South African urban architectural design tours
Did you know?
Many visitors regard Cape Town’s Table Mountain as the premier South African urban design icon.
A South African urban architectural design tour is an unusual way to see and enjoy a very special element of this country.
Urban architectural design in South Africa can be discovered from the southernmost tip to the northern reaches of the country. It’s found in the fabulous swoop of Herbert Baker’s Union Buildings in Pretoria, the Constitutional Court precinct in Johannesburg or, not very far from there, the individually styled rooms of the 12 Decades Hotel in Main Street, which celebrate the city’s history since its founding in 1886.
South African urban architectural design is evident in unique Cape Dutch architecture all around the Cape, from the Houses of Parliament to Groote Schuur, former home of empire-builder Cecil John Rhodes. You can see it as you walk up funky Long Street, with its wrought-iron balconies and Art Deco exteriors, its Latin bistros and the hint of New Orleans in its pavement bars and cafés.
Pop in to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town and see Untamed, a marvellous combination of sculpture, poetry, architecture and conceptual design that explores the meaning and importance of 'wilderness’. No wonder then, that Cape Town is being considered as a World Design Capital for 2014.
And there’s so much more. Visit Arts on Main in Johannesburg, which was converted from 5 downtown warehouses into an exciting collection of restaurants, galleries, a publishing house and historical archives.
To see old Johannesburg, in particular the randlords' mansions (the randlords were wealthy gold magnates of early Johannesburg, so-called because they lived high up on the rand, or ridge, in Johannesburg, with beautiful views), there’s nothing better than a walking tour with the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust.
A number of tour companies are now offering specialist packages that include architectural elements. A leader in bespoke travel is Cape Insights, run by Marion Ellis, who recently organised a tour for members of the prestigious Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.
‘I know that visitors want to see landmark locations,’ she says. ‘But they also want to experience the hidden secrets of a country, the less-travelled spots. So I design a mix of both and share some nuggets from my black book.’
What Cape Insights and other companies in this field do is keep a contact list of specialists they can call on to guide visiting groups to enrich their tour.
'That way, they get authentic interpretations from sussed locals and come away with multiple perspectives,’ says Ellis.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust (walking tours in Johannesburg)
Tel: +27 (0) 11 482 3349
Arts on Main (Johannesburg)
Mobile: +27 (0) 083 245 1040
Cape Insights (Cape Town)
Tel: +27(0) 21 424 0018
Street Scene Tours (Durban)
Tel: +27 (0)31 368 5909
Mobile:: +27 (0) 71 887 3079 / 083 995 8002
Calabash Tours (Port Elizabeth)
Tel: +27 (0) 41 585 6162
Mobile: +27 (0) 84 552 4414