Legacy in Architecture: Chapter three
The first chapter on legacy in South African architecture described how architecture can define the urban environment so as to deal with the spatial consequences of Apartheid. Martin Kruger, a Cape Town based architect and urban designer, is unequivocally in his belief in the contextual derivations of any building. "I believe the site of any new building is significant. I am interested in urban beginnings, how the building I am designing can contribute to the making of city. Therefore, the site in its context, its public connections, its climate, and history has to be understood. I believe that all buildings are 'little cities' Therefore the following issues are of importance: its public future, connections to the public realm, a hierarchical order of public spaces that determines the spatial layout (from public to private) based on the brief" (Kruger, 2015).
Sketch of the front elevation of the CHC © Martin Kruger
Du Noon CHC
In 2010, Martin Kruger Associates1 were approached by the Department of Health of the Western Cape Government (WCG) to oversee the design and construction of a Community Health Centre (CHC) to serve the Du Noon Community and also the surrounding environs of Table View, Marconi Beam and the Killarney Industrial area in Cape Town. The settlement is largely dislocated from economic opportunities and has grown substantially over the years both formally and informally. "The catchment area for the facility determined the need for a Day Clinic, combined with a 24 hour Emergency Centre and a Midwife Obstetric Unit. The site is located on a busy road, opposite a car race track in an industrial area" (Kruger, 2015).
The "Western Cape Government Health is on a drive to standardise layouts for Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities where suitable sites are available. Hermanus Community Day Centre and Du Noon Community Health Centre plan forms (i.e. single primary circulation route with defined wings containing the different functional areas) are considered to be layouts, which will be used to inform future designs. We are keen to have PHC facilities that are person centred, robust, easy to maintain and environmentally friendly. Flexibility and ease of expansion are also key considerations" (Rendall, 2015).
The day clinic component of the Du Noon CHC was completed and opened in December 20142. The 24 hour facilities, Emergency Unit and the Midwife Obstetric Unit will be commissioned in July 2015 (Kruger, 2015).
The architect's concept "was based on a legible 'city' structure, of diverse public halls, spaces and small courtyard gardens, whilst the 'streets' (corridors) served as light sources and waiting spaces" (Kruger, 2015). A generous public realm, that can house a number of activities, has been created on the entry edge of the CHC on Potsdam Road. Paving and a seating wall mark the boundary of this space. Trees soften the harsh existing conditions and a range of material finishes and colours articulate the bounding edge of the CHC. A number of spatial thresholds organise the internal functions and provide a sense of security. "The courtyards in the building contribute to the process of healing. Three types of courtyards can be identified in the Clinic: External Public Spaces, Gathering & Multi Functional Spaces and Visual Relief" (Kruger, 2015).
Top: Concept sketch © Martin Kruger, 2010. Bottom: computer rendering of the aerial view of the CHC © Martin Kruger
The first, welcoming and partially internal, courtyard is defined as a pre-waiting space. Beyond this is a reception and records keeping area with an internal waiting space defined by a suspended ceiling. Staff facilities frame the closing end of the central public area.
All of the assessment and treatment facilities are immediately visible from the central waiting space but privately organized around their own uniquely configured courtyards. A separate entry point from the Potsdam road edge provides dedicated access to the Emergency Unit. The roofs, inspired by the surrounding industrial aesthetic (Kruger, 2015) are cleverly articulated to allow light and ventilation to deep spaces whilst also forming 'beacons' in the flat landscape. This approach also provides an appropriate scale for the large spaces and enough environmental control to create comfortable waiting areas.
Wayfinding plan © Martin Kruger
Entrance precinct along Potsdam Road © Martin Kruger, 2015.
Main waiting area © Martin Kruger, 2015.
Prewaiting courtyard © Martin Kruger, 2015
Dealing with spatial legacy
We can learn valuable lessons from the simple, yet highly effective, urban and architectural approach of Martin Kruger Associates. The Du Noon clinic not only provides quality health-care to a poor and burgeoning population but is also a comfortable, safe and secure environment for the local patients. The waiting areas are well ventilated, lit and connected to inside and outside realms. The new building establishes a strong civic presence in a settlement with little defined public space mitigating the spatial consequences of Apartheid. The legacy of this clinic will, hopefully, foster further urban definition and a consequent improvement in public space and the everyday rituals of the local community.
Section through CHC showing natural and mechanical ventilation principles in the main waiting area © Martin Kruger
1. Concept design, design direction, administration: Martin Kruger; design development/documentation/administration: Lezanne van der Vyver, Warren van Niekerk, Mariet Willemse, Jaco Botha, Anthon Bernard, Francois Malan.
2. The consultants on the project were: Structural & Civil Engineers: HatchGoba, Electrical & Mechanical Engineers, Fire Engineer, Medical Gas, Wet Services: WSP, Landscape Architects: OVP, Quantity Surveyor: MeyerSummersgill, Contractor: Granbuild
1. Kruger, M. 2015. Personal email communication with the director of Martin Kruger Associates. 21 May 2015.
2. Rendall, D. 2015. Personal email communication with the Chief Architect: Infrastructure Planning and (Acting Director) Infrastructure and Technical Management, Chief Directorate, Department of Health, Western Cape Government. 9 June 2015.