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OUR SQUARE
RECENTERING CHURCH SQUARE
 AN ASSESSMENT OF THE TRUE STATE OF CHURCH SQUARE PRETORIA
PROJECT STATUS: PROPOSAL
LOCATION: CHURCH SQUARE, PRETORIA (TSHWANE)

Recentering Church Square, Tshwane
AAL 310 Assignment, University of Pretoria

A vast open urban space with a riveting and controversial history. Noteworthy visits to Church Square came from King Sekhukhune (Fisher et al, 1998), President Paul Kruger, industrialist Sammy Marks, Lord Selborne (Discovertshwane.com, no date), 1 st Earl Kitchener, Princess Elizabeth (QE II) (Rct.uk, no date) along with the royal family as well as a young Nelson Mandela fighting against Apartheid during the Rivonia Trials (Iolproperties.com, 2015). Today, little of its past is honoured in its upkeep. Dilapidated buildings, vacant and in disuse, surround a large plot of ornamental lawn and under-managed planter boxes. With a low social impact and an insignificant contribution to climate change mitigation, the square brings negligible value to biodiversity, ecological resilience and sustainability. The site contains a mere drop of water to sustain the little fauna present on site. Notwithstanding the site’s deplorable state, it holds incredible potential to be regenerated to such a point where it will inspire, inform and challenge its users and visitors to become ecologically minded – a trend-setter for future urban development.

 

The first of four bells of the Council Chamber’s clock-tower on Church Square, ordered from Germany in around 1890 is engraved with the name of State President Paul Kruger, the fine leader loved by so many, who has been keeping a watchful eye on the city for decades (Discovertshwane.com, no date). But it is this very symbol of a man so closely connected to the city’s existence and development that now stands in the way of relevancy. Through negotiations, a more suitable space can be created to host ‘Oom Paul’ and thereby new life can be blown into the lost urban space of Church Square with all its potential social and ecological benefits. The third and fourth bells are respectively engraved with ‘Unity Is Strength’ (third) and ‘Unity and Reconciliation’ (fourth)(Discovertshwane.com, no date). In the looming threat of climate change, we must look beyond political and social differences and begin the colossal task of reconciliation and unity with nature. In the future, designing with nature will no longer be optional, but a necessity - an essential starting-point for urban design and architecture. Perhaps then we may spot again Blue Cranes returning to the city centre, hear Bull Frogs calling from bioswales and feel the rustling wind through indigenous grass species coming from redeemed urban space. Urban Green Infrastructure is urban mitigation, an effective and affordable way to ensure the well-being of the city dweller, but at no one’s expense - neither man nor nature.

 

Our Square proposes a rethink of the square. The space should be open, become meaningful and inclusive. A tree and berry orchard aptly named Uni-Trees provides seasonal and free food sources, a free art gallery, the Africa Free Gallery. exposes local art talent to local and overseas markets while free theatre space, the Africa Free Theatre, can be used by local artists as a platform to speak, influence and amaze. An industrial kitchen trains and employs unskilled workers in creating preserves. There is market space and a variety of urban green infrastructure mediations. As lovers of architecture, we must dream, we are forced to become idealists.       

 

References:

 

Bosman, C (2023). “Our Square – Recentering Church Square’, AAL 310: Regenerative Urban Design. University of Pretoria. Unpublished Essay.

Discovertshwane.com, City of Tshwane. (No date) ‘Rediscover Church Square’. Available at: http://discovertshwane.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Church-Square-Brochure.pdf. Accessed on: 27.05.2023

Fisher R, Le Roux S and Maré E (1998) ‘Architecture Of The Transvaal’. UNISA, Pretoria.

 

Lolproperties.com, Haswell R, 2015. ‘Pretoria's Church Square: Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow?’ Available at: http://www.iolproperty.co.za/roller/news/entry/pretoria_s_church_square_yesterday. Accessed on: 25.05.2023

 

Rct.uk, (no author). (No date) ‘The City's Welcome, Church Square, Pretoria29 Mar 1947’. Available at: https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/trails/presentation-albums-in-the-royal-collection/the-citys-welcome-church-square. Accessed on: 26.05.2023

ARCHITECTURAL PORTFOLIO   |   OUR SQUARE   |   CHURCH SQUARE PRETORIA   |   ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER 

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