Friday, August 28, 2009

Cape Town's New Airport Building

I went, yesterday, to inspect the new Cape Town Airport building. This is the building we have all been waiting for, with bated breath, and blisters on our feet because of the miles we Cairp Tahnians have to schlepp, because of the parking problems which there currently are. This is the building which, in brash architectural design, we have seen on hoardings hiding the concrete and steel and glass, which is going up behind it. This is the answer to all of our air travel problems.

Well, I have to say, I was thunderously disappointed. It’s not that it is unpleasant. It’s not that the double sided glass view of Table Mountain on the one side and the Hottentots Holland on the other, are shabby. It is not that there is anything particular wrong with the design – which we were told about in the tour, ad nauseam.

It is this – the fact that you could find just such a building in Holland, or Austria, or Sweden. There is absolutely nothing to distinguish it. It just looks like any other European airport – but with really nice views. To me, this is a major lost opportunity. I mean, here is a building costing gazillions of Billions of Rand, and what was the best they could come up with? A building that looked like hundreds of others!

We were told about the wall tiles – slate, silvery things. “Oh,” enthused the woman who was taking us on the tour “They are meant to look like the ships rusting in the harbour”. Yes. Sure they do... Oh, and the steel girder-like things, with light fittings on them? “Those,” she was now just short of a climax, “are supposed to look like the cranes in the harbour!”

Well, they don’t. They look OK, and not unattractive – but other than that, not much.

Cape Town and surrounds has, psychologically, so modeled itself on “somewhere else” – on Europe – that it remains steadfastly un-African. To its very core. And that is one of the reasons why it is such a frighteningly racist place. Because the dominant ethos belongs to a distant past, from which both the City, the surrounds and the people have never managed to extricate themselves.

The new airport building reinforces all that – pressed down and running over. It is depressing. It is ghastly.

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