This vast industrial structure was built to house tram repair sheds in the first half of the 20th century. It became a garage for double decker diesel buses when they replaced trams and electric uses in the 1970s. It operated until the early 1990s. The Bus Factory, as it became known in 2001, is now a key part of the Newtown cultural district.
The first electric buses were introduced to Johannesburg in 1931. When the apartheid government passed the Separate Amenities Act in 1953, buses became racially segregated. Those that carried black people did not stop within the CBD as the government wanted to maintain this as a 'whites-only' area. The terminal points for black passengers were located here in Newtown, on the outskirts of town.
In 2001, the building was extensively renovated with funding from the City of Joburg, Blue IQ, and the Gauteng Provincial Government. It is now home to the offices of the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), which facilitates inner city development and renewal projects.
"The Bus Factory is a perfect setting for our work. Urban regeneration is ultimately about creativity and this is a creative space. We can feel the history of Newtown all around us and we use this as an inspiration. We are also committed to creating space for artists and cultural workers. The revitalization of the inner city cannot take place without a vibrant contemporary culture." Lael Bethlehem, CEO of the Johannesburg Development Agency, 2010
The Bus Factory also houses a number of cultural non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The most prominent of these is the Artist Proof Studio founded by Kim Berman and Nhlanhla Xaba in 1991, which facilitates printmaking and assists disadvantaged learners to achieve economic independence.
Did You Know?
Did you know that Johannesburg has been rebuilt four times in the span of one century? First, it was a tented camp, then a town of tin shanties, then of four-storey Edwardian brick buildings and finally, a city of modern skyscrapers.