Cape Town's central business district has a lot of architectural treasures that show how the area has grown and changed over time.

Buildings are organic entities. secret-filled structures. Tasso Evangelinos, CEO of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District, claims that they have stories to tell to anyone who takes the time to listen (CCID).

Downtown Cape Town's buildings represent the wide range of architectural styles and how they have interpreted urban living trends over various decades, from stunning heritage buildings to sleek skyscrapers. We are fortunate to work in this dynamic environment.

Here, some of Cape Town's top architects and heritage specialists share their picks for the city's most iconic structures as well as their predictions for the future of the CBD.

Director of Gabril Fagan Architects and President of the Cape Institute for Architecture, John Wilson-HarRISON



Known for designing 50 Bree St., The Barracks, which has not yet been built.
Favorite structure: 14 Darling Street's Mutual Heights

In "Joint Heights, "Louw & Louw constructed a building that spoke to the street in 1940. The building was open to the public, which energized the neighborhood around it. It has a grand entrance that was intended to denote power and wealth, but it also engages with the street in a fashionable manner rather than ignoring it. You can tell the architects were proud to be from Africa because they made an effort to create an African structure while still adhering to the period's popular art deco design. The building is decorated with African heads and animals carved out of Cape granite, so the materials are also local.


Tuynhuys Apartments

The Onyx and Tuynhuys Apartments (54 Keerom St. (57 Heerengracht)).
Favorite Structure: 80 Queen Victoria Street, Holyrood Park.


Mutual Heights

Holyrood is a tall, spindly art deco apartment tower from the 1930s that is a century ahead of its time and would look at home in the heart of Tokyo. It is located on Queen Victoria St. (across from the Company's Garden). It features 40 of the first micro-studios (30 m2) ever built in Cape Town and was constructed with almost no parking. It has futuristic sculpture and looks like the offspring of a space rocket and a vacuum cleaner. Holyrood would never have been approved if there had been heritage authorities in the 1930s because, at 11 stories, it towers over its Victorian neighbors. The rest of Cape Town is only now, in the 2020s, beginning to catch up with this new construction.



35 Lower Longwell-known designs on Lower Long St.
Favorite Structure: Mutual Heights, 14 Darling St. "I have chosen the Old Mutual Tower in Darling Street, which was once the tallest structure in South Africa. It was built in 1940. With its stepped massing and façade articulation, it personifies the Art Deco/modern period movement. Together with Fred Glennie, Louw & Louw served as the architects.


"The notable architectural features are:

-The projecting triangular prismoid window bays that provide solar shading.

The granite cladding, which features sculptured animals at high corners, as well as the collection of sculpted figures on the Parliament Street façade, A 118-meter-long frieze, which was made by Italian prisoners of war, runs along three sides of the building. This is a problem, though, because it shows scenes from South Africa's colonial past.

The spectacular interior spaces are unmatched in Cape Town, including the entrance hall with its black, gold-veined onyx, gold leaf, and stainless steel accents; the banking hall with its marble-clad columns; the assembly rooms with their frescoes depicting South Africa's history; and the etchings of animals on the lift doors.

Lauren Robinson, former CEO of the Cape Town Heritage Trust and independent consultant.

Favorite structures: City Hall, Mutual Heights, The Grand Parade, Central Methodist Mission, Old Town House, and Mullers Optometrists.


City Hall, Cape Town. Diego Delso, courtesy of Wikipedia

How cities and buildings shape each other

I don't really have a favorite, but there are some areas of the city that seem to have a special connection with me. I have a special affection for the city's old public squares, as well as the structures that encircle them. As well as Greenmarket Square's historic structures, which include the lovely Central Methodist Mission church, several Art Deco structures, and, of course, the Old Town House, the Grand Parade, and City Hall are unquestionably iconic. I am eager for this to be repaired and reopened once more for the benefit of the general public. I have to add Mutual Heights and Mullers Optometrists in Plein St. because I love Art Deco; both are fantastic, and Mutual Heights' interior foyers continue to be a big hit.

The following is how Robert Silke sees this dynamic developing:

"Cities like Cape Town are made of a pretty old and diverse fabric, and new structures can only achieve lasting beauty when they are designed for their intricate surroundings. Everyone is excited when a new building is constructed, but it is useless to design a building solely for "newness" or fashion if it makes its neighbors look dowdy or if it loses its appeal as soon as the novelty of its newness wears off. In order for a building to still be valuable after the fad passes, it must have a strong "bone structure." Good new construction must have good neighbors.

I firmly believe that Cape Town continues to be among the world's most exciting cities to work as an architect or developer. Because of the natural setting and small scale, even one good new building (at a meaningful scale) can have an impact that could completely change the city.

"I'd like to see a future Cape Town that takes inspiration from Hong Kong, like the one portrayed in the 1982 SABC science fiction series "Interster." There is still much work to be done to make the city center more livable and accessible for more people.

Constructing with the long term in mind is

Swanepoel is of the opinion that new structures need to be designed with future design principles in mind in order to achieve an inclusive, sustainable, and future-ready city center. These consist of:

-More widespread application of parametric computer modeling to enable effective design of any selected form;
Operational and Embodied Zero Carbon Energy Usage
-Prefabrication, which uses pre-cast elements more frequently and CLT walls, floors, and other building components to speed up construction and increase quality;
-Smart building technology, such as user-friendly and energy-efficient building management systems;
-Reduced on-site parking in structures (once public transport is improved).

The CCID, which plays a crucial part in keeping the central city free of crime and filth, is focused on protecting the buildings in the CBD, according to Robinson, a member of the CCID board:

"The CCID is aware of the value these intricately detailed historic structures add to the Central City. By writing about and promoting buildings and architecture, as well as keeping an eye on new real estate developments, the CCID frequently promotes heritage within its boundaries. The historic built environment adds an intriguing layer to the experience of this bustling city center area. I have heritage and architecture as a part of my CCID Board portfolio.