Lutheran church complex 03/04/2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011 11:27 PM

Lutheran Church complex CT

Dear friends and colleagues,

You may have heard about the controversy around a new building planned to be put right on top of the 18th-century warehouse sharing a street block with the priceless Lutheran Church in Strand Street and its two adjoining 18th-century double-storeys. The plans somehow sneaked through Heritage W. Cape, but strong lobby groups are gearing themselves up to try and stop it – including the Simon van der Stel Foundation (W.Cape), Vernacular Architecture Society, VOC Foundation, Central City Ratepayers and others.

We have also launched a petition among Cape Town citizens. I am sending you a copy which, should you be agreeable, you are kindly asked to download, print back to back, and circulate as wdely as possible among your members and friends. Time is of the essence, so let me have them back (by post) early next week if possible.

Your support is much appreciated. This abomination must be stopped.

Regards,

Hans Fransen (Dr.)

Heritage Consultant

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Friday, March 18, 2011 10:10 AM

Fw: Lutheran Church complex CT

Hi GAWIE,

Attached see what Hans Fransen is up to .

I will not be associated with this .

It is my opinion that the plan is very well thought out  and is an exceptionally fine answer to  a very very difficult problem.I would urge all conservationists to think very carefully before you endorse the opinion expressed by Hans.

I will remind everybody that the proposal sailed through HWC with compliments, was presented to hwc by the current chairman of B.E.L.com and that despite presentations to the institute of architects was never opposed nor was any appeal entered.

As chairman of Heritage South Africa I cannot issue a statement without  authority from the committee but am at the point where I feel that we must make a stand . I have attempted to raise the issue with John  Muir and Pat  without response and as always I am loath to intervene  in domestic issues .

There are other problems in organizations such as the Vernacular Architects society many of the more informed members do not and cannot participate in the debate as they were part of the approval process.

Another issue that perturbs me is the very personal nature of the opposition against the Fagan’s. I have attempted to raise the issue with a number of Architects who were not at all involved all of whom are of the opinion that if Gawie has presented it ,it must be the  best solution. I ask you not to adopt that attitude but to consider the problem and the solution before you support this campaign by Hans.

Len Raymond

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Friday, March 18, 2011 2:11 PM

RE: Lutheran Church complex CT

Hello Len,

There is obviously little point in crossing swords with you. But just a few points. To say “what Hans is up to” is an understatement. It may surprise you that the WCape branch of the SvdS had submitted its objections, as has the VOC Foundation, while the Vernacular Architecture Society is presently framing the wording of its objection. I am handling a petition of private individuals, which is gathering hundreds of signatures. I sent it to you as one of a list of bodies provided to me by Pat Benbow-Hebbert (though I realized you would probably support the plans).

I do object to the way you make it appear I am “up to” something fishy. “That trouble-maker again”. Clearly you are entitled to support the project – even as a conservationist. But to mistrust the motives of those activists who are horrified by what is planned is going a bit far.

By the way, Gawie and Gwen is fully aware of what we are doing, and of my petition. They accept it as our good right, just like we respect their right to design projects. And I might add that, among the people to whom you copied your message, there are several wno actually support the protest.

Look, Len, it is not Gawie Fagan’s plans we object to, so much as the project of a four-storey building on top of a part of a rare and intact group of 18th-century buildings in the first place. Gawie undoubtedly did try to make the best of it (although I think it looks horrible). It is also a pity the project was kept away from the public eye and from public scrutiny for so long (probably deliberately). And to say that “if Gawie presented it, it must be the best solution” is tantamount to saying “we are leaving it all in the hands of God”.

If the project is finally approved, enjoy the sight of a sadly disfigured Lutheran Church complex.

Regards,

Hans “up to” Fransen

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19 March 2011 13:54

Re: Lutheran Church complex CT

Hi Hans,

Thank you for your response. There have  been a number of personal slights and innuendo in respect of ”KEEPING THE DEVELOPMENT SECRET”

which  are incorrect and  have reduced the matter to a personal level which I regret and which have done little to enhance the conservation lobby.

I have been imploring both the Vernacs and the Simon V.D.Stel foundation in Cape town to participate in the approval process  without success .The conservation ground rules have changed very considerably  with the new act. Every party with a legitimate interest in any project  has the right to “participate in the management and be consulted”I have a far more extensive interpretation  of the ” right to participate”  than many of you heritage practitioners. Both of these organizations have for their own reasons resolved not to participate but to leave it up to their fellow conservationists who serve on the various committees to carry the ball. The net result is that the approval which is an open public process effectively closes out any argument. The regulations and act provide for the right to appeal none was forthcoming.

This process was very much like the issue in Stellenbosch where after appeals and consideration by the minister the demolition was approved only then did the SVDSTEL in Stellenbosch attempt by public process to put pressure on the developers. Like  this proposal the lack of opposition and comment during the approval  process  can only strengthen the right of the applicant. In fact the regulations provide that no argument not presented to B.E.L.com can be presented at appeals.

You may not like the decision( much as I did not like the applications supported by yourself at Mc Gregor and Navarre but I made my point at the appropriate time and having done so I must be satisfied by the eventual decision ) neither you ,I  or  the Fagan’s  are the sole and absolute judges but we must express our opinion when and where it is provided for . To attempt to whip up public support when your peers have considered and approved the proposal ,and you have  ( and the institutions you now rely upon have steadfastly )  failed to exercise their right does nothing for the conservation ethic of this country.

Your gripe should be with the committees of those organizations who have failed miserably  to express their opinions when required and not to hide behind statements to the effect that the approval process was hidden. It most definitely was not.

Another issue is the at this stage  with  both the B.E.L.om  and institute of Architects having considered the plans those  involved (like myself )have stepped back as we have expressed an opinion and we do not want to be seen to be justifying it.

May I ask you as a friend   to consider  what you have published and said  that could be  construed as a “personal vendetta” against the Fagan’s   (which is the opinion held by many) specifically and those involved in the approval process and withdraw statements that infer that there is some hidden agenda here and to balance your attack by chastising the organizations whose support you are attempting to rely upon for not partaking in the process.

You are of course welcome to your opinion and this opinion should be voiced and expressed  within the organizations that have expressed an interest within specific  areas.

In this particular case I believe that this should be a grade 1 site (another issue that you should be taking up in your protest) but S.A.H.R.A. have not fore filled their mandate in grading the site/complex. If before the proposal was presented the complete block was a grade 1 there may have been more studies requested before the decision was made. As it is the Fagan’s have done a magnificent job preserving the views to and from when developing a nearby grade 3 site..It must also be remembered that no consideration of the complex was required when the other adjoining blocks were approved.

You may  remember that Dirk demolished 4 similar buildings and built  tower block very near by without a peep from  the Heritage authorities.

I wish you well in attempting to whip up conservation awareness and trust that you will as part of the campaign hold a public meeting where all views will be considered.

Go well

LEN

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Saturday, March 19, 2011 4:04 PM

RE: Lutheran Church complex CT

Hello Len,

Thanks for your response to mine. I detect a slightly more nuanced tone in it. Just a few points.

You, as a former member of BELcom, are closer to the decision-making stage than most of us. I can assure you that none of those who have joined me, or whom I have joined, was at any stage aware of the plans until Martiens van Bart publicized in the Property Burger three weeks ago. He attended a meeting of the VOC Foundation where the Fagan plans were first presented to a broader public. It is not those – and other – organizations’ and people’s fault they had no chance to study it properly and respond before the whole process had progressed as far as it has. As it is, HWCape’s decisions are not broadcast.

It is only after the developers and architects were asked by the City to invited the responses from a few organizations (which, interestingly, did not include HeritageSA/SvdS) that they were confronted with a near-fait accompli.

Those of us who are objecting are not reducing the controversy to a personal matter. We are objecting to the development per se: an substantial intrusion in Cape Town’s finest 18th-century block. We all agree, and have said as much, that the Fagans have done their best – which as always is very good – to minimize that intrusion. Some of us feel that, because of its sloping design, it draws more attention than reduce the impact. I myself, in a personal letter to the Fagans, have suggested that a two-layer building over the whole length of the grainstore might have a much lesser impact.

But it is difficult to fight a development of such magnitude and impact on our dwindling heritage without pointing to somebody’s input. There should be nothing personal and vindictive about that. The architects to their design (and, let us face it, to their participation in a project that, I am fairly certain having known and been close to them for forty-odd years, they would not have been happy with had they not become the architects – we’ll never know!). The owners to their action of purchasing, for development, what is perhaps the most sensitive heritage property in the City without foreseeing the furore it would, eventually, cause. The authorities responsible for giving them the go-ahead in the first place.

So: yes, no personal slights intended. But make no mistake, we, the objectors, too, are receiving flak for our (in our case entirely unselfish) activism.

I hope the above can make you realize that what we are doing is simply what we have got to do.

Regards,

Hans

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Monday, March 21, 2011 10:23 AM

Re: Lutheran Church complex CT

HI HANS,

I acknowledge receipt of your mail which in my opinion opens many other doors and reinforces what I stated in my previous mail.

The V.O.C. society is to the best of my knowledge not registered with HWC and has never contributed to the decision making process in the past.  It is for this reason that they were not  consulted to start with. As you well know from the Mc Gregor-case,  HWC insists upon local organizations’  comments . In Cape Town  the local organizations that you have contacted have steadfastly failed to participate in the past. If they had,  they would be aware of the decisions taken at  places like Somerset Road where whole streetfronts  are converted into high rise buildings. We at BELcom  had our hands full retaining the facades in their original condition but sacrificed the internal fabric.

They would also be aware of the proposed high -rise developments  in the areas where the impact on  historic Cape Town was ignored and, in effect, the final power was delegated to the City under their regulations. Possibly one of the worst is the approval  tight up against the wavy pediment building in Bree Street. In all of these issues my objections as a conservationist were disregarded due to the rights attached to the sites where the development was proposed.

In your private letter to the Fagans  you accept that development is entitled to proceed on the site of the Warehouse. I am sure that  if the site or the whole complex had been protected by means of a grade 1 proclamation ( which would entitle the owner to  object and take the matter to the highest court to protect his rights before this could be enforced) the approach would have been different  and the owner  would/ should have been compensated for the removal of his legitimate rights . Then we could talk about the restoration policy in isolation .

What we are  faced with  is a very old site with little if any signs on the facade of its value, that has legal development rights. The internal fabric is what gives it value when combined with its history (which was part of the application). What could we hope for ? The restoration of the building and the protection of its internal fabric is a very good start. Combine this with a very considered evaluation of the influence of the new building on the Lutheran Church complex: to protect the traditional views and a somewhat revolutionary manner of separating the new from the old so that the ware house could retain its size and scale and you must admit that the solution was better than anybody could wish for.  Alll the aspects  of the  law  had been dealt with  and legal developments rights maintained – rights which legally could not be removed.  We can thank our lucky stars that Gawie was entrusted  with this responsibility. Your  letter  conceeds that “they have done their best”. Could we ask for  more??

When you then consider the conduct of the owners of the Lutheran church in their own development, which  could at any time be extended, one must commend the developers for agreeing to limit their development rights and for the money they are contributing to the restoration and opening up of access to the Lutheran church yard. The site is surrounded, and will to a larger extent be even more so in future, by high rise buildings which  will all in their own way detract from the Lutheran Church complex. In my opinion this development  retains the traditional views  and blends into the city’s landscape  as well as limiting future options  .

You have another proposal which, at its  heart  recognizes the owner’s right to develop. I have not seen  any engineering reports that suggest that your proposal could work but I have considered the alternatives  and motivations prepared by the Fagan’s and I believe that  they have satisfied all the requirements and  more.

On what grounds do you propose to halt the development?

It appears to  me that  the sum total of your objection is that you consider your counter proposal for the development to be a better solution than Gawie Fagan’s.

I am perplexed.

Len.

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23 Maart 2011 03:25 nm

Fw: Lutheran Church complex CT

Beste Martiens,

Aangeheg is die onlangse korrespondensie tussen my en Hans Fransen oor die be-oogde ontwikkeling langs die Lutherse Kerk. Jy kan gerus daarvan gebruik maak as jy wil.

Miskien sal dit ook insiggewend wees om die bandopnames van die gesprekke in BELCOM tydens die toestemmingsproses in die hande te kry. DIe bandopnames word by Erfenis Weskaap gehou. Lede van BELCOM – en ook van die Instituut van Argitekte – wat destyds aan die besluitnemingsproses deelgeneem het kan nie nou openbare kommentaar lewer op die saak nie en gevolglik is dit nie ‘n gebalanseerde debat nie.

Groete,

Len Raymond

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03 April 2011 09:32 PM

Re: Lutheran Church complex CT

Dear All

A belated contribution:

I have signed the petition, as a concerned, considered, and at least partially informed citizen.

The root of concern is the significance of the heritage resource. This urban block is redolent with it: historical, spiritual, social, cultural, spatial, archaeological, etc, etc.

ALL 18th C built fabric is, due to the processes of history – decay, destruction and development – rare in South Africa. A concentration of 18th C urban fabric such exists on this block, which includes the iconic Lutheran Church, is so very rare as to be PRECIOUS.

It is a surviving – and so far, intact, and authentic – part of an increasingly tenuous (but tough and significant) underlying web of our “ancient” (in SA terms) cultural landscape. It links to the Castle, Koopmans de Wet house, Heritage Square, the old City cemeteries in Greenpoint, the Company’s Gardens, the Slave Lodge and Groote Kerk, the old urban grid and its spaces – the Parade, Kerk Plein, Greenmarket Square, Riebeeck Square. These are contextualised by the setting: the mountain, Table Bay as a harbour, the perennial streams; and by the displacement of people who used these resources before. This historical web extends around the mountain to Groote Schuur and Rustenburg. It represents the origins of “modern” settlement in South Africa.

This 18th C urban complex is a bronzed shoe from the infanthood of the Mother City.

In my considered opinion (short of doing the work) it could be part of an sequential Grade I (national) heritage site to include many of the sites mentioned above (and others) to do with the theme of “origins” – of settlement, and as a modern nation/people” – for lack of a better term.

During my time at BELCom I pleaded for a policy at province that would set in place at least a very rough series of “sieves” based on date (and thus rarity), and which would give some initial guidance as to how to deal with the “catch-all” applications. Had that policy come into place, this urban block would surely have been a very big lump, and caught in the first sieve. That should have meant that public participation would be broad – a matter for “us-all”, the public. But it never came to be, and participation appears to have been too limited.

Unfortunately, the proactive part of the intended new heritage system has not developed as hoped. Systematic identification and grading is not occurring adequately within any sphere of government (local, provincial or national), nor at the unintentionally disempowered “community” level. We are all aware of critical resource constraints, and lukewarm (at best) political commitment.

The aim of heritage resources management is to ensure that (necessary) development and change does not destroy or damage the historical/cultural foundations on which “we-all” build our future.

To my mind, this WHOLE block is so significant (“precious”) that it should be recognised, identified, protected and developed as a heritage resource. It is one of those which is so rare that it should be removed from the pressures of “commercial” development. Whether or not this is the case should be the core of the debate. Arguments about architectural appropriateness are secondary to the primary question of whether a radical intervention into such ancient fabric is appropriate at all. It is not really productive to focus on the secondary issue until we have settled the primary issue of significance.

Given the paucity of proactive identification and prior assessment of significance, “we-all” have no option but to react when confronted with development that threatens an important part of “our” heritage foundations.

It is heartening that there IS a reaction, and a debate. Even at the height of Modernism, didn’t Solly Morris recognize the significance of this ancient urban complex and curve the proposed overhead highways to avoid it? That there is now a groundswell of resistance to ANY development on this block (however considered and sensitive that development attempts to be) indicates that “people” care, that they recognize its significance, and feel that that significance is threatened.

This is not a time to quibble about processes and procedures of participation, qualifications and registrations, or time frames, as Len seems to be doing. The general public has only become aware of the proposed development recently, and there has been an outcry. One hopes that the authorities will respond to the public concern positively and openly, in the spirit of the preamble to the National Heritage Resources Act.

Penny Pistorius

 

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