The Circa Gallery was built in Rosebank in 2009 alongside the Everard Read gallery, Johannesburg’s oldest private art gallery. An architectural landmark, the building has received awards for its striking design and its green credentials, with solar panels and rainwater tanks making it one of the most self-sufficient buildings in the area.
It was designed by architect Pierre Swanepoel of studioMAS, who was tasked with creating a space for the gallery that would attract the attention of passers-by and encourage more public engagement with the arts.
The elliptical structure makes the most of the relatively narrow plot of land that it occupies and an impressive façade of 400 10m-tall aluminium “fins” is its most distinctive feature. Swanepoel’s fins were inspired by the natural world – some liken them to the reeds used for fences in traditional Zulu kraals while others compare them to the bark of a tree.
During the day this extraordinary façade casts shadows across the ramp that spirals around the building leading visitors up to the top of the gallery and at night it is lit with a dazzling display of colours.
The gallery describes itself as “relatively small in size [and] lofty and ambitious in its intentions” and regularly stages contemporary art and sculpture exhibitions by leading South African artists such as Deborah Bell, Wayne Barker and Nelson Makamo.