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 Theatre has been gutted, what was once a 300 seater theatre will be transformed into 2 spaces, a small 90 seater black box theatre and a 200sqm dance studio. It’s a journey stripping a space of its history to create space for new memories.
Follow the journey as construction continues….