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JOURNAL OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

771682 938004

PICASSO HEADLINE

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12004

12004

JOURNAL OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS

ARCHITECTURE SOUTH AFRICA

MARCH/APRIL 2012

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54 MAR|APR

2012


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Head of Editorial and Production Alexis Knipe alexisk@picasso.co.za Editor Julian Cooke julian@claarchitects.co.za Cover Picture House Noordhoek Drawing by Jo Noero Editorial Advisory Committee Walter Peters Roger Fisher Ilze Wolff Paul Kotze Copy Editor Katherine Graham Proofreader Sarah Johnston Head of Design Studio Rashied Rahbeeni Designers Dalicia Du Plessis Junaid Cottle Content Coordinator Hanifa Swartz Head of Sales Robin Carpenter-Frank robinc@picasso.co.za Sales Manager John dos Santos johnd@picasso.co.za Project Manager Hendri Dykman hendrid@picasso.co.za Sales Consultant Ismail Abrahams Financial Accountant Lodewyk van der Walt

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SUBSCRIPTIONS AND DISTRIBUTION Shihaam Adams E-mail: subscriptions@picasso.co.za Tel: 021 469 2400 Copyright: Picasso Headline and Architecture South Africa. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publishers. The publishers are not responsible for unsolicited material. Architecture South Africa is published every second month by Picasso Headline Reg: 59/01754/07. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Picasso Headline. All advertisements/advertorials and promotions have been paid for and therefore do not carry any endorsement by the publishers.

GOING BACK TO GO FORWARDS STRANGE THAT WE HAVE TO GO SO FAR BACK TO GO FORWARDS. I remember being shown by an archaeologist, in the rubbish pit of a cave at Elandsbaai, how beautifully the San, who occupied it some 10 000 to 15 000 years ago, lived in balance with nature. He showed how you could read in the layers that had piled up over the millenia that they ate shellfish at one time of the year and the corms of a kind of watsonia at another, never at breeding or seeding times, always sustaining the resource. All indigenous dwellings in this country used the materials of the locality: mud and dung, timber mainly in thin poles or saplings, thatch of reed and grasses from the valley. They were formed around outside living spaces sheltered by woven screens and trees, responding to the local climate. When inhabitants moved on, the buildings simply returned to the earth. When Venice was begun sometime around the 8th century AD, it was built in such excellent harmony with the directions of flow and subtle variations of tide in the lagoon that it cleansed itself for many centuries. All the water for the city, of nearly 200 000 people at its height (all within walking distance of the centre) came from the roofs of buildings and the drainage of the squares, augmented only in times of serious drought. Today, when our forgetfulness, greed or search for power have led to such abuses of resources, such cold shouldering of climatic constraint and opportunity, such cavalier and destructive forms of settlement, when that threatens our existence, we must go back to these origins – and start again. There is something humbling and inspiring about recognising the wisdom of our ancient human forefathers and mothers, and then moving forward with all the sophisticated knowledge that has accumulated over the centuries. What a great opportunity! How to make cities that do not guzzle arable land, which minimise the need for private transport, which offer their inhabitants amenity, convenience, sociability, safety and a place for work, healthcare and education right at the doorsteps of their homes? How to make larger, public buildings of the city that bring prestige and also contribute to the bigger picture of making human-scaled and sheltered places, of reducing environmental impact, of resource conservation? How to make homes that accommodate the paraphernalia of contemporary living, but also conserve natural resources, take advantage of the climate, generate their own warmth and light, and collect their own water, as well as creating work opportunities? These are huge challenges and opportunities for architects and urban designers, which have implications for every aspect of our working lives – whom we associate with, the role we play in the procurement team, how we approach a project, the factors we consider in conceptualising, the materials and technology we use – and the traditional concerns of the art of architecture, the poetic and symbolic aspects: idea, form, space, tectonic, texture. The paradigm shift seems to me as potent and far reaching as that which ruled exactly a century ago, when the surge towards a new social order and the development of new technologies spawned the Modern Movement. But where that shift blithely consumed the resources of the earth, this one urgently demands their conservation. The buildings in this issue point to the diversity and richness of meaning possible within this new framework of ideas, and to the emergence of a potentially vibrant and also sustainable localism.

EDITOR’S NOTE | MARCH/APRIL 2012

PUBLISHERS: Picasso Headline (Pty) Ltd 105–107 Hatfield Street, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa Tel: +27 21 469 2400 Fax: +27 21 462 1124


01 GOING BACK TO GO FORWARDS Julian Cooke

NOTES AND NEWS

05 WHERE TO TAKE ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION? Jake de Villiers

SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE

08 SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE: A FRESH VISION OR MERE NOSTALGIA? Tom Sanya 12 ALLAN GRAY BUILDING, WATERFRONT, CAPE TOWN Architect: Van Der Merwe Miszewski Architects and Rick Brown Associates Julian Cooke 18 VULINDLELA ACADEMY OFFICE EXTENSION – MIDRAND Architect: Holm Jordaan Architects and Urban Designers Marguerite Pienaar 23 OUDEBOSCH MOUNTAIN CAMP Architect: Architecture Co-op Rob Young-Pugh 30 HOUSE JONES, JOHANNESBURG Architect: Era Architects cc (Ken Stucke) Nicolette Garrett 33 NEW TEACHING FACILITY: UNIVERSITY OF FORT HARE, EAST LONDON Architect: Ngonyama Okpanum Associates in Association with Native Architecture Al Stratford

NEW BUILDINGS

38 RAILWAY HOUSE, PARKHURST Architect: TwoThink Architects Mary Anne Constable

HISTORICAL

41 UNPICKING REX TRUEFORM’S STITCHES Ilze Wolff

TECHNICAL

46 TOWARDS AN INTEGRATED DESIGN APPROACH Jacques Laubscher

PERSPECTIVE

49 BYE-BYE BALAU Nic Coetzer 51 A MODERN MARRIAGE Robert Silke

END PIECE

55 ARCHITECTURE IN SOUTH AFRICA AND BEYOND Jo Noero 56 SACAP DEVALUES THE BAS Alta Steenkamp

CONTENTS | MARCH/APRIL 2012

CONTENTS

EDITOR’S NOTES


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THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE of Architects (AIA) recently announced that Cape Town architect Anya van der Merwe will receive one of its highest honours, a lifetime honorary fellowship and medal for lifetime achievement in architecture. The award is made for her significant contribution to architecture and society,

based both on her professional body of work and her contribution to academia. Van der Merwe is the first South African woman and the sixth South African ever to receive this award, following in the footsteps of distinguished architects such as Gawie Fagan and Ivor Prinsloo. She will be inducted into the AIA’s

WHERE TO TAKE ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION? BY JAKE DE VILLIERS A SIGNIFICANT LANDMARK in the shaping of South Africa’s higher education was reached in December 2011: the promulgation of the revised Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF). All academic disciplines, including schools of architecture, are expected to reconsider the nature of their qualifications in terms this document. In September 2011, the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) published its Demarcation of Works Matrix, which has finally laid to rest the old 500m2 reservation of work for architects. At this important moment, Francis Carter wrote a welcome and provocative end-piece column in the previous issue. It is appropriate that a discussion on this most critical issue should be started by Francis, who has proven, over a long period of time, to be a most perceptive

thinker and commentator on architectural education. It may be useful to highlight a few of the significant events leading up to this point, in order to contextualise current developments. The Architectural Profession Act of 2000 provided for the registration of four different categories of practitioners and in 2006 it became compulsory for all to register with SACAP in order to practice. At that point, SACAP published an Identification of Work Framework that ‘identifies areas of work to be performed by persons registered in each category of registration’; this was to be finalised soon after 30 June 2006. It took nearly six years to publish this framework. Thanks to the tireless efforts of previous SACAP president Malcolm Campbell and his councillors and registrars, we are now rid of a dispensation where the

Lifetime Honorary Fellowship and will receive an accompanying medal at a special ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington DC in May this year. Many congratulations to someone who has consistently produced projects and buildings of exceptional quality – one of which is included in this issue.

bulk of architectural work was available to persons with no qualifications or experience whatsoever. Many architects still believe that all work should be regularised in their favour. This is not feasible, for, according to SACAP, in the 1990s non-architects were responsible for ‘approximately 80% of all plans submitted nationally... [Thus] an overwhelming majority of the public was left unprotected when commissioning architectural services.’ According to the findings of a 2010 survey by the Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies, professional architects account for only a quarter of registered persons. The rest is made up of practitioners with hugely different educational and experiential backgrounds. Clearly, ways had to be found to provide registration categories for them. Furthermore, the development of these skills had to be linked to educational qualifications. SACAP’s policy on the demarcation of work (IDoW) and its accompanying matrix is a necessary attempt to do this. The matrix is based on the classification of architectural work according to the complexity of the project and the sensitivity of the site, as defined by legislation. The first set of criteria rigidly equates design competence to building types, which is clearly problematic, as Francis Carter points out. However, some way has to be found to protect the public

NOTES AND NEWS | MARCH/APRIL 2012

SA ARCHITECT HONOURED


from inexpert practitioners. The other set of criteria is going to have substantial consequences for sensitive sites. Once the IDoW is fully implemented, it will no longer be possible for non-architects to submit building applications for any sites in conservation areas or for any other sites governed by heritage or environmental legislation. The implications of this have clearly not sunk in yet. Once they do, they will probably cause an outcry of dismay from technologists and shouts of joy from architects – all senior technologists are excluded from being able to work in heritage contexts. It must be mentioned that in 2006 SACAP attempted to include all persons who were earning their livelihood from submitting building plans, being very lenient in terms of both qualifications and experience. This was most unfortunate as it has degraded the status of architectural technologists, especially senior ones. It was, however, a ‘once-off’ concession and hopefully some degree of balance will be restored over time. A report by a government-appointed task team, published prior to the change from technikons to universities of technology (UoT) provided a useful definition for a UoT: ‘An institution providing education for the world of work and doing applied research. The profile of the graduates of such an institution is seen as defined by industry and the professions rather than by the academic constructs of the disciplines of traditional universities.’ With the above in mind, it makes sense that technologists should be educated at a UoT, where most schools of architecture follow a curriculum that is focused on practice and technology, even when dealing with conceptual design. Traditionally, UoTs concentrate on practice-related skills at first-year level, diminishing as the student progresses, while parallel conceptual design grows from a modest start to a significant involvement in the senior years. All UoT-based schools of architecture, however, do not adhere to this model. In the search for alternatives, some lean ARCHI T E C T UR E | SA 6|

towards models employed by traditional universities. This brings up the question of duplication or near duplication of curricula. Is this defensible in a small country such as ours, with limited resources for higher education? The question of whether we should have only architects and not senior architectural technologists, as suggested by Francis, warrants discussion. We are part of an international qualifications framework – overseen by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA) – which features three levels of qualification or ‘parts’, with South Africa currently engaging only with Parts One and Two. At our traditional universities, Part One is represented by the BAS. At UoT, it is the BTech, or whatever the future HEQF equivalent will be. Without this qualification, the UoT would have no Part One and for this reason it would probably not be able to discard it. Primarily though, we need to equip three-quarters of the professionals who are responsible for providing architectural services in our built environment in less sensitive contexts, mainly that of residential buildings. For these individuals to become architects will mean another three years of study, which for many would be unaffordable. The conventional UoT approach, as described above, facilitates practical skills that are sufficiently developed to allow the student to engage in work-integrated learning at a relatively early point. This means that the benefits of workplace and service learning are significantly enhanced. Obviously, this approach is radically different from traditional universities and is very open to criticism when seen from their value system. However, it offers advantages. Firstly, accessibility to students who are educationally and financially disadvantaged is offered in ways unlikely to be matched by traditional schools. It provides students with marketable skills, enabling them to move in and out of architectural and even building construction or management

jobs. Secondly, it enriches architectural education in South Africa by bringing differently educated students into traditional schools when they cross over after their BTech year. Thirdly, it has made UoT graduates, with their practice-ready skills, popular with many architect employers. There are undeniable disadvantages: the lack of long timelines in which to build the deep, foundational knowledge Francis Carter speaks of; the exposure, too quickly, to pat architectural solutions and the danger that this will hamper the development of an enquiring mind; exposure to questionable practices during workplace training in architects’ offices; a tendency to carry on working in practice, instead of continuing to study, to the detriment of intellectual and creative development. Does this homemade, alternative route to architectural practice deserve to survive? It seems as if students are voting with their feet. By looking at SACAP’s statistics, the UoT movement seems to be growing. The HEQF is providing an opportunity for all schools of architecture to respond appropriately to the challenges of the professional and educational crossroads we are finding ourselves at. May we keep on talking to each other and may wisdom prevail. Jake de Villiers is the previous HOD of the Department of Architectural Technology at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He is also a Validation Committee member at SACAP and a commentator on SACAP’s interim policy on the Identification of Work for the Architectural Profession.

REFERENCES

1. The Architects Act 1970, Act 35 of 1970 2. Architectural Profession Act 2000, Act 44 of 2000 3. Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF), revised 2011 4. Report of the outgoing president of SACAP, Malcolm Campbell, 31 October 2009 5. Report of the CTP Task Team on Universities of Technology 6. Survey for SACAP, 2010, Research Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) 7. SACAP Interim Identification of Work Policy (Board Notice: 154 of 2011)


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SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE:

A FRESH VISION OR MERE NOSTALGIA? BY TOM SANYA

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN MORE sustainable than the Garden of Eden where humankind existed harmoniously in nature with neither pollution nor social stratification? Yet, dissatisfied with nature, Adam and Eve covered their nakedness. This allegory alludes to the tension between the environment and human needs. In architecture, the original humanity-nature relationship is captured in Laugier’s engraving of the Vitruvian primeval hut with tree elements bent into a hint of architecture. While this portrayal expresses a low-impact building-nature relationship, it was portentous of the eventual extremes to which humankind would subject nature in pursuit of architecture. The pre-scientific age was stable with relatively little environmental impact. Unsustainable practices, consisting of exploitation of resources and coercion of populations in the construction of monuments to gods and rulers, were severe but few and far between.1 Social differences between nobility and commoners were glaring but environmental impact was low. Alberti’s and Vitruvius’s architectural treatises showed that commonsense approaches to good design and construcARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 8| 9

tion, which are today proselytised under the sustainability banner, at their time were the norm. The scientific revolution marked humanity’s severest severance from nature. Science applied a mechanistic analogy to nature with the intention of rendering it predictable, controllable and exploitable. The consequential Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions amplified production astronomically. Within two centuries, GDP per capita increased ten-fold even as the population grew six times. Industry devoured natural resources and spewed products and pollution. Concurrently, following the emasculation of the safety net of peasantry, burgeoning capitalism exploited the plebeian mercilessly. Colonisation globalised capitalistic exploitation. The Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions precipitated unprecedented urban growth. The resultant crime, grime and social injustice and tensions are captured in Charles Dickens’s classics as well as in Edwin Chadwick’s 1843 Inquiry into the Conditions of the Labouring Population in Great Britain and its sequel, the 1848 Public Health and Safety Act. The act instigated extensive efforts to

improve cities. The range of approaches to resolving urban problems is encapsulated in two models. Ebenezer Howard’s radial Garden City nostalgically advocated containment, self-sufficiency and a city-nature balance. Arturo Soria y Mata’s linear city was dynamic, endless and embraced mobility. The Arts and Crafts Movement shared the self-sufficiency ethos. It eschewed the debasement of mass industrial production in preference of craftsmanship and local raw-materials and labour. This was in contrast to a section of the German Werkbund and, later, the Bauhaus, which embraced technology by aiming to balance aesthetics with mass production requirements through typological refinement (typsierung).2 International Style architecture emerged to conquer the constraints of locale. Thanks to technology, the glass box could ostensibly be conducive for habitation in any weather extremity. From exposure to the vagaries of Eden, people could live comfortably in a sealed machine for living. There were alternative pulses to science. Most had romanticism as a genesis. Romanticism espouses a bio-ethic whereby variety in the environment and


ENVIRONMENT | MARCH/APRIL 2012 3

individual expression are valued for the benefits they offer, and their intrinsic goodness. In architecture, Romanticism manifested itself predominantly in freedom of expression as a reaction against the unifying and institutionalising discourses of rational science and classicism. Mainstreaming of sustainability thinking started in the 1960s. The immensity of the human environmental impact was eventually grasped. Remedial reactions then and now range from eco-centrism to techno-centrism. Eco-centrism is aligned with Romanticism. It advocates variety, decentralisation and respect for nature’s limits. Eco-centrism requires a paradigm shift to non-materialistic pursuits and is highly anarchist. Techno-centrism depends on science, technology, economics and democracy to solve environmental and social problems, but in the extreme advocates a neo-liberal cornucopia. Le Corbusier presciently captured eco-centrism and techno-centrism in the ambivalence of his later works. The Ronchamps Chapel deviates from the International Style in its organic expression and the use of the recycled stone of the church it replaced. In Maison Jaoul, Mandrot House and others, he made extensive use of local labour, materials and architectural elements. Posthumously completed, the clean aesthetic of the Heider Weber Museum and the curvilinear Saint-Pierre Church in Firminy capture this schizophrenic split. In Af-

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rica, architect Hassan Fathy produced inspiring architecture with local materials and labour, and traditional construction and passive-design methods as far back as 1926. Rejection of Fathy by the very poor he selflessly served was a harbinger of the low social acceptability of low-tech sustainable solutions.3 Influenced by Le Corbusier and Fathy, among others, Barrie Biermann and his disciples like Paul Mikula crystallised the South African genus loci through intelligent climatic response, parsimony, and use of local building resources and recycled materials. Both of their own houses in Durban are sus-tainability exemplars. Many other South African buildings embody this regional sustainability ethos. But these are outshone by the prominence of green-rated corporate architecture. The decentralised models of Ebenezer Howard, Charles Fourier, Frank Lloyd Wright, William Morris and others are but a receding dream. Globalisation has opened up even the remotest villages. The deep ecologists who walk the talk are relegated to reclusion in eco-villages. Soria y Mata and Haussmann’s spatial models of organisation for efficiency and control in service of the capitalist juggernaut rule the day. Green-rated glass buildings are the command centres for the captains of commerce and industry. In 1755, Rousseau claimed that the perfect state for man was that of a noble savage – eternally suspended midway

between the original primitive state and ‘the present petulant activity of our selflove’.4 The boundaries have since shifted. Perhaps, ‘the present petulant activity of our self-love’ stage of Rousseau’s time is the desired midway of today. Is it this lack of a sustainability reference point that has instigated William McDonough to urge architects to replace machines for living with living machines? The phrase ‘living machine’ is, at a deep philosophical level, an oxymoron. But it captures our broader predicament where, with our ever-increasing mastery over nature, we must have our cake and eat it. We are challenging ourselves to create buildings that are living things – alive like everything was in the original Eden.

NOTES

1. See Jared Diamond’s Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed for more on unsustainable practices of pre-industrial societies 2. This article acknowledges reference to Kenneth Frampton’s Modern Architecture – a Critical History for the following: early industrial city urban models, the German Werkbund, the Bauhaus and architectural Romanticism 3. See Hassan Fathy’s Architecture for the Poor 4. See Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality among Men [Discours sur l’Origine et les Fondements de l’Inegalite parmis les Homes] 1 2 3 4

Arts and Crafts handmade building Hassan Fathy Jaoul House – Le Corbusier Modernist Glass Box – Kenzo Tange


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ALLAN GRAY BUILDING, WATERFRONT, CAPE TOWN If the newest addition to Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is anything to go by, then the future of the city’s skyscape is cause for optimism. ARCHITECT VAN DER MERWE MISZEWSKI ARCHITECTS AND RICK BROWN ASSOCIATES BY JULIAN COOKE AS A CITY, CAPE TOWN seems to be at a cusp point in its history. Being the World Design Capital, as Mayor Patricia de Lille has said, the city is socially and physically inventing itself. District Six will soon be reconstituted into the vibrant heart that it was 50 years ago, bringing thousands of residents right to the edge of the CBD. Culemborg is ‘itching’ for development. Exciting and positive. But there is still a sense that it could go either way. ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 1 2| 13

Recently there has been talk of building a real mega skyscraper, to put the city on the global map, to make us world class. Like such skyscrapers in Singapore or London, it could be ‘innovative’ and ‘sustainable’ – meeting the criteria of the Design Capital bid, but it could set in motion a flood of extra-high towers, each an isolated monument trying to outdo the other. In environmental and living terms, this would be disastrous, like the similar idea of the 1940s to make the city

the ‘gateway to Africa’, which generated the Foreshore. In contrast, the kind of innovation and the approach to sustainability here should concentrate on making the present fabric viable and useful for residence as well as

1 Ground floor plan showing the newly defined square. 2 View into the new urban space 3 Façade over the quay showing the transparency and double skin


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for business, making it denser, filling out its body, remaking its streets and squares so that they are human-scaled, and sheltered from the wind, so that people really like living in and being there, and in parallel, get a proper public transportation system working. This can be achieved by rejecting the self-advertising and ultimately self-destructive ethos of most global cities and instead embracing one that really values the need for community, interaction, interchange – and continuity. No single building can make or break ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 1 4| 15

a city, but in the sense that this imagined mega skyscraper would break Cape Town, the new Allan Gray building could make it. Imagine – a corporate headquarters at the Waterfront. By far the larger proportion of clients and architects would have gone for what is popularly known as an ‘iconic’ building, set apart as an object of admiration, even awe. The first diagram for this building shows the opposite intention – it will be background for something that already exists, the large historic grain silo and elevator building.

It will be the first part of and stimulus for a series of urban spaces around the silo, setting up a precinct with just the kind of intense and interactive nature the city needs. There is something going here that is a good deal bigger than showing off the importance of the client and skill of the architect – appropriate and sustainable city building. The edges lining the new urban space will be occupied by shops, and the Allan Gray entrance will cut through them on a diagonal, which picks up the angle of


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a large conveyor belt that used to move goods into the silo. It opens into a large atrium space penetrating the building horizontally and vertically, connecting, on the opposite side, with wonderful views over the harbour. On each side of the atrium are the main office spaces. In conceiving these, there appears to have been a modesty congruent with the ethos established by the first, urban, diagram. There are no cellular offices even for the CEO, but rather a system of work spaces with easy access to discussion rooms with different degrees of privacy, which project like pods into the atrium. The system maximises transparency and minimises hierarchy. On the ground floor of the atrium are the restaurant and other social spaces, again emphasising the communal identity of the organisation. The social content of the building shows in another facet of its make-up: it comprises not only offices, but at one corner, opening off the square, is a set of apartments, seven per floor and the same height as the rest of the building.

An excellent idea, they ensure activity in and surveillance of the building and the square for 24 hours. The design team visited buildings in Australia with Green Star ratings and having noted the problems in those that had opted for a high degree of experimentation, has aimed at a five-star rating, taking what they call a ‘sensible’ approach – in other words, avoiding extreme measures such as a black water treatment system. Existing spaces and materials are reclaimed and used. Part of the silo building is used for entry from basement parking and part for a small museum; paving in the square and cladding of the base is of slate quarried from the site; timber only from responsible sources is used. There is a green roof over the office spaces to do its job of bringing green to the city, insulating and reducing the heat island effect. (Strangely, the city authorities allowed no accommodation besides plant areas at the green roof level, thus making it difficult for occupants to benefit from a great amenity.) Appropriately,

the source of the building’s cooling is the sea, heat exchangers being used to create an energy-efficient system without the use of expensive cooling towers. And perhaps most interesting is the building’s dual-glazed skin system, which captures heat and ventilates it out before it penetrates the interior. The third major determinant of the design is a heritage one: rather than try to work in direct harmony with the old existing industrial buildings, the architects have used a similar, almost engineering approach – direct, transparent, unaffected. Like the social and city-making conceptualisation of the building in its spatial context, like the rigorous but sensible and appropriate approach to technical issues, this in-the-spirit-of rather than in-the-style-of method in working with history is exemplary in pointing to sustainable city-making.

4 Atrium space with meeting spaces projecting into it 5 Early conceptual drawing


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VULINDLELA ACADEMY OFFICE EXTENSION – MIDRAND ARCHITECT HOLM JORDAAN ARCHITECTS AND URBAN DESIGNERS BY MARGUERITE PIENAAR

THE BRIEF CALLED for an extension to existing office buildings on the campus of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), Midrand, Johannesburg. The new addition, although small in scale (approximately 1 000m2) had to be in line with the sustainable policies of the DBSA. In essence a very simple rectangular pavilion, the new addition responds to ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 1 8| 19

both the scale and layout of the existing training facility. The form steps to accommodate the angular site, while allowing maximum exposure to the north. Vertical screens contrast the horizontal character of the new building, while the Highveld landscape is continued on the stepped, grass-planted roofs. Access from the existing facility is afforded along an axis that extends from

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Ground floor plan Insulation Lig invalshoeke Ventilation


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the existing conference venue all the way to the new extension. A new courtyard space is created in between the existing buildings and the new facility, where a water fountain enlivens and cools the transitional space. Essentially this space holds the built masses together as a central datum point, with access to adjacent new spaces along a covered outside stoep area. Visible from afar, a high screen to the east announces the public entrance and unites the façades of existing and new. Building depths do not exceed 10m, a measure that is advantageous in terms of environmental control – both relating to natural light and the reduction of air conditioning. While the flat, planted ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 20| 21

concrete roof has thermal advantages, it steps to allow light to filter into spaces. Rainwater is harvested for internal use. Materials and finishes had to match and complement the existing building, resulting in a low-maintenance facebrick finish. A structural grid of 5x5m is used for the new building. This allows for an ideal building width to accommodate environmental control, structural efficiency and spatial flexibility. Passive environmental strategies are applied in the design for the new facility. The layout, insulation, window size, orientation, shape and proportions have all been optimised in order to use the least possible external energy for thermal comfort.

LIGHT The section of the new building was carefully considered to allow reflective light through clerestory openings. Incoming light falls on reflective surfaces to distribute light evenly. Ceilings are placed at angles to help distribute and guide light to maximum benefit, while also providing acoustic buffering. The placement of workstations was carefully aligned with the lighting strategy while allowing flexibility. In addition, efficient lights and occupancy/light level switching is applied to save energy consumption. Screens play a major role in controlling the environment, especially for the diffusion of direct sunlight along horizontal strip ribbon windows.


VULINDLELA ACADEMY OFFICE EXTENSION | MARCH/APRIL 2012

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Most strategies are above target maximum demand, but have a huge secondary benefit of reduced consumption. In order to ensure the total consumption reduction of 88.5MWh per annum, a further grid-tie PV generator of 12.6kWp produces approximately 22 517 kWh per annum. The photovoltaic array is approximately 100m2. This system provides an additional 3% of the total Vulindlela complex energy consumption.

Existing trees have been preserved as far as possible. New trees are all indigenous and landscaping is water-wise. In addition, as part of the environmental strategy, it was decided that a planted roof will harvest water. Water is channelled into a stormwater system to a lower level sump in the courtyard. A solar pump distributes water to tanks on a level higher than the roof where it can be gravity-fed for landscaping and grey-water purposes.

AIR CONDITIONING

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Architects: Holm Jordaan Architects and Urban Designers Contractor: Mbale Construction Mechanical engineers: KV3 Engineers Electrical engineers: Dientsenere Tsa Meago Energy specialist: Omnibus Engineering Landscape architects: Insite Landscape Architects Quantity surveyors: De Leeuw Civil/structural engineers: Wedge Projects

Air conditioning is the single biggest load and consumer in office buildings. The strategy for the new extension is fourfold: reduction of need by passive design and fresh pre-cooled/heated air supply, reduced load through energy-efficient equipment, underfloor heating through a solar heater and lastly, solar cooling with air ventilation system. In line with the energy strategy of the building, a chiller has been installed on the concrete roof over the store area. This feeds cold air via the light shaft to the central spaces in the office and hot air is introduced by means of air pipes feeding hot air from the ground level.

The conventional electrical geyser is replaced with a solar hot water system. The standby generator is equipped with a new panel. This allows the system to switch onto the standby generator once a critical demand level has been reached. The effect of all of the above systems is that a 10% saving for the whole Vulindlela complex is afforded. Despite the integrated approach to systems, the language of the new addition is in no way dictated by systems per se. Architectural design strategies around proportioning, horizontality and simplicity are therefore not compromised as a result.

5 Rendered view from the north 6 Screens double up to announce building and create layering of light 7 Vertical screen 8 Section across courtyard


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For more information on our unique products, please contact Enviro Options on +27 (11) 762 1624, email Thapelo Makwela on thapelo@envirooptions.co.za or visit our web site www.enviro-loo.com


HOLCIM AWARD WINNER | MARCH/APRIL 2012

OUDEBOSCH MOUNTAIN CAMP ARCHITECT ARCHITECTURE CO-OP BY ROB YOUNG-PUGH

THE KOGELBERG BIOSPHERE Reserve in the Western Cape encompasses the coastal area from Gordons Bay to the Bot River vlei, and inland to Grabouw and the Groenland mountains. The area is labelled ‘the heart of the fynbos’ since it is home to numerous animals and more than 1 800 plant species, many of which occur nowhere else on earth. The Kogelberg Nature Reserve is the pristine core area within the biosphere, and it covers some 18 000 hectares in the Palmiet river area near Kleinmond. We have been visiting the reserve regularly for the last 25 years and we went hiking on the Oudebosch trail there in 2010. On that visit I was delighted that they were removing the overnight tourist chalets and its field of Kikuyu grass that had spoiled the landscape for as long as I can remember. My immediate hope was that the camp would make way for what was there before: undisturbed wilderness. Kogelberg was formally designated South Africa’s first biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1998, and it is a World Heritage Site. It is worth considering that UNESCO had their first major environmental conference in 1969, in San Francisco. This was the time when Jim Morrison of The Doors was howling:

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‘What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn And tied her with fences and dragged her down.’ This was also the time of the Woodstock festival, described by Joni Mitchell as ‘a spark of beauty... where half a million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism’. In 1969, the same year as Woodstock and the UNESCO confer-

ence, academic and landscape architect Ian McHarg published his seminal book Design with Nature. McHarg was an influential ecological planner at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was on the lecturing staff together with Louis Kahn. He described humankind as ‘a planetary disease’, and little wonder, considering the environmental disasters of the 1960s such as the DDT pesticide scares, the burning scum in the Cayahogo River and

1 Sheltered space between living and sleeping parts of the chalet 2 Chalet in its landscape


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the ethyl fuel additives pollution controversy. One might conclude that McHarg agreed with the early American environmentalists like John Muir and the Sierra club, who had argued since the late 1800s that remaining wilderness areas should be preserved, untouched, like we see it in an Ansel Adams photograph. No grazing rights, no stewardship or management, no limited, planned intervention, and certainly no dam in the Grand Canyon. And in the case of Oudebosch, this would mean no tourist chalets – just wilderness. McHarg knew that it is not always pragmatic to avoid development. The way in which he dealt with the conflict between preservation and management, nature and culture, tradition and invention, and theory and practice is pertinent to the architect’s role in any development within a wilderness area. He spent a lot of his time consulting to ensure that deARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 24| 25

velopment was done in sympathy with nature in practice. He dedicated a whole chapter of Design with Nature to the development in river basins, having practically applied his research in projects such as the Potomac River scheme. His interdisciplinary mapping and planning strategies laid the foundation for modern ecological tools such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), with the ultimate objective of making humans and nature fit symbiotically together. This new vision of humankind’s relationship with nature can be seen clearly in McHargs transect, and it stands in contrast to the nineteenth-century view that the landscape is a source of exploitation, as illustrated by Patrick Geddes in 1893 in his Valley Section. CapeNature, the steward of the biosphere reserve, share the approach adopted by McHarg. In the same way

that allowing 5 000 music fans to picnic in Kirstenbosch makes the gardens sustainable, so too can tourism help preserve a wilderness. The chalets at Kogelberg were thus carefully dismantled and partly recycled, and the construction of five new cabins and a small conference centre began on the footprint of the old chalets. We held our breath. The project received a Holcim Regional Acknowledgement Award in 2011 and the detailed strategies, processes and intentions are well documented and are therefore not fully described again here. Many suitable processes and devices are used, as one would expect from a project of this nature on a site such as this, at a time when environmental considerations have at last gone mainstream. The architects, Justin Cooke and Jessica Cohen of Architecture Co-op, led the client and a full team of consultants in a process that is now called Integrated Project Design and Delivery (IPDD). The contractors also influenced the design and delivery strategies. This is the project team responsible for the project, which in itself speaks of a refreshing humility on the part of the architects. The team’s starting point was to use the very logical and methodical strategies that Ian McHarg pioneered by thoroughly mapping the site. The geology, the water, the microclimate, the floral diversity, the vis-


HOLCIM AWARD WINNER | MARCH/APRIL 2012 6

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ual impacts and natural landscape were recorded, studied and layered in minute detail. The guiding ethos according to the architects is ‘to touch the earth lightly’ in making simple buildings and a place that blends into the landscape, done here as a variation on the Murcutt tradition that eschews bush-lodge stylism. The architects describe the scheme eloquently: ‘Modestly scaled fragmented structures with planted roofs are loosely grouped and are linked by boardwalks. A simple palette of materials and low-

tech systems were used. The structures are clad in timber latte, which textures the surfaces in a way that further camouflages the structures. Stone gabion bases and walls link the material used on the site to the craggy peaks of the Cape Fold Mountains which surround the site. We have used passive design principles ... to fit the climatic conditions of the Western Cape. The design sought to minimise the impact of construction by minimising the use of cementitious or potentially toxic materials. An off-site prefabricated

timber frame and panel system was designed for the envelope of the buildings. The lightweight timber frames are seated on natural stone gabion bases. This enabled a shortened construction period. We prioritised the use of natural, sustainable and ethically sourced building materials. The supply and treatment of water and waste water was a critical design informant, and an ecological pool utilising mountain stream water purified by riparian wetland planting has been built at the centre of the site. Energy usage has been carefully limited and minimised through a number of mechanisms, including solar water heating, closed combustion heating and CFL and LED lighting. A substantial landscape restoration programme was implemented, and a key decision was to minimise the impact of roads and cars on the site. The flat and pitched roofs are planted with a range of succulents and sedges. These soften the visual impact on this extraordinary landscape and biodiversity hotspot.’

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General layout Forms, texture and colours of the area Tecture and dappled shade Overlapping inside and outside spaces


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It is as yet too early to measure the full impact of the buildings and interventions. Some may find the gabions too heavy to touch lightly: the original sections illustrated the buildings as elevated above the landscape, but this was compromised to accommodate a solid plinth for fire prevention purposes, and because fynbos does not flourish below buildings. The gabion walls are formalistically used in the outdoor living areas and create a harsh tactile and visually reflective environment that may soften with time, but may not at this stage make for a comfortable braai. While the buildings are by nature temporary, one wonders whether their maintainance may not be made more difficult if the baboons swing on the aluminium gutters and their waterchains, or if the elements erode the vulnerable edges ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 26|

of the green roofs and the delicate latte screens and timber frames. Perhaps fire will still threaten the very fabric. The single glazed openings in their aluminium framing and the compromised solar orientation may make this a good case study for the suitability of SANS 10–400 Part XA ‘eco-police’ with their ‘eco-software’, especially considering how such findings may be contradicted by the sensible justification from the expert team. The perpetuation of a perceived environmental aesthetic using farmed latte, timber frames and stone gabions may be inappropriately translated to other contexts as eco-style becomes part of a new popular suburban aesthetic. As we move into what Jeremy Rifkin has called the third Industrial Revolution, buildings should be more than just sustainable or passive. Thinkers such as Calayde Davies

propose that the building may become ‘a productive, active participant and catalyst for sustainable living’. Following the spirit of visionaries such as Yona Friedman, it may be enough to make very simple places where humans may truly return to nature in the most primitive and basic sense, even without formal buildings. Perhaps these will be considerations for the proposed phase two, if such a further phase is deemed desirable. If one accepts that circumstances dictated that the camp be built there in the first place to the given brief, one can be optimistic that it is successful. The admirable skill and care that has gone into its conception and execution by the team have resulted in accolades and visitors are flocking to it as birds to the hand of St Francis. In feel and intent it is a delight, not an outrage, and Ian McHarg would surely have declared it a suitable fit between humankind and nature.

8 Latte on timber screens – wetland pool 9 Section through typical chalet 10-11 Forms, texture and colours of the area


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HOUSE JONES, JOHANNESBURG ARCHITECT ERA ARCHITECTS CC (KEN STUCKE) BY NICOLETTE GARRETT

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ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 30| 31

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NEW ADDITION | MARCH/APRIL 2012

What is a green building’s aesthetic? How are form and style created in the ever-present sustainable imperative of modern building design? This building demonstrates that, although the technological and environmental performance principles by which the building is designed most certainly do produce tools from which an aesthetic is created, the actual layout and final form are created as much by the normal architectural concerns and fundamentals as any good building should be. While comprehensively forming itself around the principles of solar protection, water collection and energy consumption, the building has used these methods to create an aesthetic that is governed and assembled by the ideas of composition, hierarchy, symmetry and progression. It is in the composition of these devices that the normal architectural aesthetic tools are applied. In the first steps of spatial composition, a balance between architectural, aesthetic and technological considerations is made. Just as in any architecture, technology is inescapable. Here, however, another layer of technological complexity and environmental design imperatives is added to the processes of making that customarily govern building design. The stepped footprint of the building allows the penetration of the morning winter sun into the living spaces, while blocking out the harsh afternoon sun. This stepping fragments the building into a more visually vibrant form of smaller volumes. The smaller volumes produce a structural efficiency with small spans and simple load-bearing walls. The individual volumes allow varying roof heights above each space and create a visually interesting profile through simple, efficient forms. The design uses planting and landscaping as a dominant environmental strategy and design element. The plantings give the building its unique aesthetic and have been conceptualised as vertical steel ‘green cages’. Within the steel cages, large planters contain a variety of

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indigenous and perennial plants that will be carefully positioned. Some are evergreen and some lose their leaves in winter to allow for more sun and warmth to penetrate the internal spaces during the colder months. The primary concept of the planted cages was to create individual ‘green bubbles’ of tempered microclimates around each living space throughout the house. The result is that the air that enters and circulates into the home is naturally preconditioned by the planting. Thus, the building alters in appearance and environmental response, and transforms as the seasons transform the surrounding landscape.

This building has environmental issues at its heart. Elements such as sun protection, solar radiation, energy and water consumption, landscaping and sustainable systems have all been considered and carefully integrated into an architectural aesthetic. The result is a home that is comfortable, efficient, sustainable and most of all, unique.

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Views of house with combination of stone walls and planter screens 5 First floor plan 6 Ground floor plan


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SCRIPTING ARCHITECTURE

Architecture ZA 2012 Cape Town 12 - 16 Sept

Architecture

Biennial www.architectureZA.org

evaluating the role of architectural practice As a profession, architecture is relatively young. It had an easy birth into a structured system of gentility and patronage where the demands on it were simple: to make beautiful objects imbued with commonly held, albeit elitist, cultural capital. The growth of society under capitalism has added complexity to the discipline, demanding functional and ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������

Globalisation 2.0, with its market-research-based development, has started to turn the architectural practitioners as director into the directed: branding, lifestyle-research and “greenwash” delineate the architectural practitioners colour-by-numbers palette while “starchitects” cleverly construct themselves as a reliable brand producing “signature buildings”. At the other end “barefoot architects” disavow the culture of architecture in the rush to build shelter for the global poor. What about the “average” architectural practitioners caught in the middle? This conference seeks to examine these multiple lines of practice and the ways in which architecture can be “re-scripted” into new incarnations – whilst being critical of its all-too-easy inscription of race, gender and resource inequity into space. Abstracts of no more than 500 words are requested that deal with any of the following issues: ��

What are the “scripts” that architecture (and architectural practitioners) have been following and what are the limits or opportunities (improvisations) arising from these sets of tacit “instructions” to the discipline?

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What are the current forms of practice – particularly in post-apartheid South Africa – and what skills, strategies and innovations are architectural practitioners employing to deal with architecture’s ongoing mutation?

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What are the emerging forms of practice (formal / spatial / material / process) that are re-scripting the discipline of architecture from “within” both locally and internationally?

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What are the forces (economic, social, cultural) that are re-scripting architecture from “without” – from the margins of practice and beyond the boundaries of the discipline?

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What are the skills and practices that allow (or prevent) architectural practitioners from operating within or across disciplinary boundaries and how might these be better realised?

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How are architectural practitioners collaborating (or not) with other cultural practitioners to achieve an enriched and enriching cultural or social world?

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What are the non-architectural (non-building-centred) activities that architectural practitioners engage with to diversify income streams as well as leverage architectural commissions?

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How are architectural practitioners leveraging the building project / commission as a means to also engage with increasingly marginalised people or conditions (social activism, cultural activism, etc)?

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While the intention of the conference is to explore theoretical issues relating to practice and the discipline of architecture, we welcome ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� �������� �� ��������� ���������� ��� ������ ������ ���� ���������� ���������� ����� ����� �� ������������ ��������� ���� ����� ���� ������������ ��� ���� presenter(s) and an email address for correspondence. Presenters of key papers at the conference will be invited to submit 5000 word (max) papers for peer-review and publication in a special edition of Architecture SA. Professor P Raman (Cape Peninsula University of Technology), Associate Professor Nic Coetzer (University of Cape Town), Associate Professor Randall Bird (University of the Witwatersrand), Dr Noëleen Murray (University of the Western Cape), Bettina Malcomess (Writer and Artist)

1st May 2012: 1st June 2012: 13th–17th Sept 2012: 1st November 2012: 14th January 2013: March 2013:

Abstracts should be emailed to nic.coetzer@uct.ac.za (subject line ‘re-scripting architecture’) Notice of selected papers to be made Conference presentations in Cape Town Deadline for submitting papers for peer-review Final papers due Proposed publication date

www.architectureZA.org


NEW TEACHING FACILITY:

UNIVERSITY OF FORT HARE, EAST LONDON ARCHITECT NGONYAMA OKPANUM ASSOCIATES IN ASSOCIATION WITH NATIVE ARCHITECTURE BY AL STRATFORD

THE NEW TEACHING facility is the first new building to be built by the university in the East London CBD. From the outset it was understood by the client that the project would point the way forward for any future building that would be required in terms of the projected growth envisioned for teaching in East London. It was decided that every attempt should be made to demonstrate a design approach that would address the

sustainability imperative now confronting our society. To this end the professional team, together with the client, undertook to eliminate all mechanical forms of air-conditioning except in areas where constant controlled temperature was a prerequisite – for example, computer server rooms. East London is climatically situated at the southern extreme of the coastal tropical belt, which stretches in a north-easterly direction from Port Alfred, through

1 University of Fort Hare, North Wing

UNIVERSITY DEVELOPMENT | MARCH/APRIL 2012

PHOTOS: ESP PHOTOGRAPHY

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KwaZulu-Natal and into Mozambique. In general, it has winds that blow alternatively up or down the coast and it enjoys good solar exposure, but has very little diurnal and annual temperature variation, seldom exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in summer or dropping below 10 degrees in winter. The major concern was to provide good ventilation which could have been simply provided by opening windows, but this approach would allow city noise to penetrate the learning spaces and make it difficult to shut down natural light when required. The design solution was to orientate the buildings in the east-west direction with long façades facing north and south, and to opt for a single bank planning format with access to walkways along the south side and learning spaces to the ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 34| 35

north. The south-facing walkways have an external mesh screen, which protects a vertical indigenous creeper garden planted in boxes at each floor level. Ventilation for all spaces is drawn into the building through this vegetated screen that oxygenates and cools the air by evaporation. Air is then drawn into a specially designed ventilated access floor. This floor has a hollow plenum that allows the air to pass into the rooms above through floor grilles by displacement ventilation. The displacement is caused by air rising as it is warmed in the internal spaces, and then drawn out through a slot at ceiling level at the ventilated north façade. The ventilated north façade comprises U-shaped pre-cast concrete trombe wall units painted black internally, alternated with floor-to-ceiling window spaces. Glazing is

bonded to the open side of the U-shaped elements and also spans across the window spaces on the extreme outside face. On the inside face of this assembly, some 600mm away, is a second plane of glass framed in laminated saligna spanning to the splayed U-shaped elements on either side. This whole assembly, together with white venetian blinds for bounced light and sun control, acts as a vertical duct for air to be drawn through the slots from the room spaces and to be discharged via a continuous slot along the radiused roof ridge under an inverted wing, which creates a Ventura pressure drop effect as the prevailing winds pass over the building. 2 Illustrative section 3 North Wing entrance to 320-seat auditoria 4 North façade of south wing showing ventilated façade and roof Ventura wing


PHOTOS: ESP PHOTOGRAPHY

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UNIVERSITY DEVELOPMENT | MARCH/APRIL 2012

PHOTOS: ESP PHOTOGRAPHY


PHOTOS: ESP PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOS: ESP PHOTOGRAPHY

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floor reduced the concrete mass delivered to site by 47%, reducing embodied energy and transport legs. The building has now been occupied for more than six months and is currently being evaluated by monitoring in cooperation with the CSIR. The early results indicate that the actual performance is in accordance with the initial CFD modelling research.

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The concept was tested by a large 1:10 working model of a segment of the building, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was commissioned to do computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling of the air flow and temperature gradients. Thus, the building is naturally ventilated by harnessing both solar and wind energy in one comprehensive design solution. ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 36|

In summary, this building has addressed the sustainability agenda by harnessing natural light, solar and wind energy, as well as rainwater for the vertical garden and ablutions. All materials excluding steel for rebar, roof structure, roofing, and glass have been sourced in East London. The hardwood timber joinery has been drawn from local managed forests and the pre-cast concrete

Consulting civil/structural engineers: HSC Consulting Consulting mechanical/electrical engineers: Carifro Consulting Engineers Quantity surveyors: Pulana Baxter and Associates Main contractor: Aveng Grinaker LTA Building Cape Pre-cast specialist: Wintec Innovation (Pty) Ltd

5 320-seat auditorium 6 Screened south façade of South Wing with rainwater harvesting tanks


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RAILWAY HOUSE, PARKHURST ARCHITECT TWOTHINK ARCHITECTS BY MARY ANNE CONSTABLE VALERIE LAMBRECHTS and Andre Spies of Twothink Architects were working together at a commercial architectural firm when they first started brainstorming about future architectural ventures. ‘Dreams are what make you tick as a young architect,’ says Lambrechts. Twothink was born as a practice in 2008, and Lambrechts and Spies have a longterm vision of working to better communities. It’s not about ‘planting’ houses, but about creating sustainable and economic growth. Architects have a capacity to look at the bigger picture and give holistic input. House Spies is one of their first completed houses and reveals their unusual design approach. It’s clear that they are not afraid to experiment with bold form. Spies talks about the design undergoing an ‘acid dip’. This ensures that the core parts of the design remain unfettered by unnecessary decorative elements. It’s a ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 38| 39

form-follows-function approach, yet each project they undertake has a unique sense of place and individuality. The house is situated in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. The existing 1950s houses each have the same plan, like those out of a catalogue, and are placed in the middle of the site with a garden all round. In recent years, hostile boundary walls have been added by owners. The architects have affectionately dubbed this project ‘railway house’ as its style is reminiscent of those built en masse along the railways during the Industrial Revolution. The house is a machine for living in but it leaves little space for individual expression. The social spaces of the existing house used to face the street to the south, while the service spaces are at the back, with their backs turned on the north-facing garden. If you live on the other side of the street, the social spaces face north. It’s an inflexible plan that does not adapt itself to the individual site. The new intervention turns this planning on its head. The back of the house is opened up towards the garden, and an indoor/outdoor courtyard has

been inserted on the west side. Typical of the ‘railway house’ typology is the cellular plan layout. The new plan is opened up and flows from front to back of the house, punctuated by a dominant staircase. Two bedrooms are situated upstairs and open up towards the north with a view over the garden. As the client required a third, they converted the existing domestic quarters at the back of the property into a guest unit and entertainment room. The staircase is a grand formal gesture, unapologetic. It connects the ground and top floors to each other formally and functionally, yet it floats above the floor plane, like a ladder that is extended down from an attic. The diagonal slant of the staircase in plan and the slope of its roof create ideal conditions for solar panels that heat a geyser in the roof. The staircase forms a threshold between the front and back spaces so that they flow into one another, but also retain a sense of individuality. The upstairs bedrooms are orientated in the same direction as the staircase, which evokes a tension between the old


www.twothink.co.za

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and the new formal characteristics of the spaces. You are always aware of the new structure above as it asserts itself into the spaces below. Materially, Twothink believe in using local and sustainable products. They have retained the existing facebrick of the building where possible, which adds warmth where it contrasts with the new parts of the building. They have also retained some of the parquet flooring, contrasting it with polished screed in the living spaces. The bedroom floors are bamboo. Meranti shutters line the north windows instead of curtains. The contrast in the timber types and colours creates a richness that is suggestive of the 1950s aesthetic. Yet the openness of the plan means that it does not feel heavy. The timber doors also double as built-in shelves. In complete contrast to the timber, the inner courtyard is enclosed by typical 1950s steel doors, as opposed to the commercial, somewhat clichéd aluminium frames used today. The steel creates a lightness that aluminium does not. The courtyard is cleverly covered by a timber pergola and screen that provides extra security. The smaller openings on the south side of the building aid in providing cross ventilation in summer and add a layer of privacy towards the street. It seems a pity that the house turns its back on the street and the front garden is never used. However, unlike most of the houses in the area, visitors are able to enter

HOUSE TRANSFORMATION | MARCH/APRIL 2012

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house spies | concept diagrams est 2008

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this house through the front door on the east side, as opposed to the back door or through the garage. The palisade fence on the street side also creates a visual rapport with the street. There is something strikingly reminiscent of Aalto’s Villa Mairea in this building’s contextual sensitivity, use of materials and astute attention to detail. The design turns out to be much more than a form-follows-function building. It

is a rich and artfully contrived coordination of old and new, inside and outside spaces, and historical forms and distinctly modern ones.

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Timber contrast to steel Reminiscent of Villa Mairea Drawings The staircase protruding into the main space 5 Garage approach


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LANDMARKS OF SA ARCHITECTURE | MARCH/APRIL 2012 PHOTOS: HILTON, FLICKR.COM, HEINRICH WOLFF, GAELEN PINNOCK, UCT MANUSCRIPTS AND ARCHIVES

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UNPICKING REX TRUEFORM’S STITCHES BY ILZE WOLFF

IN A RECENT visit to the Groote Schuur Heart Transplant Museum, I saw a large-scale photograph of the Rex Trueform Clothing factory, designed by Max Policansky in 1937, covering one wall of the foyer of the museum. In the photograph, taken in 1967, there is a giant white X marking the spot where Denise Darvall, the donor of the world’s first heart transplant, was struck down by a speedster. The photograph is taken on street level, thereby elevating the building to a near heroic quality. I was immediately struck by the formal qualities of the building that the photograph captured – the impressive circular stair

enclosed by glass, forming the nexus of where a long, exaggerated and quirky Main Road façade meets a more mundane Queenspark Street façade. However, this heroic quality in the photograph is in stark contrast to the reality of its current situation: an empty building parked like a dated cruise liner on the edges of a magnificent mountain, willing to open its doors to anyone in a desperate attempt to fill its large expanses of space which once brimmed with industry. Indeed, on further investigation, it emerged that the Rex Trueform Clothing factory, once considered as the ‘giant of the clothing manufacturing sector’1,

1 Groote Schuur Heart Transplant Museum photograph showing Rex Trueform Factory 2 Part of the building used as a church 3 Dramatic stair on the street 4 Empty spaces redolent with history


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has been through multiple transformations over the past 75 years. Programmatically, it transformed from being the headquarters and showrooms of the manufacturing plant for Rex Trueform in 1937, to being merely the cutting rooms and offloading area in 1948 when a larger, more impressive building was built across the road to house the offices and machinists. Presently there is uncertainty of its use following the closure of Rex Trueform’s manufacturing arm in 2006. It continues today empty, except for the Christ Amazing Love Ministries ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 42| 43

evangelical church, which occupies a small percentage of the building. Within a limited space, it is impossible to give a full account of the building’s socio-spatial history, but allow me to weave together a patchwork of concerns by making use of my encounters with a few people who were in some way linked to the building.

MANU HERBSTEIN – THE NEPHEW, AGED 70 I received an unexpected e-mail from Manu Herbstein, novelist and nephew

of Max Policansky. He got wind of my activities for the Open House2 in September 2011, dedicated to the study of Policansky’s oeuvre, and he wanted me to take him around a few of his uncle’s buildings. Not much is written about Policansky and I therefore jumped at the opportunity to meet Manu, hoping he would share some insights into Policansky, who is considered by many to be Cape Town’s pioneer modernist architect3. He confirmed some biographical details for me: Max was born in Cape Town in 1909; his father was a Lithuanian immigrant turned cigarette manufacturer. After a brief stint at UCT, Max went abroad and received his degree in Liverpool. Then, after an extended work study tour of Europe, he returned to Cape Town in 1935 to open up a practice. With his father’s and two older broth-


LANDMARKS OF SA ARCHITECTURE | MARCH/APRIL 2012

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ers’ business connections, Policansky soon received a number of commissions to design industrial buildings – Rex Trueform, formerly Judge Clothing, being one of the first in 1937 and Cavalla Cigarette factory for his brothers Leon and Hymie, next door, following shortly after in 1938. What emerged out of my discussion with Manu is that at the time that Policanksy produced the core projects of his practice, a period spanning roughly from 1935 to 1960, the production of modern architecture in Cape Town was inextricably linked to industry, economy and capitalism, the nature of the resultant buildings being less high-art objects as is the case with its European counterparts. Moreover, the modern industrialisation in Cape Town, together with state endorsement, spawned buildings that would ultimately become functionalist testimonies to the manner in which white industry

The production of modern architecture in Cape Town was inextricably linked to industry, economy and capitalism.

and black labour shaped the social fabric of the city.

SHEILA JOHNSON – THE MACHINIST, AGED 82 I met Sheila Johnson in her home in Bishops Street, Grassy Park. She worked at Rex Trueform for 20 years from 1953 to 1973. We started the conversation cas-

5 Streamline window 6 Poetic functionalism 7 The building still potent today


ually by first establishing that she knew my late grandmother, Eileen Oliver, a factory worker at Park Avenue and later at Monatic. The two, as it turned out, were friends and bonds were formed at the Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Grassy Park where they both worshipped. She told me that she enjoyed her time working there: ‘The people were nice. I was the machinist there. I was thirteen when I started working in a dressmaking factory in town.’ I began to gently probe Sheila about the racial dynamics at Rex Trueform. After all, during the time that Sheila worked there, the mechanisms of stateendorsed racism were just being realised. She started five years after the National Party won the general elections in 1948, the Population Registration Act of 1950 had just been passed and the Group Areas Act of 1950 had also freshly been drafted and approved. Surely this would have infiltrated into the workplace. Repeatedly she said that ‘she liked working there, the girls were nice’. However, within the context of questions relating to race and discrimination, Sheila started talking about wages. How low they were, she said, and by the time she gave up her job in the 1970s, the impact they had on her financial circumstances were relatively minor.

GREGORY HOEDEMAKER – THE SHOP STEWARD, AGED 50 Gregory Hoedemaker, a past shop steward at Rex Trueform, was one of several players in the mobilising of workers during the strikes in the late 1980s. He also played a role in negotiating acceptable retrenchment packages on behalf of workers when the factory closed in 2006. By the time he started working at ‘Rex’, the company had expanded to incorporate the Cavalla Factory next door, as well as the signature building across the road designed by Andrews and Niegeman in 1948. Gregory took me on a tour of the Policansky building, starting at the corner of Brickfield and Main Roads. He ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 44|

explained that this part of the building housed the storage and handling of raw material. Trucks would off-load raw material to be laid out and cut in the adjacent cutting rooms. We continued up Brickfield Road and took a right into Factory Road, from where you can see the back of the building. The façade is just a long stretch of windows to the changing rooms and canteens for workers. It is here in the canteens, he told me, that shop stewards like himself and Connie September, now a parliamentarian, would address workers and mobilise strike action.

It is here in the canteens, he told me, that shop stewards like himself and Connie September, now a parliamentarian, would address workers and mobilise strike action.

As the tour progressed, I got a good sense of the intensity of activity that would have transpired during a normal weekday. Trucks going to and fro from the main building to the old, transporting raw unprocessed material to the old building and delivering cut material to be stitched to the main building. I also got a sense that an ordinary workday was seamlessly interwoven with activities pertaining to the struggle for political and economic freedom. Gregory identified, as he talked, the spaces in which power resided – boardrooms, offices, showrooms, and the spaces in which the struggle for power took place – the worker canteens, security offices and stairwells.

CONCLUSION The Rex Trueform factory is currently under-utilised and, as with all assets, the

need to develop the building is good business practice to ensure the survival of the company. Agreed. But it is hoped that the development plans would show sensitivity to the fact that the buildings have become representative of a series of key moments in the economic development of Cape Town, the establishment of a black working class and the struggle for political freedom. As Achille Mbembe says of Johannesburg, referring specifically to its mining industry: ‘It is well known that the city of Johannesburg grew in connection with both forces and relations of production. Less well understood is how relations of race and class determined each other in the production of the city’4. The same could be said of the garment industry in Cape Town. The modern city of Cape Town developed essentially out of an uneven relationship of power between white-driven capitalism, supported by the state, and the black working class. Moreover, the Rex Trueform building becomes a potential site of redress and renegotiation within the realm of heritage in a post-apartheid state. This article is an abbreviated version of an essay Unstitching Rex Trueform pending publication in the South African Journal of Art History.

REFERENCES 1. Kaplan, M, 1986. Jewish Roots in the South African Economy (Struik). 2. Open House 13 – Policansky Monograph was a publicly attended tour of some of the major building by Max Policansky. 3. Herbert, G. Martienssen and the International Style: the Modern Movement in South African Architecture (AA Balkema, Cape). 4. Mbembe, A, 2004: Aesthetics of Superfluity, Public Culture 16(3): pp. 373–405, (Duke University Press).

ADDITIONAL SOURCES Shorten, J, 1963. The Golden Jubilee of Greater Cape Town 1963 – Cape Town: A Record of the Mother City from the Earliest Days to the Present (Shorten and Smith).


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TOWARDS AN INTEGRATED DESIGN APPROACH Steven Groák poses the following question to architects in the 1992 publication The Idea of Building,Thought and Action in the Design and Production of Buildings: ‘Can we find the common ground between architectural criticism and building science, within “building” as a noun and “building” as a verb? Will we attend more to what a building does and less to what it is?’ BY JACQUES LAUBSCHER

BACKGROUND In September 2011 the new ten-storey Aurecon office building, located in the 73 000m2 Lynnwood Bridge mixed-use precinct of Pretoria, achieved a four-star Green Star SA rating. The building houses approximately a thousand people with a gross floor area of 22 440m2. The Aurecon Group took responsibility for the complete engineering design.

PHOTOS: JACQUES LAUBSCHER

GREEN BUILDING INITIATIVES According to Nicol Labuschagné and Martin Smith from Aurecon, the principal focuses of the engineering design were the following: • Reducing the consumption of electricity • Reducing the consumption of water • Reducing the environmental impact of building materials • Improving the indoor environmental quality • Improving the building design

ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION According to Labuschagné, the completed design achieved an improvement of 50% ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 46| 47

over the energy efficiency requirements of the Green Building Council of South Africa. This was accomplished by installing motion sensors, which provide the required lighting levels when a particular zone is occupied. The lighting design makes use of a combination of dual tube T5 fittings, LED down lighters and highfrequency ballasts, while no external up lighting is provided. Sub-metering provides continuous feedback for all major energy uses. This allows the facilities manager to verify equipment efficiency and to identify potential areas for energy savings.

WATER EFFICIENCY The consumption of potable water by the building and its occupants was reduced by implementing the following: • Water-efficient plumbing fixtures (resulting in a 50% reduction of water use) • Fitting flow restrictors to all taps in the building • Installing meters for all major water uses in the project, thus allowing selfmonitoring • Using recycled water to test the fire sprinkler system • Installing isolation valves that allows

floor-by-floor testing of the sprinkler system • Installing water-free urinals • Utilising rain-water harvesting for the flushing of toilets • Water consumption for landscape purposes was reduced by implementing xeriscape gardens (selecting plants that require little water).

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF BUILDING MATERIALS Minimal environmental impact served as a criterion in selecting building materials. This was achieved by sourcing timber products from a Forest Stewardship Council-certified forest. Materials and products to the value of 31% of the total contract value were sourced within 400km of the site, with a resulting reduction in transportation emissions. Additionally, 32% of the cost of total PVC content was replaced with alternative materials.

INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY The building’s high-performance heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system contributes to energy saving and


TECHNICAL | MARCH/APRIL 2012 4

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indoor quality alike. Chilled water is circulated throughout the building utilising a central chilled water plant. The HVAC system includes the installation of carbon dioxide sensors, thereby ensuring optimum fresh air levels. On the full economy cycle, the system utilises free cooling, provided this is supported by favourable outside ambient conditions. The interior finishes, including carpets, paints, adhesives and sealants, were selected based on their low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. All composite wood products have low formaldehyde emissions. Materials with insulative properties were used selectively to reduce internal noise resulting from the building services.

ENERGY-EFFICIENT FAÇADE On the northern façade, the deep external skin employs high-performance glazing and extensive external shading to minimise glare and heat gain. The performance glass limits noise from the adjacent N1 highway, which is used daily by approximately 150 000 vehicles. Insulated spandrel panels and the insulated roof complement the aforementioned. The southern-facing high-level reflective ceiling directs light through the central atrium to the internal façade below. The initiatives discussed here permit the user to rate the system’s performance and its design efficacy. The system design allows for the adjustment of all building systems by the building owner

or facilities manager. Remedial action could be based on the results of monthly or quarterly monitoring. For more information on the environmental systems, Aurecon’s national green building expert, Martin Smith, can be contacted at Martin.Smith@aurecongroup.com

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Eastern elevation Western elevation Western elevation Vegetation on western side towards the N1 Northern façade with vertical wetland Northern elevation depicting the deep skin Northern façade with vertical wetland


Photo: Nic Coetzer

BY NIC COETZER

THE GREAT CHEESE revolution struck South Africa in 1990. But it had really been fermenting for a few years before that in the once sterile tanks of the Dairy Board. I had my own personal Lazarus moment with it on a deadly hot humid day in Durbs – the kind that causes tar to melt like bubblegum, cloying at slipslops, making the grocery walk down Moore Road seem impossible (now it’s called Che Guevara Road which seems appropriate to my story, but isn’t). I resuscitated myself at the cheese chiller in Checkers, delaying my decision on whether to get cheddar or gouda – just to cool down. And there it was, catching my eye with its radical pale colour: Tusser’s. A new cheese. A light low-cholesterol cheese. Another kind of cheese other than cheddar and gouda. Piles and piles of the stuff. I just couldn’t believe it was possible – that there were other kinds of cheeses and that they could be made so available and abundant! The magical appearance of this new cheese echoed an upbeatness about the country then; if the political economy of cheese could be radicalised like that, well, you could tell that the end of apartheid was in the air... even if it was being unnecessarily conditioned by Clive Weil. Now you can get over 400 different kinds of cheeses on an outing to the supermarket, stacked up high with tow-

ers of different kinds of gorgonzola and pecorino. I can only assume that the great cheese revolution was the coming together of two key events: ‘free-trade’ globalisation (neo-liberalism triumphing over state protectionism) and the easing of sanctions against South Africa in the triumphant days of the end of apartheid. These days, imported goods and products abound in our stores and malls. But when it comes to timber, it seems the big shopping malls of building supplies are stuck on cheddar and gouda and Tusser’s – in other words, SA pine, meranti and balau. Which is why so many houses – including my own – are piled up high with this cheap stuff. When major retailers decide to rationalise their supply chain, they minimise their costs and maximise their profits by aggregating a million small margins accrued on endless sales of the same cheap item. What I mean is that sometimes ‘free-trade’ globalisation works to reduce choice and diversity, rather than opening up the markets to a flood of a variety of timber – leaving us with the mono-material monopolies of the megamall. The result is devastating. The rainforests of South East Asia are being ripped apart, cut up, dismembered and distributed in small planks and pieces of balau and meranti across the surface of the world like some gruesome episode

of CSI. The story is told in its nastiness through films such as the Environmental Investigation Agency’s Borderlines: Vietnam’s Booming Furniture Industry. It’s not funny. Picture the countless balau furniture and decks bashed together in the suburbs of South Africa suffering all manner of humiliation, being dripped on with runny-nosed mozzarella dropped from canapés or driven over by bad boys on bicycles riding them hard. And then trace them back to these sordid stories. And so – because of marginal cost increases and time and stamina and information overload – in the small addition to our very own house, my wife and I have failed. We used the cheap and nasty when the search for a cheap and sustainable alternative began to delay the builder and threaten our immovable deadline. We panicked. We went down to the supermarket and got the nastiest bit of cheese we could find. But if globalisation has brought us the building-supply megamalls of monomaterials, the internet has given everyone the tools to track down alternatives. To follow up with smaller businesses to make sure their supplies are Forest Stewardship Council certified. To place orders that cut out the middle-man, that unclog the supply chain arteries, bringing the profits closer to the loggers and locals. The trick is to be empowered before you are called on to make a decision in a hurry, before you go cheap and nasty. And actually, when it comes down to it, SA pine is perfectly workable as a decking material – for window-frames for that matter – perhaps with some more TLC than bye-bye balau. Anyone on a building site wanting to be called a carpenter should be able to knock a window together – at the same cost or cheaper than those ready to rubbish on the catalogues. After the flood of cheese types that the cheese revolution of 1990 brought, it’s important to remember that sometimes nothing beats a bit of pine, I mean, cheddar.

PERSPECTIVE | MARCH/APRIL 2012

BYE-BYE BALAU


Adèle Naudé and Tony Santos at Iona Court

A MODERN MARRIAGE Forty years on, Adèle Naudé and Tony Santos’s houses and apartments remain the Mother City’s most avant-garde. They appeared together in Cape Town recently after a decades-long absence. BY ROBERT SILKE ARCHITECTS ARE, as a rule, not good to each other. While doctors and lawyers are known to cover for each other’s mistakes and Hollywood actors gush over each other’s work, architects (members of the world’s second oldest profession) can be catty and cruel to each other like girls in a boarding house. Which is probably why architects should never marry other architects.

But marry each other they do: Capetonian Adèle Naudé and Antonio de Souza Santos from Laurenço Marques were the ‘it’ couple on the Cape architectural scene in the late sixties and early seventies: glamorous, sophisticated and internationally educated. For a city drunk on its own innate beauty, Cape Town struggles to produce modern domestic architecture of import, but in the five short years from

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1967 to 1972, the Santoses wrought seven profound homes and townhouses and two extraordinarily wonderful apartment blocks in Rondebosch, Newlands, Claremont, Kenilworth and Simonstown. They retain deity status (deservedly so) in South Africa’s somewhat necrophilic architectural circles, where the dead, the retired and the emigrated are revered, though not always unfairly. ‘As a team, they left deep impressions on our architectural landscape, marks that are as relevant now as they were 40 years ago when the buildings were constructed,’ says architect Ilze Wolff (married to architect Heinrich Wolff), director and founder of Open House Architecture, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of (and access to) often-maligned 20thcentury modern architecture. ‘However, all of these impressions reside in the domain of the private house, inaccessible to the general public.’ Architectural criticism comes to architects far more naturally than architectural praise, and we’re often embarrassed when asked to name favourite buildings and to intellectualise why. It’s a very personal question, akin to describing why one finds someone attractive. In the Cape it’s even more difficult. Contemporary British architect Piers Gough said to me that he thinks of Cape Town as a triumph of town planning and decent, ordinary architecture. There are precious few modern jewels in this city. Together, the Santoses probably doubled the city’s inventory of exceptional modern domestic architecture, and surprisingly little of the same has been produced since. Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson lamented the decommissioning of the supersonic airliner Concord as a great leap backwards for human technology, and the same might be said of the suburban neo-classicism that followed the Santos’s modernism in the eighties and nineties. The Santoses have long since emigrated and have been brought back to South Africa as part of the Open House series of architectural tours of extraordinary private homes organised by Ilze, who


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has also written and published a comprehensive monograph to coincide with the tour. The Santoses today both hold senior academic positions in the United States. Says Adèle: ‘I’m dean of MIT...’, at which point Tony interjects, ‘And I’m professor at NJIT.’ ‘Okay, Tony, you do the talking,’ sighed Adèle in front of a group of over 200 other architects and enthusiasts in January outside Iona Court in Newlands – a rather awkward spin on the archetypal long-married couple who finish each other’s sentences. The tone between Adèle and Tony was cool, which is unsurprising since this was the first time that they had seen each other in over twenty years, having divorced in 1984. Adèle is gracious, elegant and striking. She has Diane Keaton’s brunette bob with Susan Sontag’s silver bangs and Woody Allen’s thick-rimmed glasses. She’s dressed like a councillor of Krypton from Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman, in raw silk, flared trousers and sporting an architecturally tall, turnedup collar. Aesthetes Alexander Geh and Christiaan van Aswegen of AGH Architects (also married) drew my attention to Adèle’s obscenely tactile necklace of large furry brown balls that appeared almost taxidermied against her bosom. Tony wore a white beard. While the marriage might not have worked on a personal level, the union was nevertheless prolific. Their Cape Town oeuvre is baroque and sculptural in the vein of Le Corbusian modernARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 52| 53

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ism that was also pioneered at the time by the late Roelof Uytenbogaardt, who designed UCT’s brutalist Sports Centre, and the off-shutter concrete Werdmuller Centre in Claremont that is now threatened with demolition. While the Santos buildings were similarly cast in beton brut they have, almost without exception, been painted over in white PVA, rendering them instantly more palatable to the lay public. The tour through the private houses (House Stekhoven in Newlands and House Shear in Simonstown) evokes a perverse nostalgia for the simple, understated luxury in which middle-class South Africans used to live: white bagged brickwork, warm terraces and arcadian landscapes. Adèle is descended from Cape Afrikaner aristocracy, is grand niece to the late artist Hugo Naudé and daughter of the late architect of the same name, whose firm, Meiring and Naudé, built major apartheid edifices such as the elegant SABC building in Sea Point and the somewhat more kragdadig Cape Town Civic Centre. The small dinner in honour of the Santoses was hosted later the same day at the Camps Bay home of one of the doyens of South African architecture, Gawie Fagan. The Fagans’s frequently published house, an effortless conflation of Cape Dutch and Le Corbusian modernism, was left unlit like Thomas Vinterberg’s 1998 film Festen as the sun set over the sea, with just one minimalist incandescent bulb hanging over the dining table

lighting us in chiaroscuro fashion like a Caravaggio painting. Tony was with his glamorous second architect wife, Margaret, and suggested to the table over dinner that the marriage to Adèle (still at the table) was designed, in the main, for US immigration purposes. Adèle mentioned her family’s insistence on an antenuptual contract and humorously recalled their Lynchian registry office wedding, which was presided over by a dwarf-sized marriage officer. Tony had married into family patronage. Iona Court in Newlands was built for Adèle’s uncle and Damian Court in Kenilworth for her mother. The remainder of the work (the private houses) seems to have been built for family friends. Damian Court is almost impossibly beautiful. A large, sculpted concrete cube set in a mature garden, the four baroque duplexes (two upstairs and two downstairs) are orientated due north towards the lush, forested back end of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, protected from the afternoon sun by a gridwork of six large, planted balconies that form an astonishing floating concrete brise-soleil, preceding the present fashion of ‘green walls’ by about forty years. A tree would be planted in thick soil on your living room balcony and grow up through a hole in your master bedroom balcony above. The flow of vegetation from apartment to garden and up to the sylvan mountain forests appears seamless. Although the building is cubic in envelope, the rooms themselves are sculpted


SANTOS SYNERGY | MARCH/APRIL 2012 3

and curvaceous, sometimes overwrought and claustrophobic, with twisting Maurice Escher staircases. In Rondebosch, Adèle persuaded her uncle to demolish his large Victorian home where soirées used to be held in the large grounds, and replaced it with an ingeniously complex and svelte threestorey block of trapezoidal student flats, lorded over by a larger triplex apartment with roof garden for the owners at the front. Adèle explains that her uncle and aunt reneged on their promise to junk their over-sized ball-and-claw furniture, hoarded possessions like magpies and eventually crowded themselves to the point that they were compelled to abandon the building altogether. For three years I owned the front flat at Iona and can only imagine the units being furnishable with custom-made pieces to fit the acute corners of the rhomboid rooms. As with religion, you have to believe in these buildings and make certain sacrifices in order to live this dream. At House Stekhoven, an undulating garden pavilion house with rolling gardens and its own river running through it, celebrity architect Stephan Antoni said he felt shivers down his spine. House Shear in Simonstown is more an exquisite cliffside look-out tower than a dwelling house. The old-wealth, beach-house atmosphere of understated sophistication is supported by a sun-bleached library, floor-to-ceiling corner views over False Bay and a Cecil Skotnes painting propped up nonchalantly on the living room floor.

It’s tempting to try to tease out which of the duo was the real star, but an analysis of both of the Santos’s portfolios in the years between 1974 and today indicates that A+A De Souza Santos were indeed greater than the sum of their parts. There’s a recognisable golden rationalism, sense of landscape and proportion and rigour in Tony’s later work, as well as a similarly recognisable feeling of whimsy, playfulness and impossible staircases in Adèle’s. One can also identify the A+A DNA in their later works, but it was only that ill-fated architectural marriage that could have spawned Damian and Iona and their other beautiful, inanimate Capetonian children. Adèle mentioned to me that night at House Fagan that she and Tony had always particularly admired CM Sherlock’s impossibly spindly and curvaceous Holyrood (1939) which they used to walk past daily through the Gardens, an art deco block of tiny bachelor studios that Sunday Times journalist Lin Sampson described as holding its inmates in its gravitational thrall. There are spinsters at Holyrood who’ve chosen their 35m2 apartments over their lovers, so my partner and I knocked three of those flats together just so as to stay there, burrowing down via spiral staircase to the floor below. The only thing that stopped us from moving into our mad trapezoidal Iona triplex was Holyrood’s impossible pull. I’d always dreamt of living in Damian Court and I’d always dreamt of living in Holyrood. Out of the thousands of soul-

less sectional title apartments across Cape Town, there is only a small handful of blocks in which people actually aspire to live and with which certain of the inhabitants actually begin to invest their own identities. Even when inmates escape the nest, they form a diaspora of proud former residents who retain an identity, a connection to those special buildings. And the Santoses built precisely those kinds of buildings. Adèle has met people all over the world who’ve fondly told her of some wonderful past life at Iona. That both House Stekhoven and House Shear remain occupied by their original families speaks to a similar power and of a similar connection, and in a country increasingly obsessed with individualism, consumption and the disposable false luxuries of finish and technologies, and of trappings and gloss, these buildings still offer us lessons in the virtues of collaboration, modesty, and genuine comfort, sustainability and the captured imagination. Robert Silke is partner in charge of design at Louis Karol.

The monograph is available at a cost of R350 (including local postage) by order directly from ilze@oharchitecture.com

1 Damian Court 2 Iona Court 3 Open day at House Stekhoven


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SOUTH AFRICA AND BEYOND BY JO NOERO THE PRACTICE OF architecture today faces difficulties. In South Africa, the transformation of our profession is important and urgent. However, I have chosen not to concentrate on this issue – I believe it is well understood and needs to be acted upon. I both practice and teach architecture, and have become increasingly worried about the preparedness of our graduates for the world of work that they enter after graduation. It is a world of diminishing resources and opportunities. In 2011 the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) published a report that had been commissioned to investigate the state of the profession in the future in the United Kingdom, and it makes for sombre reading. The report speculates that the only practices that will survive in the future will be very large multi-national ones. The single-person practice and the boutique or middle-sized practice is headed for extinction. I recommend anyone interested in the future of architecture as a profession to read this report, which is available on the RIBA website. There are a number of issues that need to be dealt with, within the profession and the academy. With regard to the academy – the perennial question is the relevance of the education that we offer our students. In this regard there are a few issues that need interrogation. For example, isn’t it about time we reconsidered the mode of education that we use in our schools of architecture? We train our students in the same way as architects were trained in France at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in the mid-18th century. The studio system of design education has hardly changed over the last 250 years or so. Students are still expected to work individually in competition with one another. The review system is, in my

mind, a largely unpleasant affair for most students, in that they are exposed to sometimes bullying tactics from teachers, who belittle the students in their presentations. Where in this mess does one teach the values of co-operative and collaborative work, which are so important for survival in the world of architecture today? And anyway, isn’t the idea of the individual genius somewhat outmoded in a globally connected, postmodern world in which complex issues arise that no single person has either the knowledge or know-how to handle? It could be argued that in a fast-moving global economy, our graduates need to know more about economics than design. Why do we persist in offering educational programmes that are essentially backward-looking and nostalgic for a long-lost past? How do these graduates enter the profession? With trepidation, I would suggest. I imagine that very little of what the university offers prepares them for the world of contemporary practice. Many would argue that our graduates have well-honed critical abilities, which assist them in negotiating contemporary practice. That may be true, but I don’t see much evidence of it in contemporary architecture. Most of the talented graduates in Cape Town seem to gravitate towards the luxury house market. Very few work enthusiastically in the commercial sector or are willing to commit themselves to working there. Even fewer choose a career in public service, where there is a plethora of jobs on offer. Could it be that the values we inculcate in the design studio militate against helping graduates to think of themselves as anything other than designers?

It is little wonder that the role of the architect is being undermined consistently by a host of other professions, who are only too willing to enter those fields that are shunned by architects – project management, commercial architecture and property development. I am not suggesting that there is no role for excellent design at all levels in our society, rather I am concerned about the lack of interest shown by architects in other spheres of practice that are not dominated by design issues. I suspect that something about the way in which we educate young architects instills in them an antipathy to anything other than design. This is sad, since it undermines our usefulness to society and renders some of us unemployable. What will the shape of our profession be in the future? This is difficult to predict. The recession will not lift for a while. I believe that late capitalism has exhausted itself and needs to be reshaped. In South Africa, for the time being at least, we are fortunate. We are a developing country with a large potential for growth, in which architects can play an important role. However, I am not hopeful about this future if the only contribution from architects is limited to making expensive playthings for wealthy elites. Also the state’s decision to open all architectural work to competi-tive commercial tender has reduced the ability of architects to produce decent work. A lack of appreciation of the work of the architect also hinders our effectiveness. Some argue that we need to educate the public about architecture. This is nonsense! The only way to educate the public about the value of good architecture is to produce good work that the public

END PIECE | MARCH/APRIL 2012

ARCHITECTURE IN


can genuinely enjoy and appreciate. Only in this way can we demonstrate our value to society. Judging from the kinds of building, large and small, that I see being built in our cities, I fear that we are a long way from realising this goal. We need a radical overhaul of both the way in which we teach architecture and the way in which we practise and value our work. If this is not done, then we will become increasingly irrelevant – already we are beginning to feel the cold winds of change. Globally, architects are out of work with few prospects for the future. Increasingly, the value placed on what we do is diminished with each new round of tender bidding. However, our response is less than protean – most bemoan the conditions of today

and hearken back to the old days when the architect had control over the whole process of design and construction. One possible direction out of this malaise is shown by young graduates who are moving into a host of allied professions, such as movie-making, furniture design and advertising.These young people offer a much more hopeful vision of our future.We need to re-imagine ourselves as people who do more than design and make buildings, to realise that there is a world of opportunity out there offering a range of career options that we don’t yet understand well. Then there are those who ask that we focus, return to basics and concentrate on those aspects that best define our work. While I believe that there is a good case to be made for this approach, I don’t be-

lieve that it should be the only approach – we need to be more inclusive. In conclusion, some architects can become specialist designers of buildings, but not all. We need to be more inclu-sive in how we work, and to understand that architecture means much more than design. We have reached an important point in the development of architecture as a profession in this country. We need to act to prevent further erosion of the architects’ work. This cannot be done in isolation from the academy – both must act together to forge a way forward. We must understand and find ways of using our skills as architects to create new, parallel careers in linked disciplines. If we do this, we have a sound and healthy future.

SACAP DEVALUES THE BAS BY ALTA STEENKAMP IN THE End Piece: South African Architects – are we really deskilled? (Nov/Dec 2011) Gerald Steyn discusses the challenges architecture faces within education and the profession. In relation to registration, he assures us that the president of SACAP, Phil Mashabane, has issued strict instructions that under no circumstances will the value of architectural qualifications be compromised. However, this is exactly what the Interim Policy on the Identification of Work (gazetted by SACAP on 1 October 2011) achieves. Of specific concern are the undergraduate architectural degrees. For example, the three-year Bachelor of Architectural Studies programme at the University of Cape Town was unconditionally validated in 2006 at the level of candidate senior architectural technologist. In 2011 the same programme was validated at the level of candidate architectural technologist. In fact, SACAP took the school to task for saying the programme was validated at the level of senior technologist, even though they had validated it at ARCHIT E C T UR E | SA 56|

this level! Be that as it may, with the publication of the Interim Policy, it became evident that graduates with this degree would be limited to design projects in the range of a small shops, shebeens, swimming pools and so forth. There is clearly a limit to what a graduate with a three-year degree is capable of, but it definitely exceeds what is proposed in the Interim Policy. Furthermore, Gerald Steyn explains that all past BAS graduates will be ‘downgraded’ to this level and this will therefore also impact on graduates who previously registered as senior technologists. The fact is that the three-year qualification has been devalued and that the change in registration category will disadvantage graduates of these programmes. Universities have always marketed the three-year BAS as a legitimate exit level, but with these strict and unreasonable limits now placed on the work they can do, this will no longer hold true. SACAP has ‘deskilled’ a group of registered professionals. Students who obtain a three-year design-centred architectural degree are not

educated to be technologists. The questions asked of this programme when it is being inspected by a validation board focus on levels of knowledge different from that of a technology-focused programme. Why then is it validated as such? It is time that the design and technology streams are separated from one another. Both should lead to professional status, as the profession needs both sets of knowledge and expertise in equal measure. The current categories are outdated and reflect a time when technology was seen as the lesser of the two. Many interested parties, among them schools of architecture, feel that there could and should have been better consultation on the Interim Policy. One can only hope that this will still happen. There is a need to go back to the drawing board. When doing so, it would be good to reconsider the registration categories in full. Alta Steenkamp is the director of the School of Architecture, Planning & Geomatics at the University of Cape Town.


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