During holiday seasons, some cities become empty and deserted. At those moments cities are discharged: they become places where businesses are left behind, shops are closed and streets abandoned. The local population has left the city in search for leisure, while groups of tourists wander vacant parks and municipal squares, thereby accidentally mingling with brides and grooms in search for a picture perfect setting. Arriving in Pretoria – one of the three South Africa’s capital cities – on Christmas-day, the feeling of emptiness was tangible and one could almost imagine oneself finding in a similar condition as Alejandro Amenábar’s opening sequence of Abre los ojos.
From Johannesburg we took the N1 Eastern Bypass up North and arrived, after approximately 50 kilometers, in Pretoria. Similar to Johannesburg the city is located on a plateau and lies at an altitude of about 1,350 meter above sea level. After leaving Jo’burg one sees along the highways a series of open fields that are gradually being replaced by suburban developments; while arriving in Pretoria means being surrounded by seventies-looking government and university complexes, alternated by Chicken Licken’s and KFC’s. Research on the urban and architectural development of Pretoria hasn’t revealed to much of any discussion or debate about the city’s evolution during the past decade. Architect Remy Jansen summarizes in “Back to South Africa” the situation as following:
During the apartheid the city was racially divided. Wealthier Afrikaner and English people lived in the city centre and the native Africans lived in the townships. After the apartheid most Afrikaner and English people left to the suburbs and migrants from the rural area’s came to the city.
[mmaarch.co.za website is not safe!] Further investigation leads us to MMA Architects recently completed Faze 1 Isivivane [freedom-park-phase-1-isivivane] and Faze 2 Sikhumbuto [freedomparka], and the Freedom Park Xhapo [freedomparkb] Museum, for the ‘Freedom Park’ development – a “leading national and international icon of humanity and freedom”. Check: Freedom Park Museum.
Pictures by movingcities.org