V&A Waterfront Clock Tower a 'disgrace'

2017-11-21 06:00
Clock Tower (People's Post)

Clock Tower (People's Post)

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Cape Town - One of the most iconic buildings at the V&A Waterfront has been dubbed “a disgrace” by an international shipping author and ­historian.

UK-based historian Peter Newall has lambasted the management of the V&A Waterfront for neglecting the Clock Tower, which he insists is the “most important building in [the Waterfront]’s portfolio”.

The Clock Tower, completed in 1883, was originally the harbour signal station and the port captain’s office.

As the harbour expanded, the port captain moved in 1904 to a new building opposite, Newall explains. In 1975, owner South African Railways and Harbours decided to demolish the building. This was avoided after a campaign by the Cape Town Architectural Society and in 1976 a major restoration took place.

In 1978 the Clock Tower was declared a national monument and the building was leased by the Ship Society “to show off its unique collection of shipping memorabilia” until 1993, Newall says.

A complete restoration of the Clock Tower took place in the late 1990s.

Since 2000 the building has deteriorated, Newall claims. He says damage has been done to the interior of the building, including the mosaic-tiled ­entrance.

“The wooden staircase is scuffed and worn whilst the two main rooms have not been cleaned in years. The lower room is currently being used as a store room. The state of the balcony is appalling and dangerous, with numerous corpses of sea birds and paint peeling off because of the years of bird droppings,” he says.

Waterfront spokesperson Donald Kau says protecting the area’s history is “of paramount importance” to the company.

“Since the beginning of the Waterfront’s redevelopment in 1989, a significant part of the vision for the property has been to protect the area’s rich cultural fabric through active maintenance of our historical infrastructure,” he says.

The Clock Tower is one of 30 points of historical interest and landmarks that form part of the Waterfront, Kau says.

“The recent reimagining of the Zeitz Mocaa in the silo district is a prime example of our commitment to preserving historical buildings, as is the Watershed, which now houses a popular craft market and is a hub for SMMEs, with 294 enterprise development tenants.”

The Waterfront also has an active maintenance plan in place for all buildings, including the Clock Tower, Kau says.

“Being a working harbour, however, means that the Waterfront is in many ways a hostile environment, with dirt, dust, salt, water and birdlife. This can understandably create maintenance challenges for us,” he says.

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