Thesis Thursday: Shards of an Industrial Past

Thesis Thursday is an architectural series showcasing the work produced by the UCT M.Arch (prof) graduates of 2013. These projects tackle a number of issues in vast contexts spread throughout Cape Town, ranging from diminutive park follies to massive desalination plants. M.Arch theses, on one hand; are infamous for exhibiting ideas that simply serve as provocative visions of infinite possibilities. On the other hand, they display imaginative approaches to somewhat enigmatic urban/social issues …… You decide.


Pemberai Dembetembe

The design thesis investigates archaeological architecture and its relation to phenomenology as a theoretical approach. The Cape Glass Company Ltd (1902 -1905) was the first glass bottle making factory using semi-auto machinery in the Southern Hemisphere, in the small sandy town of Glencairn. It was established with the aim of producing glass bottles by machinery as substitutes for imported ones from Europe.


After its closure and liquidation in 1906 the site was abandoned and as years passed, the factory became buried under masses of wind-blown sand. Excavations were carried out about eighty years later by archaeologists from UCT and other specialists with the aim to “expose the buried buildings and equipment in an attempt to piece together the story of an ambitious project that had been virtually forgotten.” (Saitowitz, 1998)

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Today only a small portion of the archaeological site is visible, through the efforts an avid local who purchased the piece of land with plans to turn the site into a museum. What remains now is the glass melting furnace – sealed, abandoned and almost forgotten.

3D birds eye

The aim of this dissertation is to seek ways to enhance such abandoned sites by way of preservation and establishing public access and awareness in order to experience their phenomenological richness in built form.

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The intention is to try to bring about an architectural response centered on commemoration through everyday use in the form of a Visitor’s Centre. The first approach is to create a suspended museum that allows the “marks of the landscape” the slow natural decay. The next approach in establishing dialogue with the past is to let the visitor be part of the archaeological discoveries in order to be in a position to understand the history

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The site has also given strong need to investigate glass and brick as materials for making and constructing architecture, leaving the exposed archaeological site open to an intervention of protection and musealization.