who we are
" a body with many parts"
“WE ARE ALL ABOUT SHARING DESIGN, SKILLS TRAINING AND COLLABORATIONS IN ONE SPACE”
Together with the owners of properties in the valley, other like-minded individuals, and the community, a team of two architects, a mechanical engineer and a photographer saw an opportunity in 2013 to develop a master plan to initiate urban rejuvenation resulting in the regeneration of the inner city. They wanted to convert the industrial nature of the buildings and spaces into the first community-based space for work and leisure in Port Elizabeth – with a similar vibe to Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill.
Jacques Theron and Jan du Plessis met at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (now Nelson Mandela University). Together they dreamed about a different kind of working space, they wanted to collaborate with different people and to be involved in the whole build-design process, while playing a meaningful part in the community and helping people.
Jan says: “I always had the idea that you just need a space to do stuff. The idea is to enable other people, as well as ourselves in order to be able to create cool stuff. And to be able to help others help themselves. The more people we have in here the more stuff can happen”. Jan is married with two children and enjoys cycling and creating unique things. He made this image of Nelson Mandela using 1460 rubic’s cubes.
Jacques is engaged, a qualified cabinet maker and commercial diver. Joubert Loots is a professional photographer and cabinet maker. He is passionate about bringing people together, storytelling and playing a meaningful role in the community. Joubert is happily married and has a young son. Visit the Aweheness page to learn more about their unique tours.
WERK_ is a design and build incubator that aims to improve the lives of others through ideas and design. Here, inventive individuals, artisans, master craftsman, and other small business owners find a sense of community, collaboration and creativity to make beautiful hand-made, functional and unique products.
WERK_, the ‘Valley Family’, aims to improve the lives of others through talent development, skills training, internships and ultimately job creation. Over the last four years WERK_ has become a community platform which houses a diverse range of activities. This creative hub currently consists of restaurants, like Remos, Frederick and Son, office and rentable studio spaces, like Waterleaf Workshop (Silversmith and Printmaking Studio), Invictus Leather, Amanda Knots (Fashion Designer), etc.
Visit the shop for WERK_’s unique bespoke products which are made here, in the heart of Baakens Valley.
meet the founders
“the space between us,” made possible by these four individuals.
about the area
At the heart of Port Elizabeth, a short walking distance from the city centre, harbour, and very close to the Windy City’s favourite beaches, lies the Baakens Valley. It is situated within a raw piece of nature that cuts Port Elizabeth straight through the middle, a geological phenomenon very unique to the area, sometimes referred to as Port Elizabeth’s “inverted Table Mountain”.
The city of Port Elizabeth, in fact, owes its inception to the 23 kilometre long Baakens River, meandering through the residential suburbs and culminating at the city centre before flowing into the Algoa Bay Harbour. It provided fresh water for Dutch sailors in the late 18th century. Its name was coined by the Dutch East India Company who placed a beacon at the mouth of the river to claim the right to the water source. They termed this source “Baakjes Fonteyn”, which ultimately was shortened to “Baakens”.
The valley is also home to the Tramways building which was established in 1878. It was used for multiple business operations before closing in the 1990s. In 2015, the MBDA completed the restoration of the once-decayed former tram and bus terminus into a development featuring a mixture of tourism, leisure, entertainment, and office spaces.
The construction of the new Baakens Pedestrian Bridge over the Baakens river is almost complete and will link the inner-city to the Baakens Valley.
Today the Baakens Valley is also home to several mountain bike routes stretching from Sunridge Park, Newton Park, Dodds Farm, Walmer Downs and Kragga Kamma down the river into Settlers Park and Brickmakers Kloof.
The lower area of the Baakens Valley was always used for industrial purposes, which, never really made sense, as most industrial buildings would not generally be situated in the heart of a city.