‘Saving parliament beyond mere bricks and mortar’

Bloemfontein architect, Anton Roodt, who has more than 35 years of experience as a practicing professional architect.

Successfully reinstating the parliament buildings has significant implications that go far beyond the concerns of mere bricks and mortar, said well-known Bloemfontein architect, Anton Roodt.

In light of the fire that razed parts of the parliamentary complex in the Mother City on 2 January, Bloemfontein Courant spoke to Roodt, to hear his opinion and advice to the people tasked with rebuilding parliament. Roodt was the principal architect in the restoration process of the Bloemfontein City Hall that went up in flames on 21 June 2017.

“With fire, the damage to buildings is always worse than you think, especially if the structure has been compromised. Judging from the visual material available, I think the project will require many resources and might take anything from 4 to 5 years to complete. The first couple of months will be taken up by surveying damage and planning,’’ elaborated Roodt.

He further told the publication that one of the most challenging parts of the project will be to reconceptualise the parliament chamber to bring its function and appearance forward into the 21st century and our democratic dispensation. “The damaged wing in its previous guise symbolically represented a segregated nation in the so-called tricameral parliament.”

According to Roodt, a project like this requires a multi-disciplinary team that will include many specialists in addition to the normal disciplines represented in a professional team that could include inter alia, heritage architects, archaeologists, art historians, historians, etc. “This takes time. A modern parliament also requires specialised electronic and audio-visual equipment that requires engagement with a large number of specialists from other fields.”

When asked if he would take up an offer to be part of the restoration team, Roodt explained the commission is certainly not a project for a single person or firm. “I will be delighted and honoured to be invited to be part of the project team. Our practice has been engaged with heritage work for 50 years and if I could make a worthwhile contribution in this field, I would consider myself fortunate.”

Sazly Hartzenberg