Art Deco in Durban
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Art Deco, born in the 1920s, the movement's origins are French, but in the 1930s American designers adopted it as their own distinctive style with impressive effect. Yet throughout the world many other countries also identified with the style and added their own local interpretation to it. Art Deco buildings can be found in widely dispersed settings from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Maputo, Mozambique, and New Zealand. Art Deco has become a truly international style.
In the 1930s the South African harbour city, Durban, embraced the new style. Numerous buildings, especially residential apartment blocks, were erected in this new design. The styling on the Art Deco buildings reflect the different backgrounds of the city's population, some with a strong emphasis on the city's maritime background, other reflecting the interests of Durban's Muslim traders. Some of the buildings pay allegiance to Durban's long association with the British Empire, such as Empire and Dominion Courts while others recognise Indian connections, such as the KM Ebrahim Building and Sayed Fakroodeen Building. Exemplary examples of the style include Surrey Mansions (Currie Road), Berea Court (Berea Road West), Colonial Mutual Building (West Street and the Memorial Tower Building (King George V Avenue). The cenotaph in the central square outside the City Hall is another striking Art Deco construction.
Plight of Some Deco Examples
Unfortunately, some of the once grand buildings in and around the city centre are now in poor repair, neglected because the areas they are now located in house low income groups and suffer from squatters. The newly formed Durban Art Deco Society has, however, been active in raising awareness of the value Art Deco buildings bring to the city's heritage. They have helped building owners and body corporates restore, paint and renovate fixtures and fittings.
Art Deco Directory
In an attempt to raise awareness, educate and protect the Art Deco heritage an inventory of some of the major buildings has been conducted and published on the Internet.
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