August 25, 2021

A World-Class Recording Studio in Johannesburg by Studio Lee Lynch Celebrates South African Design

A recent project by Studio Lee Lynch exemplifies the triumphant spirit for which South Africa is known. It is Flame Studios, a new recording studio that’s housed inside the huge ramparts of Constitution Hill’s Old Fort Prison in Johannesburg. The complex of colonial buildings had been a detention center for nearly a century, imprisoning such political dissidents as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, until it closed in 1987. In 2004, some buildings were converted into museums; in 2011, a tall structure with an eternal flame inside called the Flame of Democracy (where the music studio gets its name) was erected on the hill to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the signing of the constitution that ended apartheid.

A hand-tufted rug by Siyanda Mbele of Pinda, a Dokter and Misses sofa, Saks Corner ottomans, and Robin Sprong acoustical wall covering furnish the small performance space. Photography courtesy of Flame Studios.

In recent years, Constitution Hill has steadily become a home for music festivals, so it made sense to convert seven neglected rooms across two buildings into a place where professional musicians could record tracks. The high-tech studios and rehearsal spaces replace what were once storage rooms for gunpowder, linked by corridors that hold secret tunnels and trapdoors. Cape Town–based interior designer Tracy Lee Lynch opted to leave much of their envelopes untouched, with sections of exposed brick and broken cement visible, and fill them with colorful furniture and fabrics by regional makers that embody the vibrant South African aesthetic. “Respecting the heritage of the spaces, revealing the aged walls, and highlighting the architecture’s magnificent patina was a key focus,” Lynch says, “as was showcasing authentic South African craft.”

The green room features a Casamento slipper chair, a sofa and armchair by Dokter and Misses, and a Pinda rug. Photography courtesy of Flame Studios.

In the green room, for example, is an appropriately emerald velvet sofa by Joburg multidisciplinary product design company Dokter and Misses and an electric blue slipper chair by Cape Town collective Casamento. In another room for intimate performances is an ensemble of graphic shapes—a circular sunburst rug by North Durban designer Pinda, beaded drum pendants by Hyde Park’s Mash. T Design Studio, diamond-pattern wall covering by Cape Town’s Robin Sprong—yield a particularly eye-catching and rhythmic environment. “Together, it all reflects South Africa’s bold, unique, unexpected, and resourceful creativity,” Lynch adds, “one that looks to the future but also draws on the past to reveal optimistic potential.”

A rug by The Ninevites appears in a recording studio. Photography courtesy of Flame Studios.
Producers work in a room with built-in sofas by Studio Lee Lynch. Photography courtesy of Flame Studios.
The Liz beaded pendants are by Thabisa Mjo of Mash. T Design Studio, and the chipped walls date to the early 20th century. Photography courtesy of Flame Studios.
The main corridor’s concrete slab is also original. Photography courtesy of Flame Studios.
Flame Studios as well as galleries and a creative hub for micro-entrepreneurs occupy several of the buildings that had been part of Constitution Hill’s Old Fort Prison, their exteriors largely untouched. Photography courtesy of Flame Studios.

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