Art deco icon

What if my shoes fall off? What if I forget what to do? What did the girl say again: hold the rope with your left-hand and feed it through to your right-hand? Huh? I’m uncoordinated at the best of times. And now I can’t feel my arms... And I may need the loo. How tall is this building again? 20 storeys?

Forgetting these worries and taking the first step off the ledge at the top of the Ansteys building in the Jozi town was one of the scariest (hell yes), but also coolest things I’ve done.

My plan was to only watch and take photos of some rap jumping (forward-facing abseiling) for a writing job. This adrenaline sport involves jumping down the building – feet-to-the-wall and face-forward (with a rope and safety gear). I wasn't going to do it. But I’m glad the guys from Pure Rush Industries convinced me to give it a go. This nerd felt pretty un-nerdy for a few days after. Actually still.

I look like I'm praying in the last photo. I'm not. I'm swearing silently.

Going back to terra firma. I was okay up higher, but the last bit with the ground coming closer... Sheesh. I put a crazy photo up on Instagram when I was just finding my feet if you want to check it out. Have to ask though - does the harness make my bum look big?

Getting up close and personal with Ansteys in this way made me realise again that it’s actually a great story too. I mean for one, there's the view. The picture way above is the view towards the North from the roof of this building.

But this beauty also has a lot history and even though the facade has faded over time, it's art deco design is still striking. Situated at 59 Joubert Street, it was designed for Norman Anstey. His once famed Ansteys department store and offices took up some of the bottom  floors. The other floors were dedicated to apartments, many of which have impressive views.

Ansteys was built in 1936 and held the title as the tallest skyscraper in Joburg (some even say in Africa) for some time. While we were there, I saw a list of some of the renovations planned for this Johannesburg icon - all focused on restoring the outside. With many of the beautiful old buildings in Johannesburg falling apart, this is a good news story!

There she is!

I asked Brian Mckechnie, who's passionate about this building and an owner of some of the apartments, to tell me more. He's also an architect and council member of the Gauteng Provincial Government - Provincial Heritage Resources Authority, Built Environment Committee.

People who stay in Ansteys just seem so passionate about the place?
Many of the people who live at Ansteys have been in the building since the mid-90s. So for them, it isn’t just a redeveloped or gentrified part of the city, it's their home.

There is obviously a whole new generation of young creative professionals who also live at Ansteys. The appeal to creatives, I think, is that Ansteys is part of an authentic inner city community. The building is not located in a gentrified neighbourhood, like Braamfontein or Maboneng. Ansteys is part of the down town city vibe, but still a stone’s throw away from areas like the financial and mining district, with the coffee shops, Woolies and corporate head offices, if that's what appeals.  

Looking out from inside.

Could you please tell me a bit more about the cool developments for this year – and what you hope will be achieved by the end of the process?
We have already begun upgrades of the roof space with the creation of a roof deck. The top section of the building (floors 17-20) has also been painted in a light concrete grey colour, similar to the buildings original colour. The full restoration should take four years. By the end of the project, the exterior will be restored to its original condition.

What makes the renovations at Ansteys different?
The Ansteys project is different in that it is not spearheaded by a large property developer. Additonally, the building is a proclaimed provincial heritage site (former national monument), so obviously we need to comply with the requirements of the National Heritage Resources Act to ensure that the building is preserved for future generations.

You can stay up to date about Ansteys here and find out more about the Ansteys rap jumping here.

Love these details inside!

That's not me. I took this picture from a safe distance.

The view from the back.

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Posted by Gail Wilson on
Wow, I'm in awe of you - well done.
Posted by admin on
Thanks so much Gail! And thanks for checking out my post too :)
Posted by Ronel on
You daredevil! ;)
Awesome storie, awesome images, awesome jy!
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