City Hall restored to former glory

The City Hall after completion of the restoration process. Photos: Pierce van Heerden

The restoration of Bloemfontein’s City Hall, which was gutted by a fire in 2017, has finally been completed. This according to the principal agent in the project, architect Anton Roodt.
Roodt explained to Bloemfontein Courant that at the end of the day, the starting point was to ensure that the City Hall looked as much as possible as it used to before it was burnt down.

“However, we all know that once you start to replace old material with new material, it is no longer the building it used to be, so in that sense the building is different to the first one, even though it looks very similar.”

An image of the City Hall before its restoration, after being torched in 2017. PHOTOS: PIERCE VAN HEERDEN

Roodt added that every detail of the building has been made by specialists in their specific fields, some being the only ones of their kind in the country. Materials for certain parts had to be imported as they were not available in our country. “Back in the day when we worked on the Old Presidency the restoration process took 10 years, so the fact the City Hall took three years, of which one was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the time it took us to complete the restoration has been merely a drop in the ocean.”

He said the role of an architect in this project was to manage the project during the building phase. “We needed to do research about what the building looked like before. You would think there would be a lot of information regarding the building and how the inside looked but people do not take pictures of things like floor mouldings and door knobs.”
According to Roodt, they managed to get photos on social media of functions that were held there and that is what helped them with the research, for example to see where there used to be doors, etc., and that was how they had managed to reconstruct the building on the inside.

“Think of the state in which the City Hall was after the fire – there was no roof, the walls were black and in the middle was a pile of rubbish that was the same colour and had the same appearance as the building overseas after the 9/11 attack.”

Roodt said there are some new additions to the City Hall because as time passed, certain health and other regulations had changed, so they have adapted the stage for those with disabilities. The sound and lighting are also of a better standard.

Bloemfontein Courant sent detailed questions to the Manguang Metro Municipality but at the time of going to print had not received a response.

Sazly Hartzenberg