Closed and Open Spaces

In Uncategorized on September 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm
Story by: Roane Swindon 

Carlton Centre

One cannot truly love Johannesburg if one does not embrace its contradictions.

And the city is indeed full of them. In one day, you could witness the extreme wealth of Sandton City and its patrons juxtaposed alongside the wan, thin faces of beggars at almost every street corner. You can see the race to get to work every week day, and compare it to leisurely weekends at the mall or playing soccer in the park. You can experience it at an entertainment event, where Steve Hofmeyr and Gumboot dancers show off their respective yet very different talents in the same arena.

But for me, Johannesburg’s closed and open spaces are the most alluring contradictions. The city is filled with venues and places of interest to cater to all tastes, and its outdoor arenas are something to take pride in. The city has also just received the 2012 Arbor Award for its green spaces.

It would be impossible to list the spaces of the city because of the sheer number of them. The city is also so close to other closed and open spaces that they are almost incorporated into the city’s wider expanse. I speak of Hartbeespoort Dam and the Cradle of Humankind, which are about an hour away, yet complete any true discovery of Johannesburg. Even the capital, Pretoria can be included in the itinerary.

Maropeng Cradle of Humankind

My favourite closed spaces in the city consist mostly of creative arenas, such as the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Joburg Theatre, the Victory Theatre, and even the AFDA campus in Auckland Park. I have not been to the art gallery in some time, but it has always been one of my favourite Joburg spots. The Victory Theatre is one of the city’s oldest heritage theatres, and its unique interior boasts one of the most intimate settings. Joburg Theatre is a complete contrast to the Victory: its interiors are more spacious, more opulent and modern, but every space is unique.

The 50-storey Carleton Centre is the place to go if you want a bird’s eye view of the city. It has been the tallest building in Africa for 39 years, and though it has lost some of its glamour, the sight from the top is truly something to behold.

If you like shopping, Montecasino is a great entertainment destination. The exterior resembles an ancient Tuscan city, and as you walk through the passages of the casino complex you are greeted by the streets of a little town in Italy, complete with a vintage Fiat covered with parking tickets, strings of laundry suspended overhead, and a painted sky – you lose time in the centre.

However, you cannot have closed spaces without open spaces, and most places make use of both of these aspects. Montecasino, for example, has an amazing bird and reptile garden just outside its doors, while a courtyard is host to events such as the SA Tattoo and international tennis. The Johannesburg Art Gallery is also such a space, as it displays its art in alternately quiet and internal spaces, and out in the open where the art is meant to weather the Joburg thunderstorms.

The best open spaces in the city are its parks. The city was awarded with the coveted National 2012 Arbor City, which is a symbol of the city’s commitment to greening and green spaces. One of my favourite parks in the city is Zoo Lake, which is just across the road from the Johannesburg Zoo. If I have nothing better to do, there is almost nothing I enjoy more than taking a paddle boat out to the centre of the lake to feed bread to the swarms of geese that surround you.

Zoo Lake

One of my most recent visits that has made it to my list of favourites is the Harties Aerial Cableway at Hartbeespoort Dam. The cableway has been in disrepair for several years, but I was completely unaware that it even existed until I met my husband. It has been restored with the help of a reputable Swiss company, and is now of the top quality in the world. The cableway is also the longest in Africa, and a picnic at the top, overlooking the expanse of the Hartbeespoort Dam, which was completed in 1925, is the order of the day.

One can see that Johannesburg is a city of delights, and its spaces will open your heart and make you love its contradictions.


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