21 August 2013 | Leserbriefe

Save what is left of our heritage

We felt a sense of horror when we drove along one of our favourite old streets in Windhoek to find that two of the historical houses in Love Street were in the process of being gutted. Old timber, most likely the original timber window and door frames, roof trusses and edgings lay discarded on the sidewalk like cheap plastic. Two workers hacked at the existing trees to add to the ghastly pile of rubble. Unfortunately, we have no photos of these two houses before they were ripped open. Did anyone make the effort to document these pieces of Windhoek’s heritage before they were destroyed? At this stage, we do not have any information regarding this project. What is the intention here? Were these houses bought up by a developer, with the plan of adding yet more repetitive and insensitive so-called “architecture” to our city-scape? Or was the correct procedure followed? With any building or place of heritage significance, permission should be sought for any works done to such place. According to the National Heritage Act No.27 of 2004, the current legislation governing the protection of our heritage in Namibia, ‘“works” includes a) any physical intervention, excavation or action that may result in a change to the nature, appearance or physical nature of a place.’ The National Heritage Act is in place to provide for the conservation of any place listed as a place of heritage significance. This conservation includes ‘a) the retention of the heritage significance of a place or object; and b) the protection, maintenance, preservation, restoration, reconstruction or sustainable use of a place or object.’ A more in depth investigation of heritage in our city is required – some of our questions include whether these two houses are listed on the register of places of heritage significance? And the numerous other historical buildings along Robert Mugabe Avenue? If not, we fear they will be lost to us all forever. This is not merely a plea to preserve colonial architecture – this is a plea to conserve the artefacts that have formed our diverse and unique society today – whether of positive or negative association. Whatever they might have been, they form integral pieces of the history that our children can learn from. It is truly uplifting to see a beautiful building from a bygone era well preserved and there are many like-minded people who share our sentiments. To see these demolished or indiscriminately altered to be replaced by nondescript buildings, leaves us with a poorer landscape that lacks texture and variety. Surely this is not progress? We urge the people of Windhoek not to be complacent and to stand together in our battle to save what is left of our architectural and cultural heritage. Go to www.facebook.com/groups/Archi.heritage.Nam to share your views. Vanessa Ruhlig & Jacqueline Louw (gachikukamau architects), Windhoek Anm. der Red.: Der Abriss dieser Häuser wurde in der aktuellen Leserumfrage auf der AZ-Webseite www.az.com.na thematisiert. Dort wird gefragt: Wie soll mit historischer Bausubstanz umgegangen werden? 4 Antworten sind vorgegeben – die Leser können noch bis zum 22. August ihre Stimme abgeben.