12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel

For a unique perspective on Jozi’s history – and its talented design community – spend a few days at the 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel. Each room is individually designed to reflect a decade of the city’s past, from Johannesburg’s early days as a small mining town to its post-apartheid blossoming into a world city.

The 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel is a unique combination of South African hospitality and design. Each of the dozen rooms in the hotel is the result of a creative reconceptualisation of a decade in Johannesburg’s history, from 1886 to 2006.

While each designer's brief was to illustrate the most prominent features of their allocated decade, their work also had to incorporate the full functionality expected of modern hospitality. The result is a guest experience that is half art installation, half hotel in the heart of the Maboneng Precinct, a key area in Johannesburg’s ongoing urban renewal.

The room that represents 1886 to 1896 was designed by Marcus Neustetter and Jonathan Liebmann, and is an abstract reflection of the 'speculation that the meteorite impact south of Johannesburg two billion years ago ... was the reason for the gold reef on which Johannesburg was built'.

The decade from 1896 to 1906 is represented by the Sir Abe Bailey room, designed by Prospero and Anna Bailey, which 'focuses on the era of the great "Randlords" [who controlled the diamond- and gold-mining industries in South Africa] in Johannesburg'.

The room that represents 1906 to 1916 is named 'This is the House that Jack built' and was designed by Kim Stern. It represents the era of the gold rush in Johannesburg.

Dokter and Misses designed the room for the decade between 1916 and 1926. Titled 'Minehaus', designers Katy Taplin and Adriaan Hugo created this room with 'Bauhaus meets Jo'burg mining town in mind'.

1926 to 1936 is represented by a marabi-themed room designed by Robyn Symes and Pierre Crocquet, which reflects the post-gold-rush era in Johannesburg and the infectious music that was part of working-class life (marabi is a distinctively South African style of township music).

 'Who is Herbert Dlomo?' spans the decade from 1936 to 1946 and was designed by Lauren Wallett. She drew her inspiration from the Bantu theatre movement that was curbed with the advent of apartheid.

1946 to 1956 is 'A part love, A part hate', designed by Love Jozi designer Bradley Kirshenbaum, who 'brings a sense of humour to one of the most tumultuous eras in South African history with his satirical design'. It was during this time that mass-action campaigns were adopted by the African National Congress.

The late 1950s to mid-1960s inspired 'Main Street Constellations', which was designed by Kim Lieberman and 'explores the theme of connectivity between human beings' by recording and connecting the proprietors of Main Street, an important street in Johannesburg's history.

Colleen Alborough explores 1966 to 1976 and the influence of the 50-storey Carlton Centre 'on the way of life during this turbulent period' in a room named '50 Stories'.

1976 to 1986 is represented by the Ponte Obscura room, designed by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. It reflects on 'the mass exodus of the Ponte building’s [in central Jo'burg] residents into [Johannesburg's] northern suburbs and questions whether the building's subsequent association 'with crime and urban decay' is warranted.

'Catwalk Customs' by Black Coffee brings to light all that was 'in vogue' between 1986 and 1996, with a focus on the fashion of the decade; and room representing the decade between 1996 and 2006 is named 'Perpetual Liberty' – designed by Enrico Daffonchio, it 'focuses primarily on the stages in setting up and understanding a new democracy'.

Travel tips & Planning info

Around the area

The hotel shares the block with an art gallery, Pop Art theatre, the Chalkboard Café, the Bioscope independent cinema and Pata Pata, a restaurant and live music venue. The Constitutional Court, Constitutional Hill, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, and Ellis Park Stadium are also in the vicinity of the hotel.

Tours to do

Walking tours of the city, including a custom Art and Justice tour, can be booked through the hotel and operate daily, dependent on the number of bookings. 

What to eat

There are many bars and restaurants in the Maboneng Precinct. In addition to the Chalkboard Café and Pata Pata, there is Canteen at Arts on Main, Uncle Merv’s Original Shakes, Little Addis, and Eat Your Heart Out on Fox Street. You can also try Sha'p on Kruger Street, the Living Room and the Blackanese Wine & Sushi Bar. 

What's happening

The 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel is famed for its exceptional views of Johannesburg, with a trendy roof-top area that is a favourite spot for sundowners on a Sunday evening or for a Saturday yoga class. It also hosts events from time to time. See its website for details.

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