Do buildings have a soul? Do they have a memory? Or are they just arrangements of brick and mortar, metal and glass, built to house a need and to be cast aside when their work is done? This is one of my favourite old buildings in Johannesburg. The Old Gasworks in Cottesloe, near Braamfontein. Gas was first used to light street lamps in the mining town at the cusp of the 19th Century, and it is still supplied from low-pressure holders next to this site, belonging to the Egoli Gas company. But this building has been condemned for more than a decade, and now, rusting, decaying, over-run by weeds and ivy, it awaits its fate: to be turned into a parkland precinct, complete with offices, apartments, shopping plaza, and boutique hotel. The plans were announced more than three years ago, but there is no sign of development yet. Until then, the building broods, a relic from the days when industrial architecture was bold, grim, muscular, and designed to last forever.


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