Tulip Hotel Demolition

Location:  Strand St, Cape Town CBD

Thanks to:  Rowena Hess (Ross Demolition), Theo de Zeeuw (Strand Towers Hotel)

This has to be one of our favourite encounters and one of our very first as flow partners.

Hunter came across the information that the Tulip Hotel was going to be demolished and seeing it’s been a part of Cape Town’s city centre for so long, it would be an interesting event to witness and of course a perfect opportunity to add to the #FlowAnywhereAndEverywhere campaign, as well as the Flowing Nomads bank of encounters.

We connected with Rowena Hess who agreed to meet us early on the day of the demolition for coordination.  The energy in the air was heavy and there was a lot of ‘red tape’, literally and otherwise.
The Flowing Nomad way is to, as politely and light-heartedly as possible, see how far one can flow – in other words – to squeeze the experience for all it has, in the nicest way possible.

The blast prep work is extremely scientific – they had been preparing for the blast itself months in advance; the road closures were fringes of the final safety protocols; so tension was like water vapour surrounding the 12 story building, one of the oldest in the Cape Town city bowl. This is making way for a new hotel development by Dexter Moren Associates in London on behalf of Green Willow Properties.It took 110kg of explosives positioned on four floors and also in holes in the concrete of the supporting columns to bring down the building in such a way that it falls into itself.

Rowena was stressed to the hilt pre-blast, so we didn’t push; she said to call her straight after the final siren post-blast and she will organise access for us as much as the general media were allowed.

Our intentions were to create a public awareness of the demolition process – from the decision to action– to the costs involved, the explosive process – Ross Demolition, in partnership with Jet Demolition, seemed to be the pro’s in the field. It is an extremely serious business and from what we saw, every precaution and pre-precaution was taken.

Security escorted us out the blast area as the crowds started to gather and so we set off to look for a place to witness the fall of what was a landmark in the Cape’s CBD.  In the true spirit of ‘Flow’, ‘go with it’ – Hunter sniffed out an ideal spot, and with the words ‘whatever happens, don’t stop’ – we bee-lined for the Strand Hotel. Not dressed in common 5 star accommodation style – our entry needed to be swift, uninterrupted and direct; through the reception straight to the lifts was the hope.

As we three enter the front door, front-desk heads are raised, a graceful voice came across the room ‘excuse me’ and with no eye-contact made, the lift doors opened at the perfect moment and we slipped inside… up we went.

There was a waiter in the elevator delivering fruit to the 17th floor – ‘perfect !’ We all look at each other thinking. Elevator chimes its halt and we exit to find a gorgeous spread of orange juice, champagne, fresh fruit, croissants, and and and…Hunter’s stomach started dub-stepping at the sight of the sustenance as we were joined by a very smartly dressed gentlemen, Theo, hotel manager – as he came out, ice-breaker-distracting conversation was initiated and it turns out the spread was for the directors of the Strand Hotel; they owned the Tulip, or had been renting it for years – they were going to watch their decades of time and attention explode in an artistically implosive mushroom cloud of dust; how poetic.

After someone suffered a seriously inconvenient case of vertigo – Theo very politely asked if we were guests – to which the same person said yes(for this misinformation, he has paid his penance); and proceeded to invite us to instead go to the 3rd floor(restaurant) to view the demolition.

We meandered down, and walked through to the pool area to secure our spot.
Strand staff then came out to all the guests out on the patio and offered coffees and teas whilst we waited.

The Flowing Nomad way is to be courteous and calm and so at no point was the Strand Hotels good name in danger. In fact we got talking to guests and staff and the interactions themselves became part of the experience, as they do. If the Nomads were to have reviewed this business – we would have only good things to say. As strangers we were made to feel like guests which makes us wonder in awe how the guests must be made to feel.

We settled in for the spectacle as the warning sirens screamed out across the CBD. Surreally we watched as a group of luminescent safety vests loomed over the detonation block waiting to be pushed in the middle of the street, about two blocks down Strand Street.  The countdown began over loudspeakers as drones swooped in hovering above us.

10, 9…5, 4, 3, 2, 1; the blast was like nothing we could describe, an intrusive thud in the ears as the sides blew dust clouds outward in what seemed like slow motion. The explosions were in four sections, each blasting independent; the Tulip began to crumble into itself – a collection of clearly destructive sounds.  It takes a surprisingly long time for it to come down and in the end, nothing but a large silhouetted heap of what was, making way for what will be.

A series of safety checks are done by various officials from fire department to Ross and Jet’s own team. We contacted Rowena who allowed us to join the media group a couple meters away from the rubble and dust.

You can see in the photos just how much fun we had, the smiles of joy.  We created quite an interest as other members of the media began snapping away at us, but alas, we never did get hold of those photos.  Thank you to our wonderful photographer of the day, Freddie Du Plessis from www.creativedude.co.za

It was such a little adventure, really living in the present, going with the flow, and growing with It.

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