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft H (...)

35The official process instituted to evaluate the significance of the buildings began in October 2007. Peter De Tolly, the retired City of Cape Town Planner in Chief, now a consultant, was appointed to conduct a Heritage Impact Assessment of the controversial Werdmuller Centre. De Tolly, along with heritage practitioner colleagues architect Henry Aikman and urban designer Andrew Berman, were commissioned by the owners of the building, insurance giants Old Mutual Properties Division; in response to a Record of Decisions (ROD) from the provincial heritage authorities with delegated authority from the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), Heritage Western Cape’s (HWC) Built Environment Committee (BELCOM).91

  • 92 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit.(...)
  • 93 Ibid.

36The process was initiated following claims that the Werdmuller Centre would be demolished in an article published in The Property Magazine in February 2007, confidently entitled Claremont Comeback.92 The glossy commercial publication showcases new developments in the property market across South Africa. The article described the formation of the Claremont City Improvement District (CID) and lamented the degeneration of Claremont from the 1970s onwards. It especially bemoaned the fact that in the 1990s, “Businesses moved out and stores closed their doors. Informal traders set up stands.93

37Quoting Chris Drummond, then co-owner and Director of New Property Ventures, the developers of the nearby massive scale complex Stadium on Main, the Property Magazine reporter referred to the construction of a new “Claremont Boulevard, a R46m partnership between the CIDC and the City of Cape Town”:

  • 94 Ibid.

What the project will do is take the traffic congestion in Main Road and shift it to the Boulevard, thus reconnecting the economic zones that lie on either side of Main Road, explains Drummond. Traffic will still be allowed on Main Road, but we’re going to make it a pain in the neck for anyone to drive through, as it will become a pedestrian prevalent environment. And that’s why residential development has happened along Main Road—in anticipation of this new environment. That’s also why Werdmuller Centre will be demolished within the next few months and redeveloped on a massive scale.94

38In the aftermath of these initiatives, a public meeting was held at the Cape Institute for Architecture in December 2007, along with another subsequent meeting and exhibition of student projects. Comments recorded from these meetings were incorporated into the HIA report. The architects appointed by Old Mutual Properties, the large commercial firm Derek Henstra Architects and Urban Designers (DHK), then modified their development proposals around the notion of a feasibility study and the idea of a partial retention of the building. The architect working for DHK who undertook the work was Justin Snell, a student of Uytenbogaardt’s, who developed an argument for development that retained a memory” of Uytenbogaardt’s building, incorporating parts of the building with a memorial and archive space and a proposed museum paying homage to the architect. This was an imaginative scheme that sought to reach a compromise between the architects’ calls for the preservation of the building and the client’s desires to realise the property’s development potential. Read against the schemes prepared by the students from UCT, this plan showed a far more sophisticated approach towards reconciling the difficulties presented (fig. 7). However, ultimately the problems of the commercial viability of the development have outweighed the heritage viability of the scheme that Snell developed, and at the present time the project has been shelved.

39The meeting at the Cape Institute for Architecture where the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) was presented was attended by over fifty architects and other spatial practitioners. Afterwards, a number of concerned architects posted motivations for the retention of the building online, on blogs and social networking pages. While some were more ambivalent than others, and a few even questioned the future viability of the building, for the most part people who took the time to sign petitions and comment (many at length) were supporters of the building.95 Most of the content of the comments conceded that the building had failed to fulfill its brief and many blamed the owners for this, citing their misunderstanding of the visionary architectural approach. Corbusian modernism was celebrated (ignoring its Kahnian underpinnings). Many separated concerns about the building’s functional performance from its spatial and aesthetic merits. Some argued that the significance was inextricably linked to Uytenbogaardt’s preeminent standing in the profession, arguing that considerations of the building’s failures should be set aside. Only one submission, by Fabio Todeschini, dealt with the negative public sentiment. Options for adaptive reuse were suggested and other international examples cited.96 Photographs were posted, in elegant sepia tones, which selectively highlighted the spatial qualities of the “mastery of building’s platonic forms.97 Some glossy design magazines, such as Elle Decoration and One Small Seed, used these images, taking up the cause in what seemed to be an attempt to glamorize Werdmuller and make it fashionable.98

40One comment, posted by Cape Town-based architect Heinrich Wolff, epitomised the passionate engagement around the building’s proposed impending destruction. The quote below, written in the superlative, contains grand claims and even some mistakes:

The Werdmuller Centre is highly valued by a community of people. From the petitions, letters, emails, websites, Facebook entries etc, it is clear that there is a growing group of people from all social backgrounds and all ages that are deeply concerned about the future of the Werdmuller. Many leading architects in the profession have joined the call that the building should not be destroyed and that it should be put to a better purpose. Giovanni Vio, a Venetian, with no relation to the architect, published a book on the work of Roelof Uytenbogaardt and featured the Werdmuller extensively. One can only assume that the book will increase the community of people interested in this remarkable building.
It should be considered that all letters, petitions, emails and Facebook entries were gathered in one week. Imagine if we had a month….
Most of the petitions were signed in person by people who had to drive across town to sign it. One of the signatories who spent a lot of his childhood at the building has said that it inspired him to become an architect.
All over South Africa and internationally there is support for the protection of the Werdmuller.
99

41Heinrich Wolff’s claim to extensive national and international support is somewhat misleading, given the relatively few people who contributed to the Facebook sites and the blog. In general the responses were more varied: some were articulate, some overly enthusiastic like Heinrich Wolff’s, others were awkward and more ambivalent.100 Many contained a personal tone, citing close relationships with Uytenbogaardt and a reverence for his status as a “master”.101 Uytenbogaardt’s student and admirer, urban designer Martin Kruger, stated at the Institute meeting: “The building is a modernist architectural masterpiece of an acknowledged master”.102 In a similar vein, long-time Uytenbogaardt collaborators David Dewar and Piet Louw (who worked for Uytenbogaardt in his office on the Werdmuller Centre), wrote: “Uytenbogaardt, generally, is recognised as a master of South African architecture and the Werdmuller Centre is an important part of his portfolio of buildings”.103

  • 104 Arguments for this are contained in the posts, writings and submissions of David Dewar and Piet Lou (...)

42For the most part, these arguments represented well-rehearsed ideas that have long circulated in architectural circles. The difference now was that these ideas were formulated into written responses to the HIA. For the first time, it is possible to critically evaluate these comments, and explore their motivations, intentions, and positions. Amidst the general tone of reflection and nostalgia there is one underlying claim that many of the authors of the various submissions have made repeatedly. These can be seen in blog posts, papers, and from points in notes recording meetings. This is the claim to a form of social programme of inclusive and enlightened democratic architecture.104

43Writing in the blog space Giovanni Vio suggested:

In the Werdmuller Centre we have a manifesto of the democratic city, perhaps expressed under the light of a desperate confrontation with an incontestable devolution.105

44Dewar and Louw wrote:

  • 106 David Dewar and Piet Louw, email received for Merry Dewar for Davy and Piet, December 19, 2007. URL (...)

We believe that it is [heritage worthy]. Uytenbogaardt was one of the few architects of the 1970’s who were consciously seeking to combat the exclusionary policies of apartheid, which sought to remove people of colour from places of economic opportunity. A central idea behind the Werdmuller Centre was to create a “souk” for micro-businesses between the generator of the station and the Main Road. The building was explicitly challenging the exclusionary American model of “big box” shopping centres such as Cavendish Square.106

45Ilze Wolff:

Programmatically, the idea was to designate one extended space that would accommodate a large market or souk, as opposed to a building with many individual shops. The subtext to this idea was to offer trade opportunities to non-white traders who at the time were not allowed to trade freely in the city. In turn the proposed shopping model would then also aid in combating the rising unemployment rates by stimulating a micro economy.
In addition to the building’s strong social agenda, it also exuded a rare confidence in the art of architecture and expressive form making.
107

46Donald Parenzee:

  • 108 Donald Parenzee, Notes prepared for talk delivered at the Second CIFA meeting, kindly given to me b (...)

I interpreted this an as anti-apartheid intervention in that the building moulded its site as a part of the many movement paths in the city of Cape Town, through which people, as commuters, had traditionally/over many years/historically moved from the outlying areas into the developed centres and back.108

  • 109 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 31-33; Dewar, 2006, (...)
  • 110 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 31-33.

47The intentions behind making these arguments in the present context seem clear. Architects have genuinely sought ways to find a contemporary relevance behind the design intentions and have motivated to save a building for which they have affection. While these positions are based on interpretations of ideas about the design that have circulated since its conception and beyond, their mobilization at this juncture is a useful formulation for analysis. The points made refer to the philosophic basis of Uytenbogaardt’s approach to architectural and urban design, articulated in later publications and writings with David Dewar, in particular.109 Citing key tenets of this philosophy, the defenders of the Werdmuller’s design argued that it represents his Humanist approach. Universal ideas of inter alia the “public realm”, the importance of “idea” and “programme,” and the “timelessness” of architecture are brought to bear on the significance of the building.110

48What is missing, however, is an interrogation of how these ideas might have significance when this “public realm” appears to have been rejected by publics who use the building; when the social programme has failed to have been realized, or when the idea of the building is inaccessible to the lay visitor. Vio, for instance, discounts the building’s failure, writing that:

  • 111 Giovanni Vio, “The Modern Heritage of Roelof Uytenbogaardt,” op. cit. (note 105).

The “timeless” in Roelof’s architecture has nothing to do with the success of a building. Rather it is a concept that deals with the understanding of human needs, in an ethical way and with enriching the idea of space with the spirit of the context.111

  • 112 Ibid.

49His suggestion that the approach that Uytenbogaardt used is perhaps more important than the actual performance of the building is interesting. For a start, this implies that intentions in and of themselves are significant. It implies that the very act of experimenting with the notion of a shopping centre is enough to make the building significant.112

  • 113 Donald Parenzee, Notes, op. cit. (note 108).
  • 114 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman and Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft H (...)

50At this juncture, however, some of the arguments seem removed from the post-apartheid present. They deploy notions of “the public realm” in utopian ways. While well intended at the time in the 1970s, the deployments of these arguments as “democratic” now seems overly literal, especially when analyzing a building built at the height of apartheid’s segregationist policies and implemented by a commercial developer such as Old Mutual. In fact a counter argument might suggest that through deploying these ideas, perhaps Uytenbogaardt’s scheme was flawed through this very idealism, from the start. If the intention of the building was really an attempt at a resistive form of architecture, this could be argued in relation to Uytenbogaardt’s notions of “timelessness” and humanism rather than any articulated ideological position. Parenzee speculates about this: “But I can’t say for sure whether Roelof thought about it in these political terms. The sense I had was his concern for the public spaces being created by the intervention of the building, of people moving through the body of the building”.113 The question remains unanswered as to whether these were Uytenbogaardt’s ideas or those of his peers. In some way Dewar and Louw and Ilze Wolff’s points might be seen as a form of post-rationalization. Another more nuanced reading might, I suggest, see this as a form of misplaced confidence in the abilities of architecture and spatial design to solve social inequities. It might be that through the utopian and idealistic overlaying of social concepts onto an ambitious spatial project, it might also more simply be seen as a misdirected attempt at using client’s money to fulfill spatial desires, as some detractors have suggested.114 Rather than concentrating on the architecture as an artistic and formal rendering in space, presenting a more considered and less defensive set of arguments might have had the effect of contextualising the building in the present time and enabling a more open discussion about its significance and possible futures.

  • 115 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 71.

51That many of these above cited arguments in favour of keeping the Werdmuller Center appear flawed points perhaps to the ways in which the complex’s continued presence troubles the surface of the post-apartheid city. Perhaps the ultimate test is that of the publics whose voices are largely absent from this debate, despite Heinrich Wolff’s claims of a wide and diverse set of interested people above. Is this democracy evident in the building? How did these ideas take shape? Would they have been clearer had it been managed differently? On a philosophic level, is democracy designable? Possible answers to these questions lie in the faultlines of the arguments presented and against the clearly massive problems of the material presence of an unsafe and empty “wreck”.115

Conclusion

  • 116 John Moyle Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

52So, why make this argument? It seems to be used, on the one hand, as way of making sense of the history of the building, as well as Uytenbogaardt’s philosophies. On the other, it is also clearly a form of post-rationalising in the post-apartheid context. When asked about the term “democratic architecture which has been applied to the building, Moyle suggested that perhaps the “term democratic related to the imagined paths through the building from the station to the Main Road”, this seems to be the most simple and logical explanation. He added however, as an aside, that although there was a large design team working on the project that “Roelof designed the whole thing. The concept was always Roelof’s—this was not democratic”.116 Eventually mothballed in May 2012, the building awaits the conclusion of a protracted process of heritage assessment (fig. 8).

Figure 8: Signage showing the perimeter of the Werdmuller Centre boarded up since May 2013 (left), Behind the hoarding on the day of the public meeting 27 November 2013 (middle). Informal traders continue to do business despite the hoarding (right).

Figure 8: Signage showing the perimeter of the Werdmuller Centre boarded up since May 2013 (left), Behind the hoarding on the day of the public meeting 27 November 2013 (middle). Informal traders continue to do business despite the hoarding (right).

Source: Noëleen Murray.

53At Werdmuller, the assumption that Uytenbogaardt was commissioned to design for elite, white shoppers seems reasonable, as the integrated mix of traders had been removed. Instead what happened is that he designed for what he envisaged as a broader shopping public, a romantic move in apartheid South Africa at the time. Uytenbogaardt’s intentions also appear clear. His approach was an idealistic one, aimed at a type of critique of the formal internalized box nature of shopping in Cape Town at the time, as well as an attempt to change the formal nature of the internalised, anti-urban shopping mall typology popular at the time. Ultimately, however, in the present, the debates around Werdmuller point to the need to think about the space of the postcolony, and the conundrums that the Werdmuller’s continued presence in the landscape of Claremont presents. When viewed together, Uytenbogaardt’s intentions and the rationalisations mobilised arguing for the building’s retention, serve to complicate the debate. Architectural modernism and post-apartheid modernity seem to be inextricably at odds with each other, where the modern architecture is fascinating at a conceptual level, yet this is ultimately an unlivable space. The architectural nostalgia for the building appears residual and often outweighed by the views that the building is a terrible travesty. In conceptual terms, then, the Werdmuller presents itself as having a troubled heritage, more than being just another example of failed modernism.

  • 117 Comment from Interview with Ilze Wolff on 567 Cape Talk, Radio station Cape Town: 26 November 2013.

54Over the years of this research I have been asked many times by architects, heritage practitioners, academics, and friends for my views on the building’s future and its viability if retained as an example of modernist architectural heritage. This paper has been written, in part, as a way of formulating a series of thoughts outside of those circulating around the building’s possible future. In order to do this in the argument, I have insisted on placing the building back in its apartheid past. This is, in part, a response to the notions of timelessness that have been mobilized in the building’s defense, but also in an attempt to understand the polarised sets of responses that the building evokes from architects on the one hand and Cape Town’s many different publics on the other. The building’s changing relationship to disciplinary self-representations and to memories of the experience of apartheid are perhaps only emerging in the 2013 renewal of debates. Here, as architect Sandra van der Merwe articulated at the meeting on 27 November, the question of commercial viability and the position of informal traders has yet to be addressed by the developers who, as Ilze Wolff noted, often reimagine development “carelessly (fig. 9).117

Figure 9: The public meeting held at the Werdmuller Centre on 27 November 2013.

Figure 9: The public meeting held at the Werdmuller Centre on 27 November 2013.

Graffiti “WE WILL MISS YOU” on the interior (left), and CHAND Specialist Environmental and Sustainability Consultants facilitator Sadia Chand directs questions from the floor to heritage practitioner Ashley Lillie and Mike Nixon from New Property Ventures (right).

Source: Andrew Berman.

55In a meeting of the South African Working Party for Docomomo at the Cape Institute for Architecture on 2 December 2013, and subsequently at a members’ meeting on 4 December 2013, this was echoed as members gathered to collate a response to the current proposed demolition. So, after a period of silence the debate over the Werdmuller’s future is once again taking shape as its histories profoundly trouble the building’s easy passage into the category of heritage in the post-apartheid present. Yet, while there is renewed optimism, as Sandre van der Merwe tweeted after the meeting on 4 December #Werdmuller “meeting at Cifa had surprising outcome ~ the kind I thought was naive to hope for! *faith in our kind restored*, the graffiti on the inside wall of the building proclaims more pessimistically “WE WILL MISS YOU”.

Haut de page

Notes

1 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza temp/Timeless, Padua: Il Poligrafo, 2006, p. 7.

2 There is an extensive collection of newspaper articles from the 1970s onwards documenting the public reception of the building contained in the Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt (RSU) Collection, BC1264, Architectural Collections, Department of Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town Libraries.

3 James. C. Scott, Seeing Like a State. How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven, CO: Yale University Press, 1998.

4 Noëleen Murray, Architectural Modernism and Apartheid Modernity in South Africa: A Critical Inquiry into the Work of Architect and Urban Designer Roelof Uytenbogaardt, 1960-2009, Ph.D., Faculty of Humanities, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, 2010.

5 For a discussion of this, see: Nick Shepherd and Noëleen Murray, “Introduction: Space, memory and identity in the post-apartheid city,” in Noëleen Murray, Nick Shepherd and Martin Hall (eds.), Desire Lines, Space, Memory and Identity in the Post-apartheid City, London: Routledge, 2007 (Architext series), p. 1-18.

6 Jean Nuttall, “Roelof Uytenbogaardt,” KZ-NIA journal: journal of the KwaZulu Institute for Architecture, 1996, p. 15.

7 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, February 2007.

8 The term coined for the UIA 2014 Durban Conference theme, see: URL: http://www.uia2014durban.org/about_the_event/architecture_otherwhere.htm. Accessed 18 November, 2013.

9 For a review of this, see: Leslie Witz and Ciraj Rassool, “Making histories,” Kronos, vol. 34, no. 1, November 2008, p. 6-15; Nick Shepherd and Noëleen Murray, “Introduction: Space, memory and identity in the post-apartheid city,” op. cit. (note 5), p. 12-14.

10 Leslie Witz and Ciraj Rasool, “Making histories,” op. cit. (note 9).

11 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman and Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft Heritage Statement, Prepared in compliance with Section 38 of the National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA), December 2007; Ashley Lillie and André van Graan, Draft For Comment By Interested And Affected Parties Impact Assessment Report Addressed To Heritage Western Cape (to meet the requirements of sections 38(3) & (4) of the National Heritage Resources Act) Regarding a proposed development Werdmuller Centre, Erf 54472, Cape Town: Prepared for New Property Ventures, 11 November 2013.

12 The extent of the collection is detailed in Index Guide to Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt Collection, BC1264, Architectural Collections, Department of Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town Libraries, 2000. There is some evidence of assessments in the Old Mutual archives in Ashley Lillie and André van Graan, Draft For Comment By Interested And Affected Parties Impact Assessment Report, op. cit. (note 11), p. 27-29.

13 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 71.

14 This formulation of “tropes” is elaborated on Noëleen Murray and Nick Shepherd, “Introduction,” in Noëleen Murray, Nick Shepherd and Martin Hall (eds.), Desire Lines, Space, Memory and Identity in the Post-apartheid City, op. cit. (note 5), p. 2-8.

15 The international significance of Uytenbogaardt’s work is recognised in a letter dated 13 December 2013 from Ana Tostoes, Chair, Docomomo International, Barcelona. Citing the “remarkable Werdmuller Center” as a “major work of Modern Movement architecture”. Letter submitted as part of the public comment process to Ashley Lillie 13 December 2013 by the Docomomo_SA Chapter, Cape Town.

16 These are detailed in Index Guide to Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt Collection, BC1264, op. cit (note 12).

17 Fabio Todeschini, “Uytenbogaardt—a great South African architect-urbanist,” Obituary, The Monday Paper, vol. 17, no. 18, 22-29 June, 1998.

18 Philip Harrison, Alison Todes and Vanessa Watson, Planning and Transformation: Learning from the Post-Apartheid Experience, London: Routledge, 2008 (RTPI Library Series).

19 Barabara Southworth, City Squares in Cape Town's Townships—Public Space as an Instrument of Urban Transformation: The Origins, Objectives and Implementation of the City of Cape Town's Dignified Places Programme, Cape Town: unpublished paper, 2005, p. 9.

20 Linda Stafford, Architect of the Century: Roelof Uytenbogaardt pushed design beyond the ordinary-quality buildings for poor communities, Johannesburg: Financial Mail, 17 December 1999.

21 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1).

22 The exception to this is the work by Ilze Wolff, “Werdmuller Centre—an artefact of an ephemeral context,” South African Journal of Art History, vol. 24, no. 12, 2009, p. 75-86.

23 Other readings include: those in Chapters 3 (Welkom Church) and 4 (Belhar Housing) in Noëleen Murray, Architectural Modernism and Apartheid Modernity in South Africa: A critical inquiry into the work of architect and urban designer Roelof Uytenbogaardt, 1960-2009, op. cit. (note 4).

24 A number of articles and writing have appeared following this: Ilze Wolff and Heinrich Wolff, “Werdmuller Centre: the significance of failure,” Architecture South Africa, June-July, 2012, p. 30-33; Stephen Townsend, “The Werdmuller Building—can it be saved? Should it be saved?”, Architecture South Africa, May-June 2010, p. 4-5; Noëleen Murray, “City Structures Still Reflect the Social Divide”, Cape Times OpED, Friday 7 May 2010, p. 11; David Dewar, Roelof Sarel Uytenbogaardt: Urbanist, in Giovanni Vio (ed.), Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 42-47; and Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, Sacramento: unpublished article circulated via e-mail to me from Prof Paul Kotze, September 2008, p. 1.

25 For histories of forced removals see variously: Sean Field and Centre for Popular Memory (University of Cape Town) (ed.), Lost communities, living memories: Remembering forced removals in Cape Town, Cape Town: David Philip, 2001; Don Pinnock, Ideology and urban planning: Blue Prints of a garrison city, in James G. Wilmot, Mary Simons and Centre for African Studies (University of Cape Town) (eds.), The Angry Divide, Social and Economic History of the Western Cape, Cape Town: David Phillip, 1989, p. 150-168; Sandra Prosalendis and Ciraj Rassool (eds.), Recalling Community in Cape Town: Creating and Curating the District Six Museum, Cape Town: District Six Museum, 2001.

26 Old Mutual’s property portfolio in Claremont acquired in this time included the Werdmuller and Cavendish sites and Montebello in Newlands.

27 According to the Oral History Interview with John Moyle 29 July 2008: “Sites developed post forced removals at Werdmuller and Montebello were the most successful”. Montebello, designed by Revel Fox, was “one of his first jobs after Worcester”. He described the perceived risks involved by employing young architects which included Marius Reynolds and Paul Andrew amongst others.

28 For a discussion on oral history method see: Lynn Abrams, Oral History Theory, London; New York: Routledge, 2010; and Karin Barber, The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics: Oral and Written Culture in Africa and Beyond, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007 (New departures in anthropology, 5).

29 According to the Oral History Interview with John Moyle, 2008, op. cit. (note 27): up until the early 1970s the Old Mutual had relied on their “old boys club connections” when appointing architects and for the most part had used the services of the firm Meiring and Naude who had been “involved in the Old Mutual [building] in Pinelands along with Papendorf and Van der Merwe”. “Glennie [designed] the Old Mutual in the city, and employed Meiring and Nause (just back from Liverpool)—Hugo and Naude became the Mutual’s architects”.

30 Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt (RSU) Collection, BC1264, Architectural Collections, Department of Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town Libraries. Papers are in section H.

31 Interview John Moyle, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

32 Fabio Todeschini, The Proposed Demolition of the Werdmuller Centre: Some Further Information and Comment, 21 January, 2008. URL: http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/search?updated-min=2008-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2009-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=7. Accessed 14 January, 2014. John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

33 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman and Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft Heritage Statement, op. cit (note 11).

34 John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

35 Ibid.

36 John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27). Davies had previously worked in Zambia with other South African architects, Julian Elliot, Ron Kirby and others.

37 John Moyle, Interview with Noëleen Murray, 1999.

38 See CIFA Comments; David Dewar and Piet Louw, The Proposed Demolition of Werdmuller Centre, Claremont, December 12, 2007. URL: http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/2007_12_01_archive.html. Accessed 18 February, 2009.

39 John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid.

42 Jean Nuttall, Roelof Uytenbogaardt, op. cit. (note 6), p. 15: Roelof Uytenbogaardt, speaking about his design for the Werdmuller Centre in Claremont, interview with Jean Nuttall.

43 Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op. cit. (note 24), p. 1-2.

44 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman, Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft Heritage Statement, op. cit. (note 11), p. 14. Heinrich Wolff, David Dewar, Piet Louw, Julian Elliot, Anthony Kylie, Suzie Du Toit, Quniton Pop and Matthew Barac, “Save the Werdmuller: Letter of support for the Werdmuller campaign, submitted to the Cape Institute of Architects,” January 28, 2008. URL : http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/2008/01/save-werdmuller.html. Accessed 18 November, 2013.

45 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p.75.

46 Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op cit. (note 24), p. 1.

47 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p.75.

48 Laurie Wale, “Werdmuller Centre, Claremont, Cape,” Architect and Builder, May 1976, p. 3.

49 Planning and Building Developments, Sept-oct 1975, M7A UCT, RSU Collection BC1264.

50 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 75-76; Laurie Wale, “Werdmuller Centre, Claremont, Cape,” op. cit. (note 48), p. 2.

51 Uytenbogaardt retained many of these from the Cape Times and The Argus Newspapers, which are now part of the project files in the Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt (RSU) Collection, BC1264, Architectural Collections, Department of Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town Libraries.

52 Jean Nuttall, Roelof Uytenbogaardt, op. cit. (note 6), p. 14.

53 Ashley Lillie and Andre van Graan, Draft For Comment By Interested And Affected Parties Impact Assessment Report Addressed To Heritage Western Cape, op. cit. (note 11), p. 25-33.

54 James. C. Scott, Seeing Like a State. How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, op. cit. (note 3), p. 23.

55 Todeschini and Japha Architects, Conservation Study for Newlands, Claremont, Kenilworth and Wynberg, Report prepared for the City of Cape Town, 1994.

56 Sean Field and Centre for Popular Memory (University of Cape Town) (ed.), Lost communities, living memories: Remembering Forced Removals In Cape Town, op. cit. (note 25), p. 22.

57 “Roof-wetting at Claremont Complex,” Cape Times, 9 March 1972. (Newspaper clipping contained in The Uytenbogaardt Collection Files: H13 BC 1264, Manuscripts and Archives Architectural Collections, University of Cape).

58 There are many newspaper articles in The Uytenbogaardt Collection Files: H13 BC 1264 Roelof Uytenbogaardt Papers, from the period up to 1976 in which the building is constantly being described as innovative and forward looking, motivating for its presence. Collectively these can be read as an attempt to promote the building but ultimately the Old Mutual becomes the main tenant after failed attempts to attract other tenants.

59 Personal notes from public meeting as part of the HIA process 27 November 2013.

60 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit. (note 7), p. 3.

61 Unpublished research by Pia Bombardella and Martin Hall in 2000 details this extensively.

62 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit. (note 7), p. 3.

63 Newspaper collections contained in the Roelof Sarel Uytenbogaardt Collection, BC1264 Manuscripts and Archives Architectural Collections, University of Cape Town. See: Index Guide to Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt Collection, BC1264, op. cit (note 12).

64 The Centre is currently boarded up. Largely unoccupied at present, with the exception of long time tenants Paul Bothner Music and CAFDA Booksellers. The space gets used for a plethora of activities from evangelical Churches, Rape Crisis Meetings, while other original anchor tenants such as Wimpy have long vacated the Centre.

65 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit. (note 7), p. 3.

66 Documents prepared by Justin Snell for DHK Architects, 2008.

67 Interview with Justin Snell, 18 June 2009.

68 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit. (note 7), p. 3.

69 Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op. cit. (note 24), p. 6.

70 Oral History Interview, Jack Diamond, Bloemfontein, August 1999.

71 John Moyle, Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27) and Jack Daimond, Interviews, 1999 op. cit. (note 70). The notion of this “tragic dimension” is a reading of Uytenbogaardt’s professional career that is often mentioned in studio and other discussions about his life and work. Many colleagues and peers attest to this as a turning point in his life and speculate about a different path, had the building been more conventionally successful.

72 Ashley Lillie and Andre van Graan, Draft For Comment by Interested And Affected Parties Impact Assessment Report Addressed to Heritage Western Cape, op. cit. (note 11), p. 38.

73 National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA): South Africa, November 1999.

74 Anna Edwards, “‘Soulless’ tower block designed by architect Goldfinger is given listed status despite once being earmarked for demolition,” Mail Online, 10 July 2013. URL: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2359266/Ern-Goldfingers-ugly-London-tower-block-Metro-Central-Heights-given-listed-status.html. Accessed 1 December, 2013.

75 Peter De Tolly, Henry Aikman, Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft Heritage Statement, op. cit. (note 11), p. 2, cites: Peter de Tolly & Associates, Aikman Associates: Heritage Management, and Urban Design Services cc: Heritage Management, were appointed by DHK Architects, Old Mutual’s agents to submit a Notification of Intent to Develop (NID) and to undertake the preparation of the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA). The latter is a requirement of the HWC’s Record Of Decision (ROD) sent to Aikman Associates in a letter dated 21 September 2007).

76 Two Facebook Groups were created: “Save the Werdmuller” and “Keep the Werdmuller,” and a Blog entitled: “The Werdmuller Centre” at URL: http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.com/2008/01/werdmuller-centre-main-road-claremont.html. Accessed 22 June, 2009; URL: http://www.gaelen.co.za/werdmuller/. Accessed 22 June, 2009; URL: www.flickr.com/photos/jezze/sets/72157603363856643/comments/. Accessed 23 April, 2009; URL: http://elledeco.blogspot.fr/2007/11/save-werdmuller.html. Accessed 12 May, 1999; URL: www.efrcdesign.com/crit/Crit%2010.pdf. Accessed 18 June, 2009.

77 Imagining Werdmuller’ Exhibition of student work by the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, Opened Monday 19 May 2008, 17:30, with a Panel Discussion 18:00-19:00, at the Cape Institute for Architecture (CIFA), Hout Street Cape Town, Notes from meeting, Noëleen Murray.

78 See, for example, some of the interchanges on the Facebook Group.

79 Interview with John Moyle, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

80 Derek Japha, “The heritage of modernism in South Africa,” in Ron van Oers and Sachiko Haraguchi, UNESCO World Heritage Papers 5, Identification and Documentation of Modern Heritage: UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2003, p. 100.

81 Roger Fisher, Hannah Le Roux, Noëleen Murray and Paul Sanders, “The modern movement architecture of four South African cities,” Docomomo Journal, no. 28, March 2003, p. 68–76.

82 In recent years too, other buildings of Uytenbogaart’s have been altered and adapted for new use. One example is the Bonwit factory in Salt River which has been converted from a factory space into luxury loft living spaces. This followed the general gentrification that has been happening throughout Cape Town’s suburbs of Woodstock and Salt River, as part of its city supported urban renewal programme. Given a full facelift, which saw the raw concrete exterior being painted and stories added onto the roof, the building has taken its place alongside other adaptive reuse projects in the area, such as the Queens Park factory loft conversion and the highly successful Pyotts Factory conversion into the Old Biscuit Mill shopping complex and the Palms interior design complex.

83 Roger Fisher, Hannah Le Roux, Noëleen Murray and Paul Sanders, “The modern movement architecture of four South African cities,” op. cit. (note 81), p. 69; Ilze Wolff, Werdmuller Centre, Minimum Documentation Fiche 2003, composed by national/regional working party of South Africa: Cape Town, February 2011, p. 1-14

84 Ron van Oers and Sachiko Haraguchi, UNESCO World Heritage Papers 5, op. cit. (note 80).

85 Lindsay Bremner, “Re-imagining Architecture for Democracy,” The Digest of South African Architecture, 2004-2005, p. 98–99.

86 Neil Fraser, “Kopanong,” 2005. URL: http://architectafrica.com/bin0/KopanongIndex.html. Accessed 15 January, 2014.

87 At the centre of this debate too, is the question of the place of the architectural “idea”.

88 Ciraj Rassool (Chairperson), Report of the Commission of Inquiry for SAHRA, Johannesburg: SAHRA Archives, 2006.

89 Interview with Andrew Berman, 22 June 2009. Noëleen Murray, Architectural Modernism and Apartheid Modernity in South Africa: A critical inquiry into the work of architect and urban designer Roelof Uytenbogaardt, 1960-2009, op. cit. (note 4), p. 125-126.

90 Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op. cit. (note 24), p. 3. See also: Julian Elliot, “The Werdmuller Centre: Seeking the Souk,” January 16, 2008. URL: http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.com/2008/01/werdmuller-centre-seeking-souk.html. Accessed 30 January, 2009.

91 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman and Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft Heritage Statement, op. cit. (note 11), p. 2.

92 Carola Koblitz with photographs by Andy Lund, “Claremont Comeback,” The Property Magazine, op. cit. (note 7).

93 Ibid.

94 Ibid.

95 CIFA Meeting notes, op. cit. (note 77).

96 Opinions posted on the Werdmuller Blogspot; URL: http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/ by various architects: Heinrich Wolff, David Dewar, Piet Louw, Julian Elliot, Anthony Kylie, Suzie Du Toit, Quniton Pop and Matthew Barac, “Save the Werdmuller,” op. cit. (note 44).

97 The posting of Gaelen Pinnock’s photographs on his own website and on Facebook provided much of the impetus for the mobilization of architectural interest: op. cit. (note 25).

98 See: Elle blogspot. URL: http://elledecoration.co.za/save-the-werdmuller/. Accessed 30 January, 2009; and Lorenzo Nassimbeni’s article in One Small Seed, comments by Barac et al. on the Werdmuller blogspot. URL: http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/search?q=barac. One submission even went as far as obiturising the fate of Werdmuller’s fate in tragic terms: this was Etienne Louw, The Werdmuller Centre. R.I.P. Whither the UCT Indoor Sports Centre, op. cit. (note 24).

99 Heinrich Wolff, A Failure of the Imagination, 4 December, 2007. URL:. http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/2008/01/werdmuller-center-claremont-cape-town.html. Accessed 30 January, 2009.

100 For example Tony Kiley. URL: http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/2007/12/17122007-e-mail-received-from-tony.html. Accessed 30 January, 2009.

101 Wolff claims Vio’s work was produced in a detached, somehow objective manner, yet a reading of Vio’s monograph reveals Vio’s personal relationship with Uytenbogaardt and recounts, with affection, meeting him in Kommetjie in 1994 and many times subsequently during visits made to Venice, where Vio lives. Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 19.

102 Laura Robinson, the Cape Institute for Architecture (CIFA) notes, 2007.

103 David Dewar and Piet Louw, The Proposed Demolition of Werdmuller Centre, Claremont, op. cit. (note 38).

104 Arguments for this are contained in the posts, writings and submissions of David Dewar and Piet Louw, Heinrich Wolff, Ilze Wolff, Donald Parenzee, and Etienne Louw.

105 Giovanni Vio, “The Modern Heritage of Roelof Uytenbogaardt,” 2007. URL : http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/2008_01_01_archive.html. Accessed 30 January, 2009.

106 David Dewar and Piet Louw, email received for Merry Dewar for Davy and Piet, December 19, 2007. URL: http://werdmullercentre.blogspot.fr/2007/12/17122007-e-mail-received-from-merry.html. Accessed 30 January, 2009.

107 Ilze Wolff, The Werdmuller Centre—Why did it really fail?, 21 May 2009. URL: http://www.pythagoras-tv.com/profiles/blogs/the-werdmuller-centre-why-did. Accessed 8 June 2009. Subsequently published: Ilze Wolff, “Werdmuller Centre—an artefact of an ephemeral context,” op. cit. (note 22), p. 75-86.

108 Donald Parenzee, Notes prepared for talk delivered at the Second CIFA meeting, kindly given to me by Parenzee after the debate, Cape Town, 2008.

109 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 31-33; Dewar, 2006, p. 42-47.

110 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 31-33.

111 Giovanni Vio, “The Modern Heritage of Roelof Uytenbogaardt,” op. cit. (note 105).

112 Ibid.

113 Donald Parenzee, Notes, op. cit. (note 108).

114 Peter de Tolly, Henry Aikman and Andrew Berman, Proposed Redevelopment Erf 54472 Claremont: Draft Heritage Statement, op. cit. (note 11); Comments on the Facebook Group Save the Werdmuller.

115 Giovanni Vio, Roelof Uytenbogaardt Senza tempo/Timeless, op. cit. (note 1), p. 71.

116 John Moyle Interview, 2008, op. cit. (note 27).

117 Comment from Interview with Ilze Wolff on 567 Cape Talk, Radio station Cape Town: 26 November 2013.

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Aerial view of Claremont.
Légende Aerial view of Claremont showing the two malls built by Old Mutual Properties in the 1970s, a period of experimentation with new retail forms.
Crédits Source: Google Earth.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Titre Figure 2: Werdmuller Centre, large-scale timber (project).
Légende Black and white photograph of the large-scale timber model that Uytenbogaardt constructed as a design tool during the design process for the Werdmuller Centre, showing the LHC 2 (left) and black and white photograph of the large-scale timber model that Uytenbogaardt constructed as a design tool during the design process for the Werdmuller Centre, showing the LHC 2 scheme’s railway line elevation (right).
Crédits Source: RSU Collection BC1264.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure 3: Early sketch of the plan for the Werdmuller Centre.
Crédits Early sketch of the plan for the Werdmuller Centre in Uytenbogaardt’s hand showing the main ideas of the scheme developing around the concept of the internal street imagined as a route through the building (top left). Elevational sketches in Uytenbogaardt’s hand showing the envisaged Claremont Bypass elevated freeway (top right). Three-dimensional sketch study in Uytenbogaardt’s hand for the railway line site which was added to the commission for the Werdmuller Centre, known as LHC 2 (bottom left). Elevational sketch study in Uytenbogaardt’s hand emphasizing the addition to the scheme on the railway line site which was added to the commission for the Werdmuller Centre, known as LHC 2 (bottom right).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Titre Figure 4: Claremont Main Road 1960s.
Légende Signature buildings along Claremont Main Road, 2007. Stadium on Main—a building successfully turned into a commercial success by New Property ventures who are in the process of purchasing the Werdmuller Centre.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 32k
Titre Figure 5: The severe concrete aesthetic of the Wedmuller Centre in the 1970s (left). The modernist “icon” described by Heinrich Wolff, a photograph of Uytenbogaardt in the dark suit on the right at the building at the time of its completion.
Crédits Source: RSU Collection BC1264.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 84k
Titre Figure 6: Planned elevated highway 1969.
Légende When Uytenbogaardt started working on the commission for the Werdmuller Centre, the “San Andreas Fault” of Main Road was to have been solved by plans for a bypass road that were part of the ambitious urban imaginary apartheid. Source undated feasibility study LHC 2.
Crédits Source: RSU Collection BC1264.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Titre Figure 7: Poster graphic (left) created for the student exhibition, UCT Pamphlet 2008 and (right) poster created by Gaelen Pinnock for the campaign to save the Werdmuller Centre.
Crédits Source: Courtesy Ilze Wolff 2008.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre Figure 8: Signage showing the perimeter of the Werdmuller Centre boarded up since May 2013 (left), Behind the hoarding on the day of the public meeting 27 November 2013 (middle). Informal traders continue to do business despite the hoarding (right).
Crédits Source: Noëleen Murray.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Titre Figure 9: The public meeting held at the Werdmuller Centre on 27 November 2013.
Légende Graffiti “WE WILL MISS YOU” on the interior (left), and CHAND Specialist Environmental and Sustainability Consultants facilitator Sadia Chand directs questions from the floor to heritage practitioner Ashley Lillie and Mike Nixon from New Property Ventures (right).
Crédits Source: Andrew Berman.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/376/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 55k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Noëleen Murray, « Love and loathing in Cape Town », ABE Journal [En ligne], 3 | 2013, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2014, consulté le 22 août 2017. URL : http://abe.revues.org/376 ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.376

Haut de page

Auteur

Noëleen Murray

Academic, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Logo INHA
  • Logo CNRS – Institut des sciences humaines et sociales
  • Logo In Visu
  • Revues.org