AGAINST – Kathy Dumbrell: The debate raging in local heritage circles about a planned development in one of Cape Town’s most historically significant inner-city blocks highlights weaknesses in the province’s legal and administrative structure for heritage conservation. The issue should be widely debated, particularly because the history of the block was directly linked to the wider social history of Cape Town and the country, through the issues of freedom of worship – the Lutherans met here when their denomination was still banned – and, by association, to slavery and the early social fabric of the Cape. My argument is that it is part of the bigger block, and that there should be no further development on this whole block. This would immediately change the assessment basis. I certainly respect the views of the practitioners involved, and it’s going to be difficult to oppose this proposed development on procedural and heritage grounds given the skill and experience which both the Fagans and Townsend have, and the respect with which our city treats their professional opinions. It all depends on public pressure, and I would be really interested to know what people really think about this.
FOR – Developers: The proposed development of the “Lutheran” block in the city centre will make this historical property economically viable, create a working building for people to see and experience, and allow for it to be maintained and protected for the future. Each of the pieces has been modified according to the particular owner’s needs, and without consideration for the whole. Consequently, most of the interior of the building was ‘gutted’ and the old historic walls and timber replaced with modern concrete slabs and columns.The net result was that over time, changes were made in a haphazard manner and the building was degraded terribly. It was then decided to approach Fagan Heritage Architects, not only because of their experience and knowledge, but because it was well known that they have a passion for preserving this particular block and have been consultants to the Lutheran Church for decades. The new scheme had been designed to restore, rationalise and protect the remaining historical fabric of the old warehouse. The new component – a four-storey office block – to be added, had been designed around this historical fabric in such a way as not to disturb or damage it. It would have a “minimal” impact on the surrounding landscape, and was less than half the bulk and approximately only one third of the height allowed.