Landscape of Change
Intro and Parliament
Hi. I’m Lauren, and I’m going to take you on a walk around the periphery of the Company’s Gardens. While you walk, I’ll tell you about the things you pass, and about all the changes the city has gone through. Space is contested here – so many different people have called Cape Town home, and there’s no easy way to decide who gets to tell its story.
You’re standing outside the Company’s Gardens now. If you’re facing the entrance, you should see Table Mountain in the background, and the sea is behind you. Look to your left, and you’ll see the Slave Lodge, with its wooden shutters. That’s where we’re going – down the paved, tree-lined walkway to the right of it. Let’s go.
On your left is the Slave Lodge – one of the oldest buildings in town – and on your right is one of the older Parliament buildings. The history of contested space begins here, in the heart of old Cape Town.
The Parliament building you’re passing was built at the end of the 19th century. A competition was held to select the designer for the prestigious building. A man named Henry Barkly promised a grand building on a relatively small budget, and he won. He triumphantly laid the first cornerstone in 1875, in front of a huge crowd.
But things went badly for Barkly. He realised he’d been far too modest with his cost estimate, and that he’d never even lay the foundations on that budget. People were furious, and he shamefully backed down. His cornerstone was buried in rubble when his competitors took over, and no trace of it has ever been found.
Turn left when you get to Parliament Street, and walk down a block.