Relive the glamour of the 1930s' Gauteng's Art Deco gems
Although there is a scattering of Art Deco throughout Gauteng, the two areas with the greatest concentration of buildings are Johannesburg and Springs.
Johannesburg city centre has the world"s third largest number of Art Deco buildings (after New York and Miami) and has launched a concerted effort to preserve this heritage.
The city has a number of wonderful Art Deco palaces built in the 1930s, including His Majesty's, the Empire and Broadcast House, all in Commissioner Street. On Plein Street is Johannesburg's equivalent of New York's Chrysler building - Astor Mansions. Built in 1932, it echoes the round arch inset at the top of the Chrysler, with "Astor Mansions" in the arch. At the time, with its two spires and flagpole - a reminder of ocean liners - and its 11-storeys, it was the tallest building in the city. Its wrought iron balconies, simple columns at street level and three horizontal lines up the building make it one of the most valuable Art Deco building in the city.
His Majesty's is a handsome Art Deco building in the centre of the city replete with Rene Shapshak"s panels, friezes and vertical lines. Reinforcing the long, vertical lines of Art Deco are the three office towers of different storeys emerging out of its centre. Anstey"s built in 1937 is a national monument. The foyer contains some of its old splendour with big floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and several brass frames with climbing brass monkeys. Manners Mansions on the corner of Jeppe and Joubert Streets has rounded wings and rounded windows on either side of its recessed flat inner section, and a rounded overhanging deck on the top floor. On the ground floor is a marble frontage partly covered by mosaic tiles and polished brass window frames, and an island shop.
There are also many Art Deco residential buildings in the Johannesburg CBD to appreciate. Normandie Court is an 11-storey building and the earliest example of a modern block of flats in Johannesburg, with shops on ground level. The foyer retains its splendour with brown marble walls, recessed lighting, and sandblasted images of the Normandi on the glass doors. The lift has four horizontal chrome lines running around it with three chrome-framed pictures of the liner. The building design with its sharp prow, portholes and railing brings to mind the French ocean liner. Roehampton Court in Bree Street with African motifs, Stanhope Mansions with plaster relief panels of plant and sun images, Elgin Mansion in Jeppe Street, and also on the Jeppe Street, the Post Office built in 1935. This building has tall attractive vertical lines and large windows on the ground floor. The public halls are in marble with large murals depicting scenes of Park Station and the mine dumps.
There are quite a few suburbs in Johannesburg which reflect the Art Deco style and streetscapes, Killarney and Greenside being the most obvious. The most striking residence can be found on Greenfield Road in Greenside. It"s a triple storey building that resonates the lines of a sailing ship. Killarney has numerous blocks of flats with grand foyers, lifts, stairwells and wide passages. Particularly worth mentioning are Mentone Court, Daventry Court, Killarney Mansions, and Gleneagles.
All building in the neighbourhood of Yeoville stopped during the depression of 1929, but resumed again in 1933, at the height of the art deco craze that was gripping the world. The suburb has over two dozen art deco residential blocks, some quite quirky but most true to the style of portholes, symmetrical lines, rounded corners and balconies, but with modernist touches. The architects of the times took up the challenges of Yeoville's hills and dales with relish the blocks curve imaginatively around corners, adding style to the suburb. Diamond Court, Genoa Court and Granville Court and Helvetia Court in Bellevue with its wonderful mosaic floors are worth a visit. Lauriston Court in Louis Botha has eye-catching semi-circular bay windows and Victoria Maternity Hospital in Braamfontein also has rounded balconies.
Also in Johannesburg, in the King's Cinema Precinct, Alexandra, stands a 1940s Art Deco movie house which forms the centre of the entertainment district. And in Parktown, the Grant Andrews House on Eton Road, is a double-storey white house with a protruding round balcony dominating the facade, and railings that are reminiscent of Egyptian lines but also the speed lines of ocean liners.
Some real gems are hidden in Delta Park, for example the Delta Environmental Centre, as well as a collection of single storey flat-roofed residences. The field and study centre was originally built as the sewerage works for this part of town. It is a triple-storey with a prominent art deco tower housing the staircase. This collection of buildings is perfectly preserved, pristine examples of what was the modern style in the 1930s.
In Sedibeng, the Springs central business centre is home to a large collection of Art Deco buildings with a total of 34 buildings. One of Springs Art Deco gems is the Central Fire Station built in 1938. Crown Cork Factory was the first industry established in 1951 in Isando in Kempton Park. It was built in Art Deco style and has never been altered. Many more Art Deco buildings are to be experienced in the other towns that make up the City of Ekurhuleni.
Rand Airport in Germiston, Ekhuruleni, was a hive of activity recently when local production company Moonlighting Film Production Services facilitated the shooting of the Amelia Earhart Story with A-list stars Hilary Swank (Earhart) and Richard Gere (her husband George Putman). Rand Airport, which was shot to be both the Miami and Burbank airports, was selected because its art deco look and feel resembled those airports in the 1930s. The terminal building has remained virtually the same since it was built. The only noticeable change is the addition of a new control tower which was added on top of the existing structure. A special feature of the 1935 terminal building is the flat roof, which is open to the public and gives a fine view across the airport.
In Benoni,14 Railway Avenue to be exact, there is a gracious 1920s Art Deco home and a well-known landmark in the area called Yesteryear.
Tshwane's most striking Art Deco building has to be the Voortrekker Monument.
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