October 25, 2018

South Africa: National award for shared heritage railways project

In May, the Shared Cultural Heritage project NZASM Footsteps Along the Tracks received South Africa’s highest award for architecture.

A semidetached residential house in Volksrust Mpumalanga South Africa, a building that once belonged to the Netherlands South Africa Railways. (Photo: Nicholas Clarke)

At the South African Institute for Architects’ biennial gala ceremony held on 4 May in Pretoria, the project ‘NZASM Footsteps Along the Tracks’ (FAT) received an Award for Excellence (Architecture). The award was presented to the leaders of the project, Nicholas Clarke and Roger Fisher.

FAT was undertaken by the Department of Architecture at the University of Pretoria, which also collaborated on the project with the South African Heritage Resources Agency and Transnet. The aim was to identify, document, and disseminate information on the residue of the ‘Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij’ (NZASM). The NZASM was a Dutch company that built more than 1400 km of railways in the former Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal) between 1887 and 1899.

The FAT project was able to identify more than 360 still-extant built structures, many of which continue to serve South Africa after more than a century. In awarding the project with excellence, the adjudicating panel stated: “What is noteworthy regarding this excellent research project is how much we can all learn from it to understand our current infrastructural position and that which might come in future.”

NZASM Footsteps Along the Tracks was made possible by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa and the Department of Architecture at the University of Pretoria.