Durban Presbyterian Church. Choromanski Architects

Commercial development damages Heritage Building

1905 heritage presbytarian church Red Hil

Commercial development damages  Heritage Building news article by  R.Moodley – Crit News

Arts Studio 849 Red Hill-1997


Heritage for heritage sake often results in static environments that serve the name rather than the people of a city. Heritage for people’s sake has much more dynamic and profound results. Like many old buildings, 849 Chris Hani Road in Red Hill tells layered stories serving as a reminder, a challenge and a memorial. However, unlike many other heritage buildings it has formed and been formed by the communities around it, posing possibilities for re-imagining public buildings. Its destruction raises questions about who is building our city and what space making in

Tin Temple 849 Chris Hani Rd 1900s

neighbourhoods means in an age of commercial developers.

In January 1905, land on then North Coast Road was bought for R130 to build the Greenwood Park and Redhill Presbytarian Church- a wood and iron building that was the first Presbytarian church in Durban North. The ‘tin temple’ was consecrated on 10 February 1906 to cater for the growing suburb.Since its inception as a church, the building has been used as a warehouse, carpenters workshop, a Swiss Stone Mason’s shop and a community arts centre.

In 1995 Leonie Hall and Rodney Choromanski, a young artist and architect respectively, restored the building and founded the arts centre called Studio 849. It operated for two and a half years asserting art’s ability to empower citizens. Its placement at the beginning of new democratic era linked the studio to projects like the BAT Center in its vision for bridging gaps and celebrating cultural diversity.The project attracted large media coverage, assisting over one thousand students from all ages and cultures within the area and surrounding communities. Its heritage value, position along a main road and quaint aesthetic made it the perfect spot for demonstrating how buildings with public identities can enrich communities.

Durban#Community Arts#Studio 849#Red Hill

Once the arts centre closed down, the Swiss Stone Mason once again took over the building, preserving the heritage and using it for the display and sale of tomb stones. He eventually sold and immigrated.

Driving past the site today, you will see the building destroyed and covered by a commercial development in the community.
Instead of destruction, incorporating the tin temple in the form of a public entrance, gallery or workshop could have not only retained social and heritage value, but also presented possibilities of how a business and the community it is in could interact and be mutually enriching.

We cannot afford to lose these places of possibility to insensitive practice at this time in our country’s history. For architecture to reflect people rather than capital we need to explore innovative ways of making public spaces, commercial viability and heritage work together.

current construction at 849 Chris Hani Rd April 2017


Choromanski, R. October 2016. 849 Chris Hani (North Coast) Rd., Redhill, Durban North. [email]

 Choromanski, R. 2017. Studio 849. Interview with R. Moodley on 21 April. Durban.
 Davis, A. et al. 2003. Not Consumed: Presbyterianism Into the Canefields. Accessed online on 24 April 2017 at

Shevlin, I. April 1997. Sunday Tribune: The OtherMag. Art and Soul.






















Rivertown Beerhall. Choromanski Architects

The Rivertown Beerhall & Milne Drain Public Space – UIA 2014 congress,legacy project

Rivertown,Beer Hall,Milne Drain Development 

Project by the Architecture Department,eThekwini Municipality and Choromanski Architects

The city of Durban was originally a mangrove wetland and an adjacent secondary dune of the Durban Beach. Two Vleis, namely the eastern and western dominated the landscape, thereby restricting city settlement. The Milne Drain together with other drains that still exist, serve as a memory to the once wetland of Durban. Owned by the municipality, the Beer Hall with its prime location along the historical Milne Drain, robust heritage architecture, and its past decadent legacy of use and identity made it a meaningful transformation project to initiate the Rivertown Cultural Precinct, which was made public at the UIA Conference hosted by Durban in 2014. The Milne Drain initially was an open channel, which fluctuates due to tidal change. It was later given a concrete cover over its entire length, which still exists today. In 2014, the cover was removed in cut sections that were re-used as benches within the new Milne public area and within the Beer Hall courtyard, which could be replaced when needed. Planting was included along the open edges of the drain, creating a soft green zone amongst the hard industrial facades of the surrounding urban environment and serving as a reminder of the marshlands. The existing workshop buildings of clay brick and asbestos to the technical centre were removed thus creating a multi-purpose open courtyard at the centre of the complex. A portion of the John Milne Road boundary wall to the perimeter of the Beer Hall, was demolished, allowing the public to be drawn into the central courtyard from the Milne’s Drain Public area where they are then able to circulate through the courtyard and gallery spaces The two primary buildings are to be converted into galleries and multi-purpose facilities of which the DAG building will be converted once the collection storage is relocated to a new home. The opening of the drain as a test,exposed the challenges such as:

  • Health hazard due to very poor quality of water as a result of uncontrolled disposalof contamination by property owners,which eventually contaminate the Harbour
  • Vermin and pests
  • Tidal movement which restricted refuse in the Drain to flush out
  • Informal use of water by homeless people and their activities such as wetting of cardboard for higher sale price

Further research is needed with regards to the stormwater disposal through the Precinct, from existing and proposed building stock, roads and sidewalks, and how this could be managed to establish an eco-aware community who will be sensitive to environmental destruction, and avoid contaminated stormwater flowing into the Harbour and Sea. Similarly to the Vleis performance as filters before city settlement The development to establish a walkable back of beach Precinct which Durban does not have, thereby supporting the transformed beach promenade of 2010. The cleansing of the Drain through innovative management and engineering which could become a landscaped public space through the city grid together with the historical Victoria Park. The Milne Drain could transform into landscaped public space connecting the city to the natural edge of the harbour with cultural buildings at both ends: the Beer Hall in Rivertown and The Bat Centre near the harbour in Cato Creek; a cultural node, which was established in 1994. The 800 metres distance between the two active city nodes, namely ICC and Beach Promenade enables the Precinct to support a walkable connection.


Beerhall. Choromanski Architect

test opening of John Milne Drain as legacy project to Durban UIA conference 2014

Prince Alfred Street Beerhall. Choromanski Architects

Lunch Hour Rush at Prince Alfred Street Beerhall. Messengers Cycles and Rickshas Parked on Kerb. – Bourquin collection

Municipal Beerhall. Choromanski Architects

An Interior View of a Municipal Beerhall in the Durban Area.- Bourquin collection

Beerhall. Choromanski Architect

Historical  Map of Milne Drain

Beerhall. Choromanski Architect

View of Beerhall along Milne Drain -Beset Durban



Beerhall. Choromanski Architect

Rivertown Precinct Durban. Choromanski Architects

Rivertown Precinct Durban.



Zaha Hadid Bridge Pavilion Exhibition - Zaragoza. Choromanski Architects

Warrior Architect Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid, a gutsy architect who skipped the class on mediocrity and conformity.

ZAHA HADID 1 Zaha Hadid 2

Woman Winner

Artist Architect

Designer Dominatrix

Sensual Shocker

Form and inspiration Deconstructed boundaries

Zaha Hadid Eternal Works


Point Timeball Tower. Choromanski Architects


Timeball Tower

When creatives present ideas – they are open to critique.

This ‘crit’ is a space of inspiration, influence and potential devastation.

We have taken this process of development and turned it into innovation.

Crit, for Choromanski Architects, implies a creative melting space

Music, sculpture, performance intertwined with community, social and economic.

We imagine design in a full circle of development and collective influences.

Queen Thomozile Jezangani KaNdwandwe Zulu Unveiling. Choromanski Arhcitects


Ceremony at the Umkhumbane Cultural Park site where the unveiling of the Zulu Queen Mother’s tombstone took place. The tombstone and grave will be housed in a memorial to the Queen, forming phase 1a of the Umkhumbane complex designed by Choromanski Architects