Rand Steam

  Cnr Barry Hertzog and Napier St, Richmond ,   Melville         more than a year ago
Once the site of the historic Rand Steam Laundries, this unusual boutique shopping centre, opened in 2019, pays homage to its unique heritage.

Broadly split into two areas, the larger main part of the centre houses a handy supermarket and pharmacy as well as a selection of design and gift shops, showcasing local fashion, jewellery and interior design labels. On the other side, set around a pretty courtyard, there is a focus on drinking and dining with a choice of half a dozen bright and inviting cafes and restaurants including pizzeria Col'cacchio, the Bootleggers coffeeshop, a branch of the popular Mozambik restaurant chain (known for its saucy peri peri chicken) and the retro-cool Bonefide Barbers.

In the early 20th Century Rand Steam was an industrial-scale laundry complex that traced its history back to Joburg's early amawasha, Zulu men who worked washing the filthy laundry of Joburg's dusty mineworkers from a nearby stream. The complex had survived intact for more than a century before rapacious developers illegally demolished the entire heritage-listed site. It is thanks to the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, who set about a tireless quest to have the heritage of Joburg's amawasha restored, that the site was eventually saved from becoming a car dealership and a new Rand Steam was born. 

In a nod to Rand Steam's unique heritage there is a theme of water running throughout and efforts have been made to use stone and bricks that match what would have been here. Ornamental waterways trickle past the centre's newly planted olive trees and lowrise buildings which have been constructed to recall the early 20th-Century designs of the old Rand Steam Laundries, while the amawasha themselves are remembered in a beautiful relief carved into the facade of one the walls.

The old Rand Steam's two surviving elements, a distinctive white tower that was once the laundries' filtration tower and a majestic century-old pepper tree, give the quirky centre an extra sense of being somewhere out for the ordinary.


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