Heritage values to tempt more than just appetites

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

Heritage Day celebrations next week will bring renewed focus to the home and the broader built environment, across many different cultural groups.

A closer look at any number of SA properties brings insight into the rich legacy of elegance, designed by master architects and craftsmen over many generations and at present.

A fine example of Cape Dutch Architecture.

Since the SA National Heritage Council’s endorsement in 2008 of the initiative for Heritage Day to be named National Braai Day, officially known as Braai4Heritage, this day also sees families and friends who gather at private residences in celebration of a national heritage. Some of these homes would have been preserved to reflect a cultural history across many generations that now hold much more than just asset value. The original design and furnishings of houses, be it masterful creations commissioned from architects, drafts persons, or craftsmen, often complete intriguing entries into history books.

Overlooking the preservation of such properties, both old and new for future generations, are local authorities and organisations such as the SA Heritage Council, the SA Heritage Resources Agency, SA Institute of Architects, and regional Historical Societies, that recognise and protect heritage values of both private and state owned properties. And through the implementation of stringent guidelines all newly built structures have to adhere to environmental as well as architectural guidelines.

To preserve buildings of historic value, defined as older than 60 years, in compliance with the National Heritage Resources Act, the SA Resources Heritage Agency upholds that no person may alter or demolish any structure or part of such a structure without a permit issued by the relevant provincial heritage resources authority.

Heritage Western Cape issues permits for existing sites as well as new developments, based on the merits of each application that also includes environmental impact assessments. Permits are issued after the consideration of development planning and zoning regulations of a local authority’s Land Use Ordinance. By ensuring that heritage matters are included in impact assessments for proposed developments, developers can proceed in the certainty that work will not be halted as a result of a newly discovered heritage sources.

Commenting on heritage properties is Harold Kolnik, Principal Jawitz Properties, Cape South Peninsula, who says potential owners and developers should be aware that the parameters set out for such applications can be honerous despite sensitive design practise. Kolnik advises that title deeds and approved plans are scrutinized, and when in doubt to request due diligence from qualified architects or town planners. In addition, he emphasises the importance of establishing time frames, as costly delays can be caused by any number of bodies responsible for the coordination of an application.

Prevalent architectural designs are seen in the country’s oldest homes in the Cape, dating back to the 1800’s, designed in the Cape Dutch architectural style that refers to both the building style, and interior furnishings and embellishments. Best known for its distinctive gables, this style goes back to medieval Holland and Germany with strong French and Indonesian influences, and can be viewed at wine a variety of estates and towns including Stellenbosch,Tulbach and Graaff Reinett.

Another powerful reminder of the rich legacy of architectural elegance in SA lies in buildings designed by the British architect Sir Herbert Baker, who not only designed the iconic Union Buildings in Pretoria, the magnificent St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town, and several schools, are private residences now gracing suburban areas. A masterful influence on Baker’s designs during 1892 to1912 is a legacy also visible in many Cape homes, of William Morris, who through the Arts and Crafts Movement strongly advocated the use of natural materials and traditional building methods.

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