THE Rissik Street fountain, which for years has been sitting twiddling its thumbs, is happily spraying into the air again.

Its restoration is part and parcel of the Rea Vaya construction running up the street, and provides a welcome splash of water to the bricks and mortar that surround it.

The fountain dates back to the Civic Spine Project of 1989 to 1991, set up by Eddy Magid, the mayor of Joburg from 1984 to 1985. The structures that were recently removed from Beyers Naude Square were part of the same plan. Piet van Vuuren, the infrastructure manager of Joburg City Parks, says that the fountain has sat quietly for at least 12 years.

It is 15 metres long, and has two tall obelisks on either side. Reconstruction started in October and took six weeks to complete; the fountain was switched on again last week.

Van Vuuren says that pumps, cabling and piping were stolen from the fountain, and people were living in the pump room under it. The room is the same length as the fountain. It has been cleaned and a new door and lock installed, which, Van Vuuren hopes, will be thief-proof. “We will be putting these new doors on all the city’s fountains,” he explains.

The doors lock from the inside, making it impossible for anyone to saw through or break the lock. Fountains at Bruma Lake, Innisfree Park and The Wilds will be given similar doors.

Conservation architect Herbert Prins says that the fountain softened the barrier that the street created between the two civic buildings – the post office and the City Hall.

Originally, the post office stood alone on the eastern edge of what was a large market square, built in 1897. Then in 1915, the City Hall was built, followed in 1935 by the central library on the western edge of the square, leading to the end of the busy market square, which then moved to Newtown.

The laying of Rissik, Simmonds and Harrison streets further broke up the square.

Prins feels too that the Rissik Street block between Market and President streets should be closed, to allow freedom of pedestrian movement and full appreciation of the two buildings.

The kink that the fountain created in Rissik Street has slowed down traffic past the post office, he adds.

The post office, devastated by fire in late 2009, has undergone the first phase of its restoration, with a new roof installed.

City Hall restoration

The exterior of the City Hall is also being restored. It will receive a R13-million makeover over the next three years. The granite base and sandstone walls need cleaning – the dirt on the walls is the result of pollution from exhaust fumes, and is normal in any large city.

The City Hall was sold by the City to the provincial government in 2003 for R20-million.

“The plan is to clean the sandstone facade and in doing so to restore its colour and texture. This operation will involve a variety of methods according to the restoration requirement on the particular sandstone block,” says John des Fountain, the director of operational support services in the Gauteng legislature.

Guttering and downpipes need to be replaced, as do some roof tiles, which need to be sourced. Brass and copper edifices on the dome are to be refurbished. The metal balustrades will be sandblasted and repainted, while missing brass window handles will be specially cast.

And, to complete the restoration picture, the Barbican, long neglected by its owners, Old Mutual Properties, has been given a generous dose of care and shines again in its rebirth.

The restoration of the fountain cost around R750 000, funded by the Johannesburg Development Agency. Joburg City Parks will be responsible for its maintenance.