Offices and Laboratories for Pathcare Namibia

Kerry McNamara Architects engaged with various specialist consultants and, through research in both South Africa and Namibia, accumulated a wealth of information that informed an effective design response. This architectural design reflects the outcome of the continued engagement between Pathcare Namibia and Kerry McNamara Architects. As architects, everything we offer in this design is a result of “care-full”, “responsive” design. The shapes and relationships of the building reflect a considered response to major issues that affect the nature of a “well-built environment” and that of the particular site, its planning constraints and the wellbeing of the inhabitants.

The building has around 80 occupants during work hours these consisting mainly of laboratory and office support staff. The building is arranged in three north-facing articulated blocks, with a variance from due north on the front and back blocks, giving it a striking “fanning out” effect.

The wings were then angled to orientate them to face north and south, providing a high order of environmental control, passively making the building cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Offices have warmer north winter light, and laboratories have cooler south, natural light, with good views. The harsh western light is blocked out by the short, solid facades of the wings. This provides a high order of environmental control, resulting in major economic advantages of having a low-energy-consuming building.

The building consists of two levels. The ground floor functions mainly for front-end receiving, reception, client interaction and back-end receiving, and consists of specimen reception and despatch functions with large warehouse and storage facilities. The first floor contains most of the building's functions that cantilever over the ground floor to allow for necessary space for vehicle access and shaded parking. The front wing of the first floor houses the main management and administration facilities with a boardroom and canteen and a courtyard for the whole staff. The two rear wings house the laboratory functions, pathologists' offices and a training room. A circulation spine bathed in natural light to the southeast connects these wings.The circulation axis to the southeast boundary of the site ensures maximisation of the large laboratory spaces and relates first floor movement to ground floor movement.

Another major feature in the design of the building is the economy of a pleasant working environment for the users of the building. The users, in this case the administration and laboratory staff, have continual visual contact with the outside. This is an important feature for the occupant, and is also relevant to Windhoek and to the Namibian mind and psyche. The “humanising” effect of such spaces contributes to pleasant working conditions and low staff turnover, inducing employee efficiency, commitment and involvement. This is a building that clearly and efficiently responds to all the needs of the client and the constraints and opportunities of the site. In doing this through its form and orientation it also responds to the need for a building that is appropriate and enhances its urban context while creating a pleasant working and enabling environment. It is a building that will support the dynamic and innovative image of Pathcare in Namibia