Lorentzville, home to Nando’s Central Kitchen since 1991, is a small suburb nestled between semi-industrial Bertrams and Judith's Paarl, on the eastern edge of Joburg’s CBD. The neighbourhood has degenerated over the years, but – Nando's sparkling new refurbishment aside – change is afoot.
Just across the road from the Central Kitchen is Victoria Yards, a collection of early 20th century warehouses and industrial buildings that spans 30,000 square metres. By the time developer Brian Green and a few partners came upon it, it was derelict. Which suited Brian just fine – as the man behind Joburg's popular 44 Stanley, he's well versed in transforming down-and-out properties destined for demolition into desirable destinations.
Brian and his team spent much of 2017 developing Victoria Yards into a creative hub. ‘The idea was to turn it into an urban city farm, then later I wanted to fill it with artists and artisans, and some kind of educational element that would slot into a specific gap in the South African educational market, specifically towards artisanal skill sets development,’ he explains. Although still a work in progress, there remains a strong focus on the development of the surrounding community through work as well as educational training opportunities. ‘We want to formalise training so that people can come in from the community and walk out with an artisanal accreditation.’
The space is already home to a number of different spaces, from a gallery and a gin distillery, to a coffee roastery and artist studios (look out for acclaimed artists such as Blessing Ngobeni, Roger Ballen and Ayanda Mabulu).
Perhaps one of the most striking features of Victoria Yards are its walls, which have not been painted or plastered over. ‘I love what Brian's doing in exposing the layers as opposed to covering them up,’ says Brett McDougall of the Joburg Heritage Foundation. ‘When I look around, I see the various textures of brickwork, right from the stone base of the original 1913 buildings through to later periods. From a heritage perspective, the buildings tell a story.’
It was this that captured the imagination of Nando's design curator and launch creative director, Tracy Lynch, who saw in Victoria Yards the perfect setting to present the Nando’s Portal to Africa launch exhibition. ‘The rawness of the buildings was just too extraordinary not to be inspired by,’ says Tracy. ‘The intention of the space is to create an opportunity for creatives to build and grow their businesses surrounded by other creatives and like-minded people, and that made it the perfect context for our Nando's Portal to Africa website launch.’
The exhibitions at the launch presented not only the work of the 30 contributing designers, but hundreds of their collaborators and workers in each of their studios and factories. Take, for example, designer David Krynauw, whose factory based in Victoria Yards employed some 10 people prior to collaborating with Nando's. Today, he has 60 people working under him, and that number is growing – as is the craftsmanship and reach of the South African design story.
Victoria Yards is fostering an eco-system of artists and artisans. It’s emerged from the chop-shop detritus as a unique re-imagining of the metropolitan landscape, combining a creative community, social development and urban greening.
A once-dilapidated industrial complex, Victoria Yards is situated in Lorentzville on the eastern edge of Jo’burg’s CBD. It’s a sprawling 30 000m2 development of old warehouses and historical buildings, stretching across the Jukskei River, which runs through the property. Originally conceived as an urban city farm-school, it’s become a magnet for likeminded artistic souls like Blessing Ngobeni, Craig Smith and Dario Manjate, who are seeking to reinvent city living. The buildings, which house studios and workshop spaces for fine artists, metalworkers, glass-blowers, silkscreen printers and furniture-makers, have been given the lightest touch. Old plaster and graäti remain and there’s a strong sense of identity and place as the exposed brickwork reveals a multitude of texturally rich, historic layers.
‘The eco-system’s definitely showing signs of working,’ says Brian Green, property developer and the creative visionary, alongside his partners. ‘One tenant will need a chair designed and they’ll go to Norris Mwape. Another will need a gate made and they’ll ask Justin Wells. So it’s working quite beautifully and people love working in this environment.’
Metalworker Justin Wells echoes this. ‘It’s important where you spend every day of your life. I’d rather spend it in a garden than in industrial grime,’ he says. Here, there are walkways lined with thriving edible gardens – lemon verbena, cabbages, fig and apricot trees, mealies and more – and ascending meadows leading to an enormous building that will be morphing into a restaurant and an event space. Doubleshot will soon be oïering a much needed caffeine fix and there are plans for a smaller daytime eatery.
The development’s rapidly evolving to meet the community’s needs and to ensure it’s a commercially viable project. ‘Victoria Yards, remarkably, has stayed close to what I originally envisaged,’ says Green. ‘My first idea was to green it up. I love gardens and I always seem to end up creating them in developments. Gardens are big drivers for the success of a place – greenery softens the rawness.’
The idea behind the urban agriculture project, explains Green, is to associate Victoria Yards with all the farms in the area, such as Siyakhaya, in order to establish a vegetable market and facilitate agricultural education. An artisan school is also in the works and a fair to showcase artisans and their craft will be held with MAKESA later this year.
If you’re looking for a great space to host an inner-city wedding, then look no further than Victoria Yards. Located in Lorentzville, this urban social development has taken an assortment of broken and battered ruins and turned them into quirky working spaces and functional buildings that simply ooze atmosphere.
Urban textures within the Victoria Yards environment provides dramatic photographic opportunities
This commercial enterprise was the brainchild of developer Brian Green. It was both a dream and a passion to bring together an eco-system where tenants work together as a community. One of the main projects is the gardens, where row upon row of vegetables and fruit are grown as part of a skills upliftment programme.
There are four functional venues available for hire within Victoria Yards. The Amphitheatre, which has a stage area and is terraced, accommodates up to 350 people. The large event hall is suitable for bigger weddings of up to 600 guests and there’s a smaller room with a beautiful fireplace which accommodates 200 guests. There is also a spacious open area which would be suitable for a marquee and will hold around 300 guests. A list of preferred suppliers is available, but you’re welcome to bring in your own caterers and décor suppliers.
FOR ENQUIRIES CONTACT:
Chann de Villiera | Manager
076 558 1781 | firstname.lastname@example.org