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Tyamzashe Building - Civic Square
Bisho, Eastern Cape

Richard Maxwell (Dick) LATIMER: Design Architect



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32°50'59.45" S 27°26'16.64" E Alt: 543m

Precast cladding: LUPINI BROTHERS

The two and a half year building contract was awarded to Grinaker Construction in June 1985 for offices to house various government departments in an area of 24,000 square metres. The building is in the middle of the Bisho central business district and its U-shaped plan straddles three roads (another building, unbuilt at the time, was envisaged to complete the square).

The building's reinforced concrete frame is clad in precast concrete panels with an exposed aggregate finish. Most of the office window panels are pink and the rest of the building is clad in flat uniform grey panels. Typical windows have been moulded and patterned to throw off rain water and in order to clean the building all that’s needed is a high pressure water jet. The pink colour offers a light and lively counterpoint to the more muted facades of the buildings around it. The columns to the facade facing the square are lower than those on the outer perimeter so as to relate them more to a human scale, with the perimeter columns on an urban scale outside.

There are 48 concrete leopards decorating the parapet above the first floor of the inner facade. They are made of washed unreinforced concrete and have been sculpted so they can be seen to best advantage from below. The leopards, bollards and slab sundial in the square were sculpted by the design architect.

All the precast work was produced by Lupini Brothers and Luigi (Ziza) Lupini was their representative on site. Originally from Bergamo in Italy, the Lupinis have had a long and illustrious association with precast concrete in South Africa and their expertise and enthusiasm contributed significantly to the success of the operation. They set up their casting yard within a kilometre of the site and obtained the white aggregate for the coloured concrete from a marble quarry in Umzimkulu.

(Richard Latimer, September 2016)