Werdmuller Centre: the context, the people and the possibilities

Werdmuller Centre, Claremont, from railway station by Stewart Harris on Flickr.Does the Werdmuller C

Werdmuller Centre, Claremont, from railway station by Stewart Harris on Flickr.

by Ilze Woff

Cape Town’s Werdmuller Centre, an iconic modernist building designed by renowned architect, urbanist  and teacher, Roelof Uytenbogaardt, is under threat of demolition. A questionable Heritage Impact Assessment conducted in December 2007, states that the main reason for the demolition of the defunct shopping mall is that it is financially impotent  and therefore a liability for the owner.

This paper traces the urban, economic and political contexts within which Uytenbogaardt and his colleagues conceived the design of the building, a design that quietly sought to reconnect displaced communities to the city within the oppressive political arena of the 1970’s;  a design that sought to prioritise the needs of the pedestrian thereby serving the needs of the lowest income groups; and a design that investigated a more social approach to shopping in the conception of an open market or souk.

The Werdmuller Centre was also conceived within the context of urban proposals that have not materialised as originally planned, for example the Claremont Boulevard, a highway that is present in Uytenbogaardt’s earliest conceptual sketches. The design also hinged on the premise that that part of Claremont would become progressively geared towards a broad-based use of public transport – whereas today, the opposite is in fact the reality.

For the full article read here.






This article originally appeared at Wolff Architects, in 2009

There are 3 comments

  1. pdem

    walked by this building everyday to campus #re-imagining the Werdmuller Centre in 2013

  2. mumble


    The sooner the planet is rid of this bottomlessly horrible and soul-sucking excrescence, the better.

    Next up: its ugly sister, the UCT Sports Centre.

    They are both ghastly examples of both the Concrete Brutal and Unfit for Purpose schools of architecture.

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