Celebrating 120 years of existence this year, Windybrow Heritage House, a well-known cultural venue in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, has served many purposes during its lifetime, including being a nurses home.

Built in 1896 as a family home by one of the early South African mining engineers, Theodore Reunert, the Windybrow was declared a national monument in 1996. Its history as an arts centre spans more than 20 years, at first as a traditional theatre complex, reflective of the programming policies and cultural aesthetics of the period.

In 1993 the Windybrow took bold steps to transform itself into a cultural centre consistent with the ethos of the new democratic order. The theatre building was a recent addition to the property.

The Windybrow Theatre embarked on a capital works programme in 2010 on both the Heritage House and the Theatre with the purpose of preserving the heritage status of the buildings, renovating and reconfiguring the structures. The implementation of the Windybrow capital works programme subsequently went horribly wrong and ground to a halt with the two main structures in differing, but incomplete conditions which rendered both structures unfit for normal use. This was a very low point for the Windybrow premises.

The Market Theatre Foundation (MTF) was appointed as the administrator of the Windybrow Theatre in March 2014 and one of its main tasks is to oversee the assessment of all work done as part of the previous capital works programme, preservation of the Heritage House and the Theatre renovations.

The planning for the restoration of the Heritage House started in August 2014. The professional team appointed on the project was:

Project Managers: Badat Developments
Electrical Engineer: DJP Power Services
Quantity Surveyor: Takgalang
Structural Engineer: Bergstan
Architect: KMH Architects
Heritage Consultant: Herbert Prins
Fire Consultant: Protection Projects
OHS Consultant: KVM Risk Solutions

The project has two phases. The first phase was simply closing the house up to prevent further damage while planning the restoration. Phase 2 was the restoration of the house.

The contractor, GVK Siya Zama was appointed in October 2015 and completed phase 2 of the project in August 2016. GVK did a sterling job. Their extensive experience in the restoration of heritage buildings was necessary for this project. The Architects from KMH, Wayne Mansfield and Michael Cornwell, were sensitive and took on board all the proposals by our wise heritage consultant, Mr Herbert Prins. The team worked very hard under the guidance of Agmat Badat, the project manager. The project was successful as a result of excellent team work. The MTF CFO, Christine McDonald, was lucky enough to represent the MTF on the project team – what a pleasure to be part of such an exciting project! The project cost to date has been R11 million.

The rebuilding of the theatre is the next project for which the planning is well underway. However, the funding for this project will only be available in 2019.

The heritage house will be used for rehearsals and play readings as well as meetings and exhibitions. Until the theatre is ready in 2019 this beautiful house will be available for the arts and other visitors to enjoy the “posh old lady” with its 21 rooms, including a ball room.

  • The Windybrow property is situated at 161 Nugget Street, corner Pieterson Street, Hillbrow, erf 2663 Johannesburg.


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