"A Journey through 12 Decades of Johannesburg's History" Our Boutique apartments are situated at The MainStreetLife building, in the heart of The Maboneng Precinct, a block away from the hostel. The 12 Decades Apartments chronicles the history of Johannesburg from 1886 to 2006, with rooms designed and conceptualised by some of South Africa’s most celebrated artists and designers. Each room explores a different theme appropriate to Johannesburg’s colourful mining and commercial history as Africa’s most powerful economic city.
With a far-off view of the mine dumps and pine boxes filled with gold objects, the room effortlessly translates the era of the gold rush in Johannesburg. ‘Jack’ refers not only to the former owner of the building, Jack Lemkus, but also to Jack Barnato Joel, an early mining magnate.
Lauren Wallet’s literally theatrical design of the room was inspired by the Bantu theatre movement that was curbed at the beginning of the apartheid era. Herbert Dlomo, a teacher, journalist and musician, attempted to fight colonial domination through drama, but was cut off when the apartheid laws came into practice. “Who is Herbert Dlomo?” forces the question of how many voices were never heard as a result of oppression, yet elements in the design all strongly allude to the notion that there will always be light shining through the dark.
Love Jozi designer Bradley Kirshenbaum brings a sense of humour to one of the most tumultuous eras in South African history with his satirical design. While ‘a part hate’ needs no explanation, the tongue-in-cheek design elements make this room a pleasant representation of a particularly unpleasant time in Johannesburg’s history.
Focusing on the Ponte city building, the camera obscura highlights that the reality of the building and its many fictions have seamlessly integrated into a patchwork of myths and projections that reveal as much about the psyche of the city as they do about the building itself. During this decade, the mass exodus of the building’s residents into the Northern suburbs saw the vacated areas become associated with crime and urban decay. The designers’ intention is to emphasise that while much of the legend of Ponte is true, one is left with the feeling that the building’s notoriety is somewhat exaggerated- that it’s decline is as fictional as its initial utopian intentions wese misplaced and unrealized.
The “Sir Abe Bailey” room focuses on the era of the great “Randlords” in Johannesburg. Designed by the grandson of Sir Abe Bailey, one of the wealthiest Randlords, the room and its comforts are in line with the sort of furnishings that an early Rand Club would have offered a successful young bachelor on his way up in the finance world.The design elements pay tribute to the Chinese indentured labourers who were among the first to work on the mines.
The design of the room focuses primarily on the stages in setting up and understanding a new democracy. The division of the room into three distinct parts creates the journey from past, through present toward the future. In this way, the room moves from the dark rigid structures of the seating area toward the light and the incredible view. Instantly one is grasped by the intensity of light and the expanse of a redeveloping, layered city. The space is not intended as a destination, but merely a starting point for the future.
The post-gold rush era in Johannesburg saw landowners transforming Doornfontein into subdivided living quarters for miners, making it a slum filled with corrugated iron shacks. Furniture designer, Robyn Symes, and photographer Pierre Crocquet, have chosen to focus the room on the Marabi Dance movement that was born of the crowded and dirty, yet vibrant and richly communal lifestyle. After dark, the working class, rural immigrants, the unemployed and the unemployable congregated in the shebeens drinking lethal home-brews and moving to the rhythm of endlessly repetitive, but infectious music that came to be known as Marabi.
Designers Katy Taplin and Adriaan Hugo created this room with Bauhaus meets Joburg mining town in mind. While the wall treatments are indicative of what one would have encountered in a gold-rush mining town during this decade, internationally art and design movement De Stijl and the modernest Bauhaus design movement were gaining momentum and influenced the furnishings of the room. This results in the room being dubbed a Jo’burg Minehaus.
Designers Danica Lepen & Jacques van der Watt of the “Black Coffee” clothing label, purposefully chose one of the most fashion-focused decades in history. Complete with a catwalk, designer rails and backstage lighting rigs, this fashion-focused room brings to light all that was ‘in vogue’ in the 80’s.
Very much an extension of her personal work, Artist Kim Lieberman, once again explores the theme of connectivity between human beings in her room “Main Street Constellations”. The room chronicles and connects the proprietors of Main Street since the birth of Johannesburg city.
Working on the speculation that the meteorite impact south of Johannesburg two billion years ago, today known as the Vredefort dome, was the reason for the gold reef on which Johannesburg was built, artist Marcus Neustetter and property developer Jonathan Liebmann have combined their two passions to shape this room.The hotel room instillationVision – Main Street Life abstractly summarises the artist’s reflection and the developer’s vision in understanding the historic and contemporary relevance toward a pursuit for the future.
“50 stories” explores the history of the Carlton Centre (opened in 1969) and the influence it had on the way of life during this turbulent period. As well as being one of Johannesburg’s only suburban malls, it was also one of the only places in the city where inter-racial socialising was permitted. The layout of the room pays homage to the Carlton’s 360-degree viewing deck over Johannesburg which has been a witness to the transformation since the early 1970’s.