Usually tour bookings are made some time in advance, but lately I’ve had quite a few that were last minute bookings, like a day before, or in this instance, the night before. Fortunately I was available and I really enjoy city tours so arranged to collect my clients from the B&B in Durban North at 8:30am.
I have a route that I always take on city tours; I start off at the beaches, covering the early history of Durban, then head to the point, along the way talk about the “greatest shoal on earth”, surfing history and loads of other stuff. Then I head to the city and so-on; it’s all pretty well laid out. Today however, turned out a little different.
Almost as soon as we started my guests who were in Durban assisting a local non-profit organisation, spotted some Art Deco buildings as we headed into the city. And since it turns out that both guests were interested in architecture, we spent the majority of the tour looking at various buildings around Durban.
The Art Deco Movement
Art Deco really took off in the 1920’s and embraced an idea that objects could and should be art. Everything from furniture to buildings were adorned with decorative effects which resulted in the stylized look that we see today.
Technology was also gaining ground around this time which allowed for buildings to make a great deal of use of reinforced concrete and so columns, balconies and sculptures adorning the buildings become far more common.
Durban really began to develop in the 1920’s onward so it’s no surprise that this popular style became just as common in Durban as elsewhere. Not only did the physical aspect of the buildings change, but elements of tropical color started being used – this in no small part thanks to Durban’s sub-tropical location and beaches.
The Art Deco Buildings of Durban
Durban is full of buildings that can be classified at Art Deco, problem is they are really spread out. There’s three main areas; Durban city center, the Berea overlooking Durban and the Grey Street Area. We decided to stick to the city center and Grey Street simply because of time and it also allowed us to visit the markets.
We started along Victoria Embankment and checked out some of my favorites; Quadrant House, Victoria Mansions, McIntosh House (love this one), Albany Hotel and so many more.
We broke for a tour of Botanical Gardens and the Herb Market and then had a spot of lunch (a bunny chow naturally) and then once again carried on with our Art Deco architecture spotting.
My guests really enjoyed their tour (they left a really nice review) and I enjoyed doing something a little different than usual. Actually, I enjoyed it all so much I’m seriously considering adding a walking architectural tour of Durban to my itineraries.