Angela Ferreira: Werdmuller Centre

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Ă‚ngela Ferreira Werdmuller Centre

Ângela Ferreira Werdmuller Centre

11 March – 17 April 2010



Notes for WC (Oct 2009 – Jan 2010) by Ângela Ferreira Architecture has long been my tool to understand and comment

Europe/Africa and other colonised parts of the world like India

on the societies that interest me – particularly Africa and its

or Brazil.) There is always the question of an imposed European

relationship with the West. I started using architecture because I

style here and that is a political issue. The testing of its workings

sought a reference in the realm of popular culture that would be

questions that very imposition.

accessible to all my viewers. My first cognitive step was Sites and

Roelof Uytenbogaardt’s Werdmuller Centre in Cape Town

Services (1991-92), looking at the basic infrastructure provided in

(completed 1976) is an interesting reference to study. It’s a

the township of Khayelitsha outside Cape Town. I soon realised

building that comes out of the apartheid context. Its history

that architecture was an ideal reference because it encompassed

crosses the political upheavals of the end of the apartheid system

a range of factors simultaneously: history, culture, economics,

and now well into a democratic country.

sociology, politics, aesthetics, etc. Modernism is the European international language and its

Modernism is used here as a belief in a ‘new’ and better language. It’s used as a way to foster a new society; as a way to

internationalism was inextricably linked to the 20th century

contradict the abhorrent divisions in the South African social

colonial expansion. So when one looks at modernism in Africa

network. The Werdmuller Centre has all the ingredients to have

one is always already looking at the relationship between Europe

been taken up as an example of the building of the future of

and Africa. (And sometimes also the relationship between

South Africa. And it would certainly have been designed in the


Werdmuller Centre, Cape Town, 2010 Research photographs by Zainab Fakier

hope of an ideal new South Africa. Formally it proposes a use of architectural space which is much more democratic than the conventional closed-in shopping mall. It was going to bring the street into the mall, with the ramps as an extension of the street. It was going to create a walkway between the poorer segregated South Africans of the 1970s and the white middleclass shopping area of Claremont. Yet its model and recipe prove to be a dismal commercial failure – which speaks volumes about the conventional capitalist society that South Africa was and remains entrenched in even further after apartheid. The building is also disliked and abandoned by users, and has become a security hazard – the new society has an extraordinarily high crime rate, partly as a result of the violence invested in it by the apartheid system. In this instance architectural space becomes an ally of crime.


Studies for WC 2010 Pencil on paper 21 x 29.7cm each



Studies for WC: The additions series 2010 Pencil on paper 21 x 29.7cm each

Notes for WC (Oct 2009) The building is too complicated – it’s too busy. There is too much

1. Three years after the conclusion of the works, the main façade

happening; it lacks clarity in design. The lack of clarity of the

was enclosed off from the panoramic terrace. The terrace

building cannot help the understanding of movement in the

now becomes part of the interior of the building, negating the

structure. I am going around in circles.

opening towards the street. Later on comes the glass paneling

One of my wishes is to try to come up with ideas to

with white fascia above.

understand the ‘failure’ of the building. To see the building as an

2. A roof on a vaulted metallic structure.

experiment – it continues to be designed. Look at the history of

3. Again three years after completion: the construction of an

the interventions. Each one points to the failures of the building.

internal bridge to provide access to Claremont Post Office.

So its defacing tells the story of its problems. Now if I isolate each

4. Resurfaced the slate and tarred surfaces with stoneware tiles.

of them sculpturally I could be telling the story of its failure. Each

5. Enclosed access ramps.

sculptural element would point to a particular detail where the

6. Cladding applied to enclose the access bridge between the two

building fails. Also interesting is that these additions are usually done in a different architectural language. Some of them were not done by Roelof’s office. I feel like if I can identify the problems one by one, I can construct a sculptural project which points to the building without ever rendering it. It’s like referencing it by omission. So, trying to enunciate the changes that were made:




Studies for WC: The Main Road and railway line series 2010 Pencil on paper 21 x 29.7cm

Notes for WC (Nov 2009) I have been circling around the idea of the failure of modernism

locale. It’s the opposite of Maison Tropicale – WC wants to be

in other projects before – more around the way it entangled itself

‘moved around’ metaphorically so it can find its ‘right’ position in

with politics and how some of the political projects it aligned

the city/society of Cape Town.

itself with are objectionable (although this is not the case with

The site between Main Road and the railway line is like a fault

WC) or failed projects. Now I am dealing with the possibility

line: so problematic and emblematic of SA society. The failure of

of modernism failing – a singular example – a building that

the building to this day is like proving that this society is unable

just does not make the grade of popular taste or commercial

to cohabit and intermingle … it’s a sad project really.


Modernist architecture is unable to contradict the forces in a

The more I read about it and think about it, the more I get

society – its prejudices and tendencies. As a formal language it

the feeling that this building is in the wrong place. That it was

appealed to the rich but was intended for the poor – but it just

planned by ‘force’ to do something it could never do in that

won’t do it.



Studies for WC: The Main Road and railway line series 2010 Pencil on paper 21 x 29.7cm each



Six Photomontages (After Dan Graham) 2010 Series of six photomontages 70 x 50cm each







Studies for WC 2010 Pencil on paper 21 x 29.7cm each

Notes for WC (Jan 2010) WC is a building that is very beautifully and carefully designed. Its formal and aesthetic development makes it an important historic work, firmly positioned within modernist language. And yet it failed hopelessly – it’s a classic failed modernist utopia. I see it as a prototype for the study of the failure of modernism. It’s not that I see modernism in Africa to be an outright failure but it had its testing moments and this is a perfect example of the potential failure. So the exhibit becomes the result of an investigative art (revealing the thought processes and inquiries into the building and the issues arising from there). Tentative titles:

WC – working towards failure, or WC – a working model towards failure Other thoughts: WC is such a sculptural building that it makes sense to make a sculpture of it.



Werdmuller Centre 2010 Installation (interactive sculpture, archive photograph) Sculpture: wood, mild steel, PVC nylon. Open 90 x 396 x 238cm; closed 90 x 279 x 274cm Photograph: The Werdmuller Centre circa 1973. C-print. 84 x 93.5cm. Courtesy Roelof Uytenbogaardt Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town Libraries








Angela Ferreira


Born in 1958 in Maputo, Mozambique. Lives in Lisbon

2009 Continents à la derive, Centre Régional d’Art Contemporain

Graduated with MFA from Michaelis School of Fine Art,

Languedoc-Roussillon, France

University of Cape Town, 1983

Africa in Oslo: Maputo: A Tale of One City, Oslo Kunstforening, Norway


Learning Modern, Sullivan Galleries, School of the Art

2010 Double Lecture, Carpe Diem, Lisbon

Institute of Chicago

Werdmuller Centre and Other Works, Michael Stevenson,

Modernologies: Contemporary artists researching

Cape Town

modernity and modernism, Museu d’Art Contemporani de

2009 [SUM]one: Exercises of appropriation (with Miguel Rios), Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon

The Return of the Real 7, Museu do Neo-Realismo, Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal

The Great Divide, Art Gallery NSW, Sydney, Australia 2008 Monument to Dan Flavin, Castle of Guimarães, Portugal

Hard Rain Show, Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisbon; Centro de Arte Contemporânea La Crieé, Rennes, France

For Mozambique, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town

Barcelona; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2010) 2008 Front of House, Parasol Unit, London 28th São Paulo Biennial, Brazil 2007 An Atlas of Events, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon

Troca de Olhares, Instituto Camões, Maputo Afterlife, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town 2006 As Portas do Mundo, Casa do Brasil, Maputo

Re(volver), Plataforma Revolver, Lisbon 2005 L’Universel? Dialogues avec Senghor, Culturgest Lisboa;

2007 Maison Tropicale, Portugal Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Italy

Spacex, Exeter, England

2005 Random Walk, Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon

Lágrimas, Mosteiro de Alcobaça, Portugal

2003 No Place at All, Museu do Chiado, Lisbon

O Contrato Social, Museu Bordalo Pinheiro, Lisbon

2002 Private View, Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, Porto

Zip Zap Circus School, ICA, Cape Town 2001 Pega 2000, Museu da República, Rio de Janeiro

Two Houses, Galeria Luis Serpa, Lisbon 2000 Pega 2000, Galeria Modulo, Lisbon 1999 House Maputo: An intimate portrait, Fundação de Serralves, Porto 1998 Untitled 1998, Galeria Luis Serpa, Lisbon; La Lavanderia Fundacio, Barcelona 1997 Double Sided Part II, Ibis Art Centre, Nieu-Bethesda, SA 1996 Double Sided Part I, Fundação Chinati, Marfa, Texas 1992 Sites and Services, Invited Artist Programme, SA National Gallery, Cape Town; Galeria Modulo, Lisbon

2004 Re-Location/Shake the Limits, ICCA-MNAC, Bucharest

50 Years of Portuguese Art, Museu do Chiado, Lisbon 2003 Video Brasil 2003, São Paulo Bienal da Maia, Continuare Maia, Portugal 2001 Squatters, Fundação de Serralves, Porto

Squatters #1, Witte de With, Rotterdam In the Meantime, De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam Total Object Complete with Missing Parts, Tramway, Glasgow Crossing the Line, Home Project, Lisbon Sul/South, Instituto Camões, Maputo 2000 More Works about Buildings and Food, Fundição de Oeiras, Portugal

AREA 2000, Kjarvalsstadir, Reykjavik, Iceland



Catalogue no 50 March 2010

Werdmuller Centre Draft Heritage Statement, December 2007

Cover image The Werdmuller Centre, March 2010. Photo: Mario Todeschini

Roelof Uytenbogaardt Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town Libraries Martin Kruger Ilze Wolff Fabio Todeschini Giovanni Vio Gaelen Pinnock Zainab Fakier Jesse Breytenbach Iain Low Paul Chames Alexandra Baudouin

Michael Stevenson Buchanan Building 160 Sir Lowry Road Woodstock 7925 Cape Town, South Africa Tel +27 (0)21 462 1500 Editor Sophie Perryer Design Gabrielle Guy Photography and image repro Mario Todeschini Printing Hansa Print, Cape Town


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