111228-Cape Town- . Picture Michael Wilson. reporter Neo. Jed Johnson and mom, Gillian at the science centre in woodstock. Picture Michael Wilson. reporter Neo.
111228-Cape Town- . Picture Michael Wilson. reporter Neo. Jed Johnson and mom, Gillian at the science centre in woodstock. Picture Michael Wilson. reporter Neo.

Science Centre gets new life in new home

By Time of article published Dec 29, 2011

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NEO MADITLA

Staff Reporter

An old warehouse in Observatory has been transformed into Cape Town’s new Science Centre.

The three-storey building on Main Road near Groote Schuur Hospital opened its doors yesterday.

Inside, the walls are covered in quotes from famous scientists like Albert Einstein to liven up the building, which has been standing empty for a decade.

The centre previously operated from Canal Walk, but seemed set to close after its ten-year relationship with MTN ended as planned and it needed new premises.

LeadSA led a campaign to get Capetonians to support their science centre, and the city’s residents and businesses responded.

In the new premises, children from the age of four can try their hand at building a house, complete with foam bricks and hard hats, or they can get on the gyroscope, where they can turn upside down and keep it moving to feel what it’s like on the Moon.

Julie Cleverdon, director of the science centre, said there was still a lot of work that needed to be done, “but people are beginning to understand the vision we have for the science centre, which is a safe place for kids to come and learn and have fun with science”.

The building was designed by renowned architect Max Policansky, which meant renovations would have to be done in line with the architect’s modernist approach.

Policansky designed the building in the 1940s with terrazzo flooring on the stairs and entrance, but in the 1970s it underwent a renovation, and these floors were covered by carpets. Terrazzo consists of marble, quartz, granite, glass or other suitable chips bound together, then cured, ground and polished to a smooth surface.

“In the interest of the heritage value of this building, the Cape Town Science Centre is in the process of restoring these floors and stairs to retain as many of Max Policansky’s original design elements as possible,” Cleverdon said.

“This may take longer than expected as the artisans required to restore these areas to their former glory hail from Italy, and we are looking for local people to complete the work.”

Cleverdon added that because they had not known of the building’s heritage status when they started working, restoring the structure had cost more than they had expected. She said one of their biggest needs was a lift that could take wheelchairs.

They were considering ways of being more self-reliant, and would rent out parts of the building to organisations working with children and make retail space available.

Among the first visitors was 10-year-old Mariam Kafaar, who celebrated her birthday there.

Her mother

Razia Kafaar said she used to take her children to the old science centre but preferred the new location because it was near public transport which made it easier for them to get there from their home in Athlone.

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