A critical interpretation of the temporal impact of landscape, space and power on the built environment of Church Square, Pretoria
Van der Vyver, Elizabeth Yolanda
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This thesis critically interprets the temporal impact of landscape, space and power on the built environment of Church Square, Pretoria. It proposes to reveal, through critical analysis and comparison, the powers behind the processes of the making of Church Square as urban space, as well as the social and spatial relationships embedded in it. Four distinct periods or episodes can be identified in the history of Church Square and certain seminal moments caused the change from one episode to another. During each episode the physical composition of the space represented and reflected the powers that were the driving forces behind change. A two-dimensional representation of Pretoria in the middle of the nineteenth century shows that the landscape had been shaped by forces of nature and human dominance. The first aim is to determine the powers through which Pretoria was established and then to describe the advent of the philosophy of change, to identify the change from movement to settlement and to determine how the powers of law, state and church formed the Boer worldview. The authority of the state through which the beacons of the first Boer farms were erected is determined and the influence of the prevailing geography on primary settlement is explored. The change in landscape from agricultural settlement to town for the purpose of establishing a Zittingplaats des Volksraads...in het midden des lands is documented. The reason for setting out Pretoria according to a grid pattern is described as both a sign of human dominance over landscape and of water management. Once the wider historical context has been established, the focus moves to the historical area in an around the Square. Although data collection from Surveyor-General diagrams (SG diagrams) and title deeds is rarely seen as part of the creative process, it forms an essential part of any architect’s design methodology and the findings from these legal documents finally find a proud, albeit understated, place in the visual, architectural design outcome. The same is true of an historical architectural study. Any attempt at reconstructing the past of the built environment in context will inevitably refer to land parcels, -ownership and -use, which often provide more insight into the powers that shaped and reshaped the landscape over time, than the buildings themselves. A visual record[ing] of surveyed change over time confirms the notion that landscapes are always temporal, of the moment and in process, that they reflect human agency and action, and that they provoke memory and facilitate or impede action. The study proposes to reveal both the dimension of historical time and the dimension of historical space, therefore including both meanings of temporality: as the real physical world and as one being limited by time. It aims to offer a new focus and approach to historiography of the area and to reveal the significance that the temporal relationship gives to data gathered in architectural history writing. The establishment and development history of Pretoria and Church Square hinted on the frequent change in dynamic between Boer and Brit and the sixth chapter aims to elaborate on this dynamic. It attempts to determine how the built environment in and around Church Square reflected change. It identifies four distinct periods or episodes in the history of the town that can be linked directly to the changed dynamic between Boer and Brit. It proposes to describe the seminal moments that caused change and to determine the powers that were the driving forces behind the change that was made visible in the physical composition of Church Square during each episode. Although the Boer-Brit dynamic visibly influenced the built environment of Pretoria right at its establishment in 1855, the strife between Boer and Brit can be traced back to the first conflict of 1795, when the British occupied the Dutch-owned Cape of Good Hope. A summary of the historical context is followed by a description of the run-up to the tragic Anglo-Boer Wars that were waged at the end of the nineteenth century in the Zuid Afrikaansche Republic (the ZAR or the South African Republic). The aftermath of the War is investigated and the opposing worldviews of the two cultures are presented. The aim is to critically interpret the impact that the changed Boer-Brit dynamic had on the built environment in and around Church Square. The struggle between the desire to preserve memories and the desire to suppress them has been a global topic of discourse since the middle of the twentieth century. On Church Square the presence and absence of memories can best be illustrated in the name of the Square. The name “Church Square” has prevailed even though the central church was demolished over 114 years ago. Recent political protests proved that the Square is still loaded with political meaning and the trauma associated with colonialism and apartheid. As some oppose the offensive idea of Church Square and attempt to destroy the images of past powers, others try to protect their cultural heritage and memory. Since apartheid was introduced as a political system in 1948, the physical composition of the space has remained more or less the same. There has only been one significant change, namely the insertion during apartheid of Paul Kruger’s monumental ensemble in the centre of the Square in 1954, where it remained through the transition into democracy in 1994, up until the present post-apartheid condition. The ambiguous term post-apartheid is used to denote the current South African period as a definitive break from apartheid. Although apartheid and post-apartheid seem on the surface to be two very distinct political and social systems they are inextricably intertwined and the different and opposing discourses on Church Square during these two time periods are presented in one chapter under different discursive headings or topical foci. These include the Afrikaner worldview that led up to apartheid, commemoration of traumatic events during apartheid, the Rivonia trial, modernisation and development proposals. Despite the relative stagnation of the physical appearance of Church Square, there has been a significant shift in the ideologies of the powers behind change. The activities in and around the Square during this time were thus not manifested in the physical, but in the rhetorical. Change was not structural but ideological and the debates surrounding the Square reflected the turbulence of the discourse. The topical foci confirm that even if the built environment does not change significantly, its landscape is always temporal, of the moment and in process. The urban landscape still reflects human agency and action and provokes memory and facilitates or impedes action.