City salvages century-old warehouse

Cape Town, South Africa‘s oldest city, is home to a number of historical buildings – the architecture of which is a testament to the myriad of influences on our country’s unique past. This mélange of architecture is evident in Strand Street, one of the city’s oldest streets, where Victorian, Edwardian, Modern and Art Deco buildings all jostle for space. These buildings play a major role in the city’s heritage and must therefore be preserved for future generations.

Built at the turn of the 20th century, the City Council Electrical Department’s former warehouse and meeting venue, on the corner of upper Strand and Hudson streets, has stood roofless for the past two years. This happened after one of the Cape’s infamous gale force storms blew the corrugated iron roof off. As a result of exposure to the elements, the stone and dagga mortar walls became deformed and the crumbling building, with its jutting timber trusses, became an eyesore. The building was due to be demolished but was spared because of its historic nature.

The City of Cape Town awarded a R7.5 million tender for the restoration of the building to specialist construction company, GVK-Siya Zama. Justin Meder, contracts manager at the company’s Western Cape operation says, “During the six month contract we have refurbished the building and added modern installations such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, data and multimedia technology. These elements were incorporated without detracting from the historic ambience.” The project included breaking down and rebuilding damaged walls, using the same stones in the same positions and adding reinforcement and bonding elements to ensure the structural integrity of the building. The mortar joints were cleaned out and carefully repointed. Joinery items such as doors and windows were replaced with custom-made elements in Afromosia and Iroko that replicated, as near as possible, the original.

A new roof was fixed after the existing, damaged roof trusses were straightened and missing purlins replaced. The building was finished with a new timber ceiling and floor. The refurbished building is scheduled to be completed at the end of July 2011.

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