Situated at the heart of Obs, The Observatory Community and Recreation Centre is run by an Executive Committee of volunteers made up of residents of Observatory and tenants of the Centre. In 2011 they signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the City of Cape Town and now officially run the facility.
This present history of the Community Centre
In mid 2006, the tenants of the Centre and the Obs Civic Association were approached by the City of Cape Town to manage the facility. The City, who had been running the facility, was keen to see the Community Centre run and managed by a body that was elected from the residents and businesses of Observatory, and tenants of the Centre. The first steps were taken by running a workshop and setting up a steering committee that did a feasibility study on the viability of the Community Centre. In November 2006, after extensive research into programmes and what the community actually wants from the Community Centre, an Executive Committee was elected from the group of volunteers.
The Executive Committee is made up of tenants, local NGOs and Observatory residents. It started a few programmes, most notably the UCT GSB Business Acumen for Artists course, whose first two iterations were held at the centre. It also advised the City officials at the centre on running and general maintenance issues. (The OCRC Constitution can be downloaded by clicking on the link). Once elected the Committee launched the I LOVE OBS fundraising campaign and started negotiations with the City for both the handover of the facility and the renovation of the building.
The facility was in a terrible state, bordering on dilapidated and almost a danger to the residents. After many years of negotiations, and with the help of Councillor Thomas, the City renovated the building in 2010. The City-paid renovations were confined to the Main building. In early 2011, the Committee renovated and updated the rest of the Community Centre facilities, including the Hall and the playground facilies at the back and front of the building.
Designed by the architect John Parker in 1902, the building was originally the Observatory Girls School. It was intentionally designed as a tight twentieth century urban structure, the building has an impressive frontage of Lower Main Road while the long corridors, halls and high ceilings are similar to other local Victorian schools. Parker was one of the first architects to use locally dressed Table Mountain sandstone and this is evident in the Community Centre. The combination of sandstone rustication and ornamental plasterwork around focal points, such as the entrances and corners, is typical of John Parker’s institutional buildings.
The Vision for the Future
We envision a Community Centre that is at the very heart of Obs life. In 2011, with the full mandate to run the Centre, the Committee has taken the Centre into its most exciting phase. There are several rooms and a hall with beautiful beech wood floor that are available for hire at community rates. It’s a great venue for functions, adult/kids education classes, theatre and music productions, markets and NGO projects. New tenants and programmes are constantly being initiated at the Centre, see what is on offer by looking at the rest of this website. We want to create an gallery space for local artists. If you have ideas of your own, please contact us.
Observatory Living History Project
(A recondite treatise to serve the vox populi)
Observatory has always been a grey area in terms of its composition – creative, residential, business. It is not just a physical space, it is various epochs and changing sets of people, all which will be explored and documented in many forms in the course of this project. Initially we intend to focus on those aspects less documented – essentially post WW2, but not ignoring the fact that Obs’ historical heritage dates back to prior to the arrival of the first white settlers. In commemorating this long, rich and varied history we will discover how the past informs the present and indicates the future.
If you wish to contribute to the Observatory Living History Project, please send an email to Edwin Angless.