It's remarkable how much we can simply stop noticing what surrounds us, especially when passing along paths of habit and routine. Behind the rusty crooked gate at the circle where you turn right every morning might be a Sir Herbert Baker building embroidered with a hanging garden of ferns, wax flowers and peace lilies. Let's take a moment to appreciate our scenery. What appears to be everyday and average may just reveal something extraordinary.

Satyagraha House

via Website


Isaac Newton said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” What can be more simple, pure and true than visiting Satyagraha House, the home of Mahatma Gandhi for a year of his life? The house, which Gandhi’s German architect friend Hermann Kallenbach designed, is a thatched-roof rondavel-style structure emanating the modesty and serenity associated with its famous former occupant. One bonus to visiting this museum is that they have opened a few rooms as part of a guesthouse for an overnight stay. You can't help but be inspired here. As Gandhi himself said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
  
Where: 15 Pine Rd, Orchards
More info: +27 (0)11 485 5928; Facebook

 

 

Johannesburg Heritage Foundation

via Facebook


Few architects have left an imprint on the landscape of South African design the way Sir Herbert Baker has. During his time in the country, spanning two decades from around 1892, he drafted many of the impressive buildings still standing as South Africa’s most prestigious schools today. He was also the man, the brains and the hands behind the Union Buildings, Pretoria Station and St George’s Church. The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation regularly arranges Saturday and Sunday walks exploring the works of the late architect as well as other historic landmarks, such as Esselen Park. If you needed a reason to put on those fresh and fancy sneakers, we can’t think of a better one.
 
More info: +27 (0)11 482 3349; Facebook

 

 

Nizamiye Mosque

Photo by Paul Saad via Flickr


You’ve probably spotted it from the N1 highway, but the Nizamiye Mosque, which opened in 2012, merits a closer look. It's an impeccably composed ocean of mosaics and marble, tapestry and textiles, hand-painted walls and stained-glass windows. Dubbed the “Blue Mosque” of Africa, it's as powerful as it is humbly inviting, offering meticulous visual details and quiet inspiration. Discuss it all over lunch at the restaurant next door, Ottoman Palace. As with any other place of worship, there are some rules of etiquette to keep in mind for your visit.
 
Where: Cnr Le Roux Ave & Pretoria Main Rd, Midrand
More info: +27 (0) 79 023 0488; Facebook

 


FNB Stadium

via Facebook


Even for those who don’t exactly spend weekends waiting around for whistles to blow, Soccer City — which hosted the 2010 World Cup final as well as Nelson Mandela's first speech in Joburg following his prison release in 1990 — is about so much more than a ball and players running after it. Before the World Cup the building received a distinctively South African redesign to make it resemble a calabash gourd, and locally sourced materials were used for cladding and construction panels. The sheer patriotism behind the façade is as brilliant as the energy it continues to contain.
 
Where: Nasrec
More info: +27 (0) 11 247 5300; Facebook

 

 

Mandela House

Photo by James Cridland via Flickr


Considering the larger-than-life person who carved out a life here, who built a family here and who fought to end apartheid here, the minuscule proportions of this home seem surreal and almost implausible. Mandela House on Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, Soweto, can by no means be described as an architectural marvel or design climax. Which is precisely the reason the modest brick home belongs on this list. Walls and windows, structures and shapes, don’t have to be physically or visually astonishing. But they must tell a story. And this one does a lot more than that. This one changed history.
 
Where: 8115 Vilakazi St, Orlando West, Soweto
More info: +27 (0)11 936 7754; Facebook

By Suzette Leal

Suzette only stays at home to watch Orange Is The New Black. She limits her fluid intake to water, wine and champagne and she absolutely doesn't get the selfie trend. Burma is next on her to-do list. That, and salmon fishing in Iceland.