This urban square known as ‘The Courtyard ’, is located on a pedestrianised portion of Kerk Street (between the old Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the JSE Annexe buildings) in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange was housed in the buildings on either side of the square from 1979 until it moved to Sandton in 2000.
The street was originally pedestrianised to provide a thoroughfare between the Turbine Hall, FNB Bank City and the Kerk Street Mall. GREENinc was appointed by the landowner of the adjacent buildings, when the main feature of the square, a large brutalist water feature fell into a state of disrepair and required refurbishment. We saw this as an opportunity to re-evaluate the purpose of the square and explore the ways in which it could provide its users with a quality public open space.
A new vision formed which focused on transforming the square into a contemporary and lively urban space for the tenants of the surrounding buildings, while maintaining the original pedestrian thoroughfare. To encourage after-hours and weekend activity in the square, the vision included an additional function as a secure, inner-city setting for outdoor events.
The renewal of the square necessitated the demolition of the existing water feature and the replacement of the outdated paved surfaces. This left a blank canvas framed by the existing buildings on the northern and southern boundaries and a fence with large sliding gates on the eastern and western sides. While free pedestrian movement remains as before, the square now has a sense of enclosure and provides respite from the chaotic buzz of the surrounding inner city. The large sliding gates ensure access control and security for public and private night time events.
A zero-depth water feature, flanked on one side by an elongated seating wall, brings new life into the space. The water fountains which change in height and form, are a delight for people to look at and to play in. New indigenous evergreen trees and planting also contribute to this sense of rejuvenation. ‘The Gatekeeper’, a sculpture by artist Angus Taylor, casts a watchful eye over the square and draws curiosity as a focal point.