Art hotel counts Joburg’s decades

30 August 2010

The 12 decades of Johannesburg’s existence are reflected in the 12 rooms making up a new boutique hotel at Main Street Life, one of Joburg’s newest places to be seen, and the brainchild of the same developer who brought the successful Arts on Main to the inner city.

The 1960s was the decade the miniskirt hit the world; a man stepped on the moon; Sharpeville happened and Nelson Mandela was jailed. In Joburg, smoking in cinemas was banned, while bikinis were forbidden at swimming pools. And the Carlton Centre was opened.

That spectacular building is the theme of one of the 12 specially decorated rooms in the 12 Decades Art Hotel at Main Street Life in Johannesburg’s CBD. The room is referred to as 50 Storeys, and was put together by clothing designer Colleen Alborough.

One of Joburg’s newest places to be seen, Main Street Life opened in February this year. It offers Joburgers a new way to spend their hard-earned cash. Malva, the concept store on the ground floor of the seven-storey residential building, buzzes with customers stopping in for a sandwich and coffee, or to see a play, or just to chill and buy an item from its selection of designer gear and decor.

To complete the picture, Main Street Life offers The Bioscope, an independent art house cinema.

Twelve designers and artists were asked to each design a room of the hotel, taking a theme from the 12 decades that Johannesburg has been in existence, since 1886.

So you can stay in the Sir Abe Bailey room, done by Prospero and Anna Bailey; or the Main Street Constellations room, by artist Kim Lieberman; or the A Part Love A Part Hate room, by fashion label Love Jozi; or Minehaus by decor design company Dokter and Misses; or the Catwalk Customs room, by designers Black Coffee; or The House That Jack Built by artist Kim Stern.

The hotel opened in mid-July, and bookings are growing steadily, says general manager Henning Booysen. Rates range from R650 a night for the smaller rooms, to R950 for the premium room, Perpetual Liberty, by architect Enrico Daffonchio.

Work is ongoing on the roof of the hotel, which eventually will have a splash pool, a boxing gym, two viewing decks, a bar and a telescope. There will be a restaurant on the ground floor of the building.

Jonathan Liebmann is the developer of Main Street Life, a follow-up to his successful Arts on Main several blocks down the road.

Arts on Main

Liebmann bought the five warehouses – now a collection of interleading buildings between Fox, Main and Berea streets in the eastern CBD that make up Arts on Main – in late 2008. By mid-2009 several galleries had moved in, and it has become the hip venue to exhibit work.

Tenants include Bailey’s African History Archives, the Goodman Gallery, the David Krut Gallery, the Seippel Gallery, the Goethe-Institut, the Nirox Foundation, a literature project called Right on the Rim, an architect’s firm and an advertising company. The anchor tenant is renowned artist William Kentridge.

Arts on Main is pulled together around a restaurant, Canteen, which opens on to a courtyard filled with olive and lemon trees. In June, Liebmann received a Johannesburg Development Agency Halala award in the category Relaxing and Playing Joburg.

Several new hotels have opened in Johannesburg’s inner city in the past few years. This month, the Reef Hotels Gold opened on the corner of Harrison and Anderson streets, with 120 standard and deluxe rooms. It is a converted 1970s office building, and plays on the theme of the city’s gold history.

In 2007, the 100-room Mapungubwe Hotel opened on the western edge of the CBD. Shortly afterwards, the Ashanti Hotel opened across the road, with 78 rooms. Around the same time, Isibaya House opened, with 103 stylish apartments.

Source: City of Johannesburg