Graham Leslie McCallum

The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man

Doomed Mayan Temple – Durban – Art Deco

Several months back as I was exiting Parklands Hospital after having been poked and prodded by the doctor, pierced and plumbed, and feeling just a little irritated by the cost of one’s medical upkeep – I slammed down on my car’s breaks and came to an ignoble halt, the back wheels resting on one of those speed humps in Hartley Road. There, standing off to the right of the road, on the carner with Glenearn Road, was an old Art Deco house, with Mayan-style pediments and other 1920’s detail that I had never seen before. My annual check-up and the doctor’s bill long forgotten, I pulled over onto the verge, much to the amusement of a group of contractors who were in the process of knocking up one of those hideous complexes. The kind of development that attempts to fool buyers into thinking that they are moving up in the world, only to discover after taking possession of their new home, that there is no space for a dish-washer.

Art Deco Residence, Mayan,  Demolished DSC00845
Many of the trees and bushes that surrounded the dilapidated house had been cleared, and for the first time in decades the house could be seen. There she sat towards the back of the property, sadly neglected, paint-work flaking and window frames quite rotten with age and neglect- something of a Mayan temple ruin herself, down to the strangler figs now at home in her brickwork. Begging for restorative attention, surely someone thought her lovely and worth saving.

Art Deco Residence, Mayan,  Demolished

“What are they intending to do with this property?” I asked one of the contractors as he leaned against his new shiny Mercedes Benz”. The reply was saddening and maddening, “bulldoze the building”. I asked him whether or not he recognized it as an Art Deco building from the 1920’s and received a look of vacant indifference. Today, erf 301 in Hartley Road is a vacant lot, sporting weeds and broken masonry, awaiting a ‘fine’ new complex.

How had permission been granted to raze this historically interesting building? AMAFA (Heritage KwaZulu Natal) exacts a fine for the demolition of buildings for which no permission is granted, but such is the paltry fine, that most developers merely pay the fine and proceed. The result – Durban is once again the poorer, thanks to a toothless AMAFA and unscrupulous developers. Stupid city! that allows the original Art Deco buildings to be demolished, and then builds new ones like that confection – ‘Suncoast Casino’ – someone please explain.

All that remains of 301 are the two photographs I quickly snapped.

Graham Leslie McCallum

(below – Suncoast Casino – Durban)

Suncoast, art deco



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