In the period since apartheid ended and democracy was introduced into South Africa a complaint of many white people is that, while democracy is laudable, what is shocking is that in many cities the ‘white’ or ‘European’ heritage, and by this they mean the buildings, are being destroyed. I have visited Johannesburg and Durban and have seen that many buildings have fallen into disrepair, particularly the Art Deco buildings; they no longer look as they did twenty years ago. But I am loath to agree with the narrative of complaint. So in this thesis I develop a new narrative, one which not only includes an understanding of history and how these buildings came about, but one that contains the stories of those who live there and made it their space now.
Simultaneously I became interested in buildings and different architectural genres and so I visited Springs, a town outside Johannesburg, which I had been told, had just a few fewer Art Deco buildings in a small space than did Miami in the United States. In Springs the Art Deco buildings are not well maintained; many white South Africans/Europeans who lived there no longer live there, they have left the town for what they perceive to be the more salubrious suburbs. The people who live there now are new immigrants from, mainly, Asia and Africa. These new immigrants bring with them different cultures, values, beliefs and needs.
In my creative work I explore the stories in words and in pictures of those who live in the buildings of Springs now. I have created their names and their stories, imagined their lives, developed a narrative of how they live in a space which is not theirs historically but one which they have reclaimed and reconfigured.
In the academic thesis I explore the architectural genre of Art Deco both theoretically and in relation to some buildings, the theory of social space and how buildings are not static but reflect a changing social order, and I have analysed some photographs of the buildings as they are now.
I have sought to create a new narrative; one of revival, vigour and celebration.