Dynamite comes in small packages

 Photo: provided

BOILING HOT: Braamfontein’s Boiler Room showcases work by students and up and coming designers and architects.
Photo: provided

A small, dark room in a Braamfontein alley is opening spaces and places for lovers of architecture and design.

The Boiler Room is part of the Alive Architecture initiative, located down an alley just off Melle Street, opposite the Neighbourgoods Market. It serves as a space for architecture students and upcoming architects to showcase their work at no cost.

In the first six weeks of its opening, the room had over 1200 visitors, and is becoming known as a space for innovation according to the owners.

Alive Architecture as an architectural gallery was developed in September 2011 and it now has a home in Braamfontein in as of  December 2013. The studio that now houses this innovative space is about 25 square metres is a small dark room. The space has a boiler for the building, which is above it in one corner, hence its name The Boiler Room.

The owner Pieter-Ernst Maré – along with Simon Cretney – says that the room caters specifically for students, upcoming architects and designers because this group does not get the chance to showcase as much as developed designers and architects.

“We felt that the smaller designers don’t get enough exposure to the general public,” said Maré.

Maré says that when the concept was drawn up in 2011 there weren’t many showrooms that were available for these marginalised groups to showcase their work for free.

Maré, who is a blogger and architect, says they look at proposals for the use of the space and choose a variety of ideas so the public can get a range of skills, trades and art exhibited in the space.

“We really don’t mind what our tenants do with the space – as long as we get it back like we gave it to them, so that the next exhibitor can step in and showcase with the minimum of fuss and expense in setting themselves up,” said Maré.

He said that many people do not understand the architecture industry. The Alive Architecture initiatives through The Boiler Room aims to educate the public about the work that goes into designing homes and work spaces.

Maré says the initiative wants to show that “architecture isn’t just about keeping water out of a space, that landscape architecture is not about picking the right petunia colour and that interior architecture is not about scatter cushions and curtains”. It’s an exploration of materials, ideas and philosophies that translate into a space, he says.

Maré says they hope to expand and showcase South African talent in other parts of the country in the near future.

The best of both worlds inside the shop with the red car

Braamies enjoying African Blended coffees and free Wi-Fi

Braamies enjoying African Blended coffees and free Wi-Fi. Photo: Percy Matshoba

Braamfontein locals know this store as the one with the old, red Mini Cooper inside it.

Branson Centre, its official name, is the store that offers a cup of java that has could have its origins in as far afield as Rwanda served under exotic names like The Dictator.

Serviced by Motherland Coffee, the coffee-shop part of the Virgin Mobile store, dares to be bold and different in the coffee-drinking experience.

Beverages with personality

With the names of their beverages ranging from ice d’Ivoire invented in Cote d’Ivoire and The Dictator that comes with a slogan “Make your day, Obey you”, it’s no wonder that young, hip, urbanites are attracted to the shop.

The coffee is also sourced according to fair trade practices which ensure ethical and fair practices in farming and sourcing coffee on the African continent.

There is also the pull of free Wi-Fi which is a sure bet in attracting student patrons but with a small cup of coffee costing around R22 and the larger at R35, it is likely that usually cash-strapped student customers are leaving the store with a thirst.

Wits Vuvuzela visited the store at various times on four separate occasions and in all instances, the store was unusually quiet. Manager of the coffee-shop Webster Ndebele sees an increase in foot-traffic over the weekends as tourists passing by from the Neighborgoods market pop in for a cup of coffee. Most tourists admire the style,” he said.

To celebrate these visitors from abroad, the shop has created the ”Tourists” – the name for coffee laced with the varieties of European syrups.

The store opened last October and has even managed to make it into the Guinness Book of Records for cramming the most number of people – 25 – into the little Mini Cooper.


How Braamfontein got its groove back

Adam Levy: an ordinary man with extraordinary dreams for the city.  Photo: Percy Matshoba

DREAMER: Adam Levy, an ordinary man with extraordinary hopes for the city.
Photo: Percy Matshoba

From a corporate and militant feel prior  to 1994 to a vibrant multicultural hub two decades later, Adam Levy tells Wits Vuvuzela how Braamfontein got its groove back.

Levy is the owner of Play Braamfontein, a company that enables entrepreneurs to revamp Braamfontein’s image. From retro coffee shops like The Post on 70 Juta, playful clothing shops like SupremeBeing to beach parties on now-famous rooftops, Braamfontein has seen a cultural revival in recent years

The aroma of coffee, tall colourful buildings, art galleries and inspiring new business people rushing in and out of Braamfontein has become the order of the day in this rising village.

When Wits Vuvuzela asked Levy ‘why Braamfontein,’ his answer was a firm one. “Why not Braamfontein?” He says he got his inspiration from traveling the world and experiencing a model of what a city should feel like. He said although Braamfontein is a small environment in the city, he was motivated to turn it into a “vibrant multicultural space” that people from all walks of life could enjoy.

[pullquote]“On Saturday, it’s like the suburb jumped on a ship and decided to come to the city”[/pullquote]

Levy said the city of Johannesburg has always lacked a relationship with its people and Braamfontein is transforming into a more cosmopolitan space that interacts with people living and working in the area.

“I had very little opportunity to play in the city, there was no feeling of liveliness, hence Play Braamfontein.

The manager of The Post coffee shop Shannon Schmidt said people were a lot more sceptical about coming to Braamfontein in 2010, when Post first opened but that has since changed. “On Saturday, it’s like the suburb jumped on a ship and decided to come to the city”, he said.

Schmidt said new businesses has attracted more people and has also shown Joburgers that the city can be a fun place.

Schmidt said Play Braamfontein is transforming the city into living area, a lively place night or day and has enabled entrepreneurs to “take back the city”.

“It has become a place to live, to work, to school, to shop and so much more.”

Now Joburgers do not have to look at movie scenes shot in New York and think ‘I want to have a life like that’, they can have that experience right at home.