Elevating South Africa’s art scene with an architectural masterpiece

 
 
 

A towering architectural feat stands amid the urban buzz of Rosebank. The building’s dark, aluminium slats flow in elliptical motion, seemingly tilting above the ground. Steel and bronze sculptures spill onto the sidewalk. Built in 2009, this gallery is one of Johannesburg’s landmarks. CIRCA is as much a masterpiece as the creations displayed within, an embodiment of our burgeoning contemporary art scene.

On the corner of Jellicoe and Jan Smuts Avenue, CIRCA toys with perceptions of interior and exterior space. Its metal facade offers glimpses into the gallery. Designed to both stand out and fade in with the surroundings, the building is an enticing invitation for passersby. Open to all, its curved stairways wind through the three-storey structure. Shadows and light rays dance across the floor, transforming the atmosphere throughout the day. 

In the gallery’s enclosed rooms, the blare of cars outside falls silent and calm descends. Time stops as people savour the striking art lining the walls. From Lady Skollie’s feminist pieces to Conrad Botes’ large-scale oil paintings, some of South Africa’s most thought-provoking creatives are exhibited. Across the road is Everard Read, CIRCA’s sister establishment. Founded in 1913, it’s the oldest commercial gallery in the country. Here, artists such as painter Blessing Ngobeni and photographer Daniel Naudé have displayed their work. Ngobeni’s politically-charged pieces were created just 20 minutes away at his studio in Victoria Yards.

A part of Keyes Art Mile, the CIRCA building is a sign of the future. Designed by Pierre Swanepoel of studioMAS, it responds to both the city’s ever-changing culture and the environment. Solar panels power the gallery, while a self-servicing system harvests rainwater. A mere 10 years old, CIRCA transforms public spaces in Johannesburg by breaking down the walls of exclusivity. Sculptures by Edoardo Villa and Jop Kunneke perch on the roadside. Here, art isn’t hidden behind barriers; it’s laid on the pavement for all to experience.