Many of Port Elizabeth’s historic gems such as the Custom’s House have already faced the demolisher’s wrecking ball yet the more compelling danger to Port Elizabeth’s magnificent architectural heritage, is not the building’s outright destruction, but rather inappropriate renovations which wrench these buildings from their historical and social taproots, transforming them into anodyne objects divorced from their past.
For me, the amber light of caution has ineluctably been switched to red as unscrupulous developers and renovators take no heed either of the original design of the structure or the materials used in its construction. In such a callous manner is this irreplaceable heritage being flushed away, substituted by architecture shorn of its historical roots.
This is a plea – nay clarion call – not for vigilance but action to stem the tide of ahistorical renovations couched in terms of restoration. For not to do so, will forever doom this jewel to its gradual but ultimate destruction.
Main picture: Many sins of omission and commission were committed in the restoration of these terraced houses in Donkin Street