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THE FUTURE OF CITY HALL? WHAT NEXT?




The City Hall, arguably a building of great potential, that could benefit all Capetonians remains caught up in a process to decide or consult on its future. After a recent study tour to Asia, it seems as if the City of Cape Town, has decided to form a “steering committe” for City Hall. While the City has certainly learnt some valuable lessons from its Asian counterparts in terms of using a heritage building of this nature, I question the need for forming another committee, which may only delay the process on deciding the future of the building.

According to the City of Cape Town, the purpose of this steering committee would be to “facilitate an inclusive consultative process with all role players as well as identifying appropriate potential funding sources and conduit mechanisms in the future.” This begs the question: “Have we not been doing this for the last 5 years?” I’m also concerned that the Grand Parade is not considered as part of the future of the building, given the scale of the space, and how its success of failure may impact on the success of City Hall. In my mind I envision City Hal and the Grand Parade as a connected and seamlessly integrated public space which can easilly be reinforced by extending the Grand Parade paving across to City Hall.

The good news is that City Hall been undergoing upgrades to refurbish the building, which will continue into the future, while tenants for the 3rd floor of the building have been secured.

In a report on the City of Cape Town’s OVERSEAS MISSION TO HONG KONG, SINGAPORE AND CHINA, the Old Parliament House in Singapore was considered a case study for City Hall.

The Old Parliament House Limited (TOPHLTD) of Singapore is a not-for-profit organisation incorporated by the National Arts Council in December 2002 as a full-service arts organisation to serve a key aim within the arts and creative industries in Singapore: the conservation and management of heritage
buildings as arts spaces for both public and private institutions. From July 2003 to March 2004, TOPHLTD managed and completed the restoration of Singapore’s oldest government building, The Old Parliament House, into a multi-disciplinary arts venue and opened the building as The Arts House at the Old Parliament.

Occupying the 182-year old building which was the former Parliament House and Singapore’s first Court House, The Arts House is a multidisciplinary arts centre that offers visitors a broad spectrum of activities ranging from contemporary arts and entertainment events to lifestyle and food & beverage options.

Since its opening in March 2004, The Arts House has also been championing the Singapore arts and creative scene, playing consultative and developmental roles in bridging the connections between the arts and artists with various audiences including public agencies, private corporations and individual
supporters of the arts as well.

The vision of the Old Parliament House is to build spaces that encourage the freedom to think, to be creative and to reinvent. Its mission is to restore and build spaces for arts and artists’ use, cemented with a sustainable philosophical thinking.

More recently, the “Spotlight in Singapore” exchange programme was used to as an information and ideas exchange forum to brainstorm sustainable solutions for the future of City Hall. The outcome of this exchange has not yet been made public.

What do you think the future of City Hall should be? A Centre for the Arts? Contemporary Arts Museum? School of Music Excellence in Cape Town? A general exhibition centre? All ideas and thoughts welcomed.