31 of Durban’s finest

2014-07-23 00:00

NEDBANK’s ceramic tile headquarters has been named Durban’s best building, in the first-ever vote of the city’s landmark structures by KZN’s architects.

And female architects scooped the honours for the structures ranked as the city’s second and third finest.

The top 31 buildings — including the Addington Children’s Hospital, Moyo restaurant and classic houses on the Berea — will be recommended to the delegates to the global architecture conference in Durban next week.

Each winner will carry banners and plaques.

But the iconic “Elephant” verandah house didn’t make the top 31 list, and neither did King Shaka International Airport or the stunningly simple Post Office building.

Meanwhile, only one of the city’s famed art deco buildings — Surrey Mansions — cracked the winners’ list, and none of Durban’s shopping malls was among the 200 contenders for the ballot.

Organised by the KwaZulu-Natal Institute for Architecture, the “Top 31 Durban Landmarks” will be featured at the Durban Exhibition Centre for the International Union of Architects World Congress.

Given 10 votes each, architects overwhelmingly chose the combination podium and high-rise Nedbank building on Anton Lembede Street, with Glenwood’s louvred, open-air KZNSA Gallery in second place.

It was designed by the all-woman Durban team of Cindy Walters and Michal Cohen, now based in the UK.

The iconic arched sugar terminals came in fourth, with Moses Mabhida Stadium seventh and the Durban City Hall 10th.

Clad in crafted green ceramic tiles and set behind street-side planting rows, the Nedbank building has been hailed by international experts as “a Faberge of a building” and “one of the most charming modern buildings in the world”.

The big winner among the architects was 87-year-old veteran Issy Benjamin, whose Haven Court and Las Vegas flats both rated higher even than the old Greenacres building (now Edgars).

And the residential home that received most praise was a “vernacular” house design by legendary teacher Barry Biermann, which “folds down the slope” near Entabeni Hospital.

Kevin Bingham, president of the institute, said: “All the architects agreed that [Nedbank] was a very worthy winner.”

Bingham said some members of the public had cast a parallel vote, which revealed a very different opinion on the finest buildings — with the stadium and religious buildings top of the list.

“It is a subjective exercise, and it was fascinating to see the way different groups of people see design,” Bingham said.

Lindsay Napier, head of the institute’s heritage committee, said the exhibition would dazzle global designers with the “stunning” diversity of Durban’s landmarks.

“We have residential structures of their time, the art decor, the harbour buildings, even industrial buildings like the sugar terminals — other South African cities have nothing like it,” she said.

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