Sir Herbert Baker and his partners had a hand in many notable buildings that predate WWI: the cloistered quads and crypt of St John’s College Houghton; Glenshiel in Westcliff, now the headquarters of the Order of St. John; legendary Northwards in Parktown, once owned by randlord John Dale Lace and his socialite wife Josie; Bedford Court, home of mining magnate Sir George Farrar and now part of St Andrew’s School for Girls; and Villa Arcadia, a Parktown mansion built to the exacting standards of Florence Phillips; St. George’s Parish Church in Parktown, and St. Michael and All Angels in Boksburg.
Places that speak of another life and time, or capture the spirit of occupants long gone include Nelson Mandela House in Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, where he lived from 1946 until his arrest in 1962, now a museum that attracts visitors from all over the world. Satyagraha House, in Orchards, was home to Mahatma Ghandi. In nearby Kew was the home and studio of sculptor Edoardo Villa and many of his works are still in situ.
Anstey’s was once a glamorous department store. Completed in 1936 in the Art Deco style and, for a time, the tallest building in Johannesburg, it survives as an apartment block. Gleneagles, in Killarney, of similar style and vintage, has become another sought-after residence.
There are also newer buildings whose architects have sought to integrate form and function. The Nizamiye Masjid in Midrand stands out, and not just because of its tall minarets; St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Victory Park.
Given Johannesburg’s reputation for tearing down anything ‘old’, it is remarkable how much of the city’s heritage remains; yet there is always the threat of demolition. Hidden Johannesburg shines a spotlight on places not accessible to the ‘ordinary’ person and invites us to consider the impact of the built heritage in shaping our cities. By affording us a glimpse of our past, perhaps it will help to shed light on our future.
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About the Author
Paul Duncan was the launch editor of Condé Nast’s House & Garden in South Africa (1997-2006), and editorial director of Condé Nast Independent Magazines (2002-2006).
Later, following his appointment as a head of design at Woolworths, also in South Africa, he was the convener of World Design Capital Cape Town 2014’s curatorial panel and in 2015 produced the book recording Cape Town’s year as a World Design Capital.
Alain Proust is arguably South Africa's best photographer. Being one of the industry leaders, his work covers may fields from photography of the world's leading hotels to in-studio advertising stills and panoramic landscapes.