R1.5 billion vision unveiled for Cape Town’s Artscape Opera House complex


Artscape, the management company of the Artscape Theatre Centre, today unveiled a R1.5 billion plan to transform the 41-year-old complex into an iconic cultural precinct. Dubbed Artscape Live Vision 20!20, the strategy comprises the development of 17,000sqm of vacant land to create one of the largest precincts in Africa dedicated to the performing arts.

“Compared to many famous arts districts and complexes, the Artscape is beset by problems that mark it as a child of both Apartheid spatial planning and of the global planning delusions of its time. It is hardly a venue ‘for the people’ in that only rather highbrow arts are really supported, and it is far from any existing entertainment or nightlife districts or residential neighbourhoods.” *

According to Artscape Chairman, Prof. Somadoda Fikeni, the required funding and approvals from local, provincial and national authorities were still needed to implement the project. However, already R180 million is being invested to reconfigure the Opera House auditorium with more seating, improving patron facilities and services, the addition of three floors to house rehearsal rooms and offices as well as the refurbishment of the old dressing rooms.

New renders indicate an expansive timber roof covering most of the forecourt space,  currently a barren, wind-swept and unfriendly zone, which will in future act as a dramatic welcome area and outdoor performance space. The Arts Academy located towards the Foreshore Freeways, opens up onto Founders Garden, with initial site plans suggesting new apartment and a hotel adjacent to the Freeways. The new Concert Hall is expected to occupy the vacant land adjacent to the MyCiTi bus station, and will incorporate a flexible design to accommodate a variety of performing arts.


The future expansion plans include:

  • An Arts Academy for about 300 students
  • A world class Concert Hall
  • Drama teaching studio
  • Rigging studio for the Zip Zap circus school
  • 4 double height seminar rooms (doubling up as rehearsal rooms)
  • 3 dedicated dance rehearsal spaces

The Artscape complex forms a critical component of an “L-shaped” regeneration projects located between the CTICC and its expansion, the new Christiaan Barnaard Memorial Hospital, Founders Gardens, and the Civic Centre hub of the MyCiTi bus system. The aim is for the multi-cultural precinct to “link Cape Town’s business, political, artistic, media and conferencing communities into one major social hub”.

* According to a recent article: Artscape and the future

There are 11 comments

  1. Stephen Mallory

    The building in its current state, while it does have some problems, shows a clear and well resolved and subtle hierachy of forms with a beautiful modelling of shapes which leads into a well balanced resolution of detail. It remains strong and powerful while at the same time not being overpowering and blunt like some other complexes of the time.

    While the addition may be still in a concept stage, as it stands, it is terribly vulgar, especially in comparison to the existing building. It displays none of the of the subtleties one would expect from architecture even just generally speaking. Apart from the big roof and two boxes there is no attempt here to create a more sophisticated composition and the halfhearted application of textures and some lighting effects in the 3D do little to hide this fact. The new side wings have been plonked down with seemingly no consideration apart from carving up floor space and have more in common with the adjacent car show rooms than spaces or forms that are appropriate for a theatre. The overbearing roof crushes and overwhelms the existing building and creates an atmosphere one might expect in a second tier airport, but with red carpets.

    I think people must not be seduced by the shiny 3D images and really have a look. While resolving some of the utility and climatic issues of the plaza should be welcomed, it doesn’t mean that we can deface and mutilate one of the few good modernist buildings we have in this city.

  2. Willem Kok

    Looks good!!!!!! I really hope money will be available for the project. I worked for Gapp for 10 years and must say this one is spectacular. Good on Ya Mates, from Australia! Just make sure the forecourt isn’t a wind tunnel with plastic flying all over the place!! Don’t let some naysayers get the better of this one!

  3. Christopher Hurrell

    Too Much Square! I wonder if these architects designed this according to current trends, or if they are taking into consideration future trends too? We need more curves in our modern city design. Even though square shapes utilize space better, it is not harmonic with the environment. I think the future of architecture lies in trying to match environmental/natural patterns…and are healthier to be in as well.

    I hope the city isn’t paying for this when we need the money for far more important things, like, for instance, Housing Development, Water Treatment, Agricultural Research, Clean Energy development…etc etc.

    Is the Western Cape government paying for this project?

  4. Andrea Couvert

    R1.5 billion!!! For an infrastructure? What is the ratio between an infrastructure and cultural productions? How many Opera productions we can do with R1.5 billion? How many Opera, Dance, Music school and courses we can do with R1.5 billion? How many bursary, support, workshops, exchange programs we can do with R1.5 billion? How many research and experimental and innovative cultural productions we can do with R1.5 billion? How many cultural centers, theaters, auditorium we ca do with R1.5 billion instead to spend this money in a single point on the city?
    Substance or appearance?

  5. OSlOlSO

    I think it would be great if UCT collaborated with Artscape on this development as well as doing a partnership to use the new student facilities. Makes sense and might bring so day time life to an otherwise dead Foreshore.

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  7. Mangaung

    Renovations have started,I hope it’s phase one because it’s only internal.

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