Feb update from Architecture & Heritage

To date this year the Architecture and Heritage Committee has received eleven applications requiring formal comment from the OCA. These range from small applications for repairing boundary walls, to highly impactful plans for demolitions and reconstructions in sensitive parts of the neighbourhood.

Property developers’ sights remain set on many parts of Observatory as a space ripe for densification, demolition and bulky new developments. Protecting heritage does not necessarily mean freezing a place in time, or opposing all forms of change – change is the lifeblood of a city, especially a city like Cape Town with such long histories of exclusion, separation, and the legacies of apartheid planning. However, what is often missed is the importance of memory and of intangible heritage: what do these spaces mean for residents today, or for the city as a whole? Whose memories and stories are located here? How have seemingly ‘ordinary’ homes, factories, shops and streets contributed to the story of the city and the suburb? Whose voices are heard in what is considered “heritage” and whose are not?

We recently received notification of an application for planning departures for a proposed new building at 22 Collingwood Road, which is a Modernist light industrial building with a unique wavy roof parapet. In discussions with the developers last year, the OCA came out strongly against the proposal to demolish this building and replace it with student apartments. We have now been asked to comment on an application for planning departures for the same design. It will be important to get as much input and comment from Observatory residents as possible before the 17thof March deadline: more information will be circulated about this soon.

Change is also afoot on Lower Main Road, where an old proposal for a development at the Old Lion Match Factory site (adjacent to the existing factory buildings, which will remain intact) has resurfaced. No formal application has been made here yet, and the OCA is engaged in discussions with the architects and heritage consultants for what might be appropriate on this site or not. In the meantime, we are interested in hearing from anyone with first-hand experience or memory of the OLMF: perhaps someone in your family worked here at one time? If so, please drop us an email at [email protected] – we’d love to hear from you.

Lastly, your monthly reminder that any alterations or demolitions that affect a structure older than 60 years must, by law, receive a permit from Heritage Western Cape before any work can begin; and that the Observatory Civic Association is the registered conservation body for the area, which means we must be approached for comment before an application is made to HWC. Feel free to email us for more information or guidance.