New offices for Ingonyama Trust Board

Commercial

by ICA Architects

One of Pietemaritzburgs architectural gems, Villa San Souci at 65 Trelawney Road was acquired by the Ingonyama Trust Board(ITB) to house their headquarters. ICA Architects were appointed to develop the site in order to meet ITB's requirements. It was a two phase project, the first of which saw the restoration of the Villa and the second phase which saw the construction of new offices on the site. Villa Sans Souci, the name means the house without care, was built in 1884 for businessman John Harrison. He commissioned an architect from Germany, Albert Halder, who employed craftsmen from Italy and France to do the building.The house covers 1000 square meters. Many fittings were ordered from Britain.

The Villa was used as a location for the feature film Zulu Dawn in 1978. The house is unique in that both the Villa and the land on which it stands are declared monuments. The restoration program commenced with the documentation of the existing fabric as there were no plans to work from. Each element of the fabric was documented in the form of archeology. As the site comes under the oversight of AMAFA, the entire project required planning approval for each stage of development including the new building.

The present site was part of a larger erven which had over the years been sub divided resulting in the site being surrounded by smaller erfs. The larger scale property context for the Villa setting had therefore changed. The figure ground location for the new building was intended to restrict the new building to the rear of the historic Villa. The original entrance from Alexandra Road which led to the front of the villa no longer exists. The new offices would thus form a large scale boundary wall and entrance to the historic villa from the rear remaining entrance Trelawney Road. The historic Villa is therefore left open to the landscape to its front and sides.

The new commercial office building is expressed by two thick walls along its north and south lengths with a floating roof, opened ended to the east and west amplifying the large scale stone walls. The external fabric of the new office building is made up of natural stone reflecting the geology of the land. The concept was influenced by the raw exposed stone walls in the basement holding up the historic Villa above ground with its fine filigree and moulded plaster.

Thus the new building is a reflection of the unadorned basement walls and the geology of the ground. The principles of sustainability, reuse and restoration of the historic Villa have been extended into the new building. The new commercial office follows the established solar north orientation of the historic Villa in the form of a long narrow building to optimize its thermal comfort. Glazing with low solar heat gain and high natural light transmission has been used. Natural lighting is available throughout. Horizontal louvers above windows have been designed to seasonal sun angles with mechanically operated vertical sun screens provided on the west elevation. Thick walls achieve thermal insulation. An energy efficient air conditioning (VRV variable refrigerant volume) heat pump system for optimum thermal comfort all year round, together with a treated fresh air system add to the environmental quality. Energy saving lights are provided throughout. Water is being attenuated within the site which has been landscaped with indigenous plants and trees.

Our office was fortunate to have worked on this project of both restoration and new work. Here, one is reminded of the words of Violet Le Duc, "An architect can only form part of a whole. He begins what others will finish or finishes what others have begun."

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