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AfriCoast working on multi-million rand extension of iconic PE Opera House

AfriCoast working on multi-million rand extension of iconic PE Opera House

Civil and structural engineering consultancy firm AfriCoast Consulting Engineers announced on Friday (subs: 13-February 2014) that it passed the halfway mark with the R28-million extension and upgrade of the Port Elizabeth Opera House.

The Port Elizabeth Opera House is undergoing major upgrades, including the construction of an extended foyer and other renovations such as damp damage repairs, office upgrades, and replacement of carpets and wallpapers.  

Extensions and upgrades at the Port Elizabeth Opera House, expected to be completed by August this year.


In addition, new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting and fire detection are being installed to ensure that the PE Opera House is fully compliant with the latest building and energy regulations.

“The project will extend the life of one of the city’s iconic structures for the next century,” said Bill Emslie, Chief Operating Officer of AfriCoast Consulting Engineers.

AfriCoast was part of the Matrix Consortium appointed by the PE Opera House for the makeover of the grand dame, the oldest theatre in the Southern Hemisphere and the only of its kind still operating in Africa.

Tony Danev of the Matrix Consortium said due to the sensitive nature of this project, an application for the approval to go ahead with construction work on this historical building, was sought from the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency (PHRA) well in advance.

“The heritage approval was obtained following a rigorous process and engagement with the local heritage authorities, including the preparation of a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) and numerous public participation meetings,” said Danev.

“The project is important to us because we understand how significant the Opera House is to Nelson Mandela for establishing a vibrant inner-city life” said Emslie.

He added that the project has also had interesting challenges.

“One of the first challenges was the excavation work into the existing rock embankment to create space for the new extension required. This required the building up of the earthworks platform to be level with the existing buildings floors, using soil raft foundation,” he explained.

The AfriCoast team managed to come up with another innovative solution to connect the fire escape passage with the building.

An existing retaining wall located close to the building allowed insufficient clearance and space for a fire escape passage.

The construction team had to break through into the Opera House, which allowed for a section of the fire escape passage to run through a cordoned off part of the building.

“There was over 2000m³ (cubic metres) of rock broken out and removed from the site to make space for the extension.

“This is sure to be an award winning project on completion which is expected to be during the second quarter of this year,” Emslie concluded.


  • The Opera House was built in 1892
  • Responsible construction and renovation of a historic building
  • Construction of fire escape in accordance to fire regulations
  • Over 2000m3 (cubic metres) of rock was broken out and removed during the construction phase.
  • Project about 60% completed as of end January 2015


Caption (Main Image): The Matrix Consortium which includes AfriCoast Consulting Engineers in Port Elizabeth is busy upgrading and extending the city’s landmark Port Elizabeth Opera House.  Left, Darryl Jarvis, Structural Technologist, and JP Mulder, Structural Division Manager, at the site.

Images supplied.