Images to see Before reconstruction
Click on Images to see Enlarged Images
Once destined to be
a parking garage, the Bree/Shortmarket block in central Cape Town
has now taken on a new guise, Heritage Square.
largest project of its type undertaken in the Mother City, the
group of eighteenth century town houses, associated outbuildings
and a warehouse have been restored by the Cape Town Heritage Trust
and Shortmarket Properties. The restored complex includes a fifteen
bedroom hotel, restaurants, retail outlets, offices and an operating
of the saga of the Bree/Shortmarket restoration project has its
origins in a proposal to develop an extensive ring road system
for the city. This proposed scheme would have entailed the demolition
of the entire Bree/Shortmarket block, for a parking garage, as
well as numerous old buildings on Hout and Shortmarket Streets,
to allow for road-widening.
was considerable opposition to the proposed Buitengracht Freeway
and the demolition of the various buildings concerned, principally
from the Simon van der Stel Foundation and the Institute of Architects,
but with vociferous support from City Councillor Joan Kantey and
various journalists, including Victor Holloway. A re-appraisal
of the supporting planning criteria, and a recognition of the
need to conserve the buildings, led to the abandonment of the
proposed parking garage and road-widening scheme.
Town Heritage Trust was set up in 1987 and fourteen properties
in Hout, Shortmarket, Loop and Long Streets acquired by the City
Council in connection with the scheme donated to the Trust. Lengthy
negotiations with the City Council led to the donation of the
council-owned properties on the Bree/Shortmarket block in 1996.
The agreement of the Provincial Administration, which had contributed
80% on the cost of acquiring the properties, to the envisaged
scheme was critical and did much to make the project possible.
the largest project undertaken by the Trust, the scheme necessitated
another partner and the Trust was excited to enter into a joint
venture with Sam Montsi. Through this involvement the project
became the first post-apartheid development in the inner city
involving a black developer.
the complex nature of the project, an initial pre-contract investigation
lasting six weeks was undertaken and did much to inform the conservation
aspects. During this phase builders cleared away collapsed walls
and the associated mess of years of neglect. At the same time,
exciting discoveries were made, including an eighteenth century
door with its original lock and handles bricked up on both sides.
Archaeological excavations and scraping to uncover historical
wall decorations were also very worthwhile. Removing this aspect
from the main building contract reduced the cost implications
of delays. Redesign to accommodate changes required by the need
to save valuable previously unknown fabric was avoided by making
these before letting the main contract.
building in the development at 90 Bree Street had long been the
focus of attempts to save the block. Unfortunately decades of
neglect had reduced it to a shell, only saved by the erection
of a temporary roof during the 1980s. In the yard of the building
is to be found the oldest surviving grape vine in South Africa,
estimated to have been planted in the 1770s.
project progressed it was found that 108 Shortmarket Street, with
its much altered external appearance, offered the best opportunity
for a traditional approach to restoration. Other buildings allowed
for an exciting mix of approaches. As far as possible each building
was handled so as to allow as many elements from the various changes
over the years to be retained as possible. The result is an eclectic
mix of building styles reflecting the character of Cape Town during
the early nineteenth century.
views itself as not being a preservation body, but rather one
which engages in the overall integration of economic development
and conservation. In this way the Bree/Shortmarket project aimed
at making a contribution to the revitalisation of the inner city.
For this reason a mix of usages which made the development open
to public was considered vital. It was also essential that the
project be commercially viable, one of the Trust's aims being
to show how good conservation and successful commercial developments
are not mutually exclusive.
team on the project included experienced conservation architects
David van den Heever of GAPP and Trevor Thorold. Hennie Fagan,
the structural engineer, had been involved in investigations on
the buildings for the City Council during the 1980s and so was
familiar with the challenges presented. The builders, Resnekov
& Nielsen, responsible for projects including the Castle and Groot
Constantia, once again illustrated their abilities on complex
restoration projects. The involvement of project manager Tony
Davenport was also critical to the overall success of the development.
Square has proved to be a truly exciting venture; delivered on
time, on budget, revitalising the heart of Cape Town with a blend
of authentically restored buildings, and providing a glimpse of
what Cape Town was like two hundred years ago.
in Restorica, 1998