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University of Pretoria, Building Sciences - Boukunde
Hillcrest, Pretoria, Gauteng

MEIRING and NAUDÉ: Architect 1958
Christiaan Strauss BRINK: Architect 1958
Daniël Stephanus DE BEER: Architect 1970
THOMASHOFF + PARTNER ARCHITECTS: Architect 2018

Date:1960 : 1972 : 2018
Client:University of Pretoria
Type:University
Style:Brutalist
Status:Extant
Street:Lynnwood Road

 


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Coordinates:
25°45'21.86" S 28°13'45.37" E Alt: 1366m

Houses the Pretoria School of Architecture.

The most demure modern building on the campus ... Here a prevailing horizontality and the pretty, cool colors of its curtain walling in glass are not disturbed by any of their systems of sun shading with vertical louvres - to the discomfort of its users (Greig., 1971: 203). It was this fact that led to a substantial reconstruction which enveloped the existing structure and extended it in a brutalist off-shutter concrete shell, now known as 'Boukunde'.

Original design by MEIRING & NAUDÉ and CS BRINK in 1954, additions and alterations by DS DE BEER in 1972. Further alterations were done in 2018 by THOMASHOFF + PARTNER.

Architect's notes by MEIRING: 1960

Omdat ons daaraan glo om die studente, beide argitekte en bourekenaars, in noue voeling met mekaar te hou, was die basiese gedagte met die beplanning van die gebou om die aktiwiteite daarin te sentraliseer. Vir hierdie doel, maar ook om goeie beligting te voorsien natuurlik, is die Binnehof in die middel van die gebou geplaas, en rondom dit vind dan ook al die beweging van studente en staf plaas. Die Binnehof is van glasmure rondom voorsien, en dit bring mee dat daar van beide grondvloer en eerste verdieping goeie deurgesigte na alle dele van die gebou is.

Daar was nie genoeg geld om vertoonsale en 'n kamer vir kritieksessies in die plan in te werk nie, en toe het die gedagte ontstaan om die ingangsportaal op grondvloer, en wandelgang op eerste verdieping breed en lank te maak en hulle van geskikte vertoonskerms en muurbekleding te voorsien waarteen tekeninge uitgestal kan word. Dit werk baie goed want almal stap gedurig by die uitstalruimtes verby, en waar ons die verskillende jare se ateljeewerk om die beurt daar hang, dra almal kennis van wat in die Skool aangaan.

Aan die suidekant van die Binnehof is die Ateljees op beide verdiepings geleë, juniors onder en seniors bo. Hulle is aan hulle suidekante met loopgange aanmekaar geskakel om die onderlinge verkeer van studente aan te moedig. Tussen hulle is die klein Demonstratorshokkies waarin besprekings met enkel studente, of klein groepies van hulle, kan plaasvind. Los tekentafels is vermy omdat hulle altyd rondgestoot word en 'n onnette voorkoms aan die ateljee gee. Ons het die tafels dus aaneenlopend gemaak soos op die portret hierby te sien is. In 'n ateljee word maar gemors met water en verf, en daarom het ons die vloere met dittberner-teëls beklee wat afgeskrop kan word. Trouens die hele gebou, behalwe klaskamers en kantore het sulke teëlvloere. Pretoria is 'n warm plek, en selfs in die winter is die teëls nie te koud onder die voete nie.

Aan die noordekant van die Binnehof is die Klaskamers op grondvloer geleë, en die Stafkantore op eerste verdieping. Vir die bourekenaars is daar twee spesiale klaskamers met breë tafels waarop planne oopgelê kan word. Hulle is langs die vierde jaar ateljee aan die suidekant geplaas om 'n eenheid op hulleself , uit te maak. Alle klaskamers het die inrigting aan die swartborde vir daglig-projeksie van skyfies. Die vernaamste klaskamer of Lesingsaal is op die Laer-grondvloer geleë, naby die ingang na die gebou vanaf Lynnwoodweg, sodat dit ook as publieke lesingsaal gebruik kan word. Die saal het g'n vensters nie vir oombliklike projeksiewerk, maar is van 'n effektiewe ventilasie-en verhittingstelsel voorsien. Daar is ruimte vir 120 persone.

Op hierdie Laer-grondvloer is ook die Monsterskamer, Bergruimte vir Planne, vir Modelle en vir Fotografiese apparaat geleë. Die Universiteit het toegestaan dat 'n klein Teekombuis met bedieningstoonbank teenoor die ingangsdeure na die Lesingsaal beplan kan word. Die gedagte was dat die Lesingsaal en sy omgewing hom moet leen as die samekomsplek vir die argiteks- en bourekenaarsgemeenskap van Pretoria. Goed bygewoonde openbare lesings is ook al in die Lesingsaal gehou, en die vertroue is dat praktisyns meer en meer na die gebou gelok sal word.

As argitekte vir die gebou het die permanente staf van die Skool onder my leiding opgetree. Mnr. T. H. Louw, hoof van die Bourekenaarsafdeling was die bourekenaar, mnr. A. A. Robinson die strukturele-, en mnre. Van der Spuy en Edwards die elektriese ingeniers. Hoofkontrakteur was mnre. Kennard & Seun en die vernaamste sub-kontrakteurs Wispcco vir die gordynmure, Berman Broers vir die elektriese aanleg, en Butler & Herbert vir die ventilasie. Waardevolle hulp is verleen deur die Universiteit se tegniese adviseur, mnr. Meecrkotter.

A.L.M.

Translation

Because we believe that both the architects and quantity surveying students should be in close contact with each other, the basic idea in the planning of the building was to centralise its activities. To this end, but also to provide good natural lighting, the court is placed in the center of the building and it takes all movement of students and staff. The inner Court is surrounded by glass walls, and this means that both ground and first floor have good views of all parts of the building.

There was not enough money for exhibition halls and a room for criticism sessions to be worked into the plan, so the idea was to make the entrance hall on the ground floor, and walkway on the first floor wide and long and provide them with suitable display screens and wall coverings on which drawings can be displayed. It works well as everyone always walks past during the exhibition, and with different years of studio work in turn being pinned up everyone gets to know what goes on in the school.

On the south side of the Courtyard, studios are located on both floors, juniors below and seniors above. They are linked together on their south sides by passages to encourage mutual movement of students. Among them are small Demonstration cubicles where discussions with single students or small groups may be held. Loose drafting tables are avoided because they are always being pushed around and give the studio an untidy appearance. We therefore made the tables continuous as seen in the illustration. In a studio there is always a mess with water and paint, and therefore we clad the floors with dittberner tiles that can be scrubbed. In fact the whole building, except classrooms and offices are such tiled floors. Pretoria is a warm place, and even in winter the tiles are not too cold underfoot.

On the north side of the Courtyard the Classrooms are located on ground floor, and staff offices on the first floor. For quantity surveyors there are two special classrooms with broad tables on which plans may be spread out. They are next to the fourth-year studio on the south side so as to make a unit by themselves. All classrooms face the blackboards for daylight projection of slides. The main classroom or lecture hall is located on the Lower Ground floor, near the entrance to the building from Lynnwood Road, so it can also be used as a public lecture hall. The hall has no windows allowing for immediate projection [of images], but an effective ventilation and heating system is provided. There is place for 120 people.

On this Lower Ground floor is the Sample Room, Storage space for Plans for Models and place for Photographic equipment. The University has allowed that a small Tea kitchen with a service counter opposite the entrance doors can be planned for the Lecture Hall. The idea was that the Lecture Hall and its environment lends itself as the gathering place for the architects and quantity surveyors of Pretoria. Well-attended public lectures have already been held in the Lecture Hall, and there is confidence that more and more practitioners will be attracted to the building.

As architects for the building the permanent staff of the School acted under my guidance. Mr. TH Louw, chief of the Quantity Surveyor Department was the quantity surveyor, Mr. A. A. Robinson structural, and Messrs. Van der Spuy and Edwards as the electrical engineers. The main contractor was Messrs. Kennard & Son and Wispeco the main sub-contractors for the curtain walls, Berman Brothers for the electrical plant, and Butler & Herbert for ventilation. Valuable assistance was provided by the University's technical adviser, Mr. Meerkotter.

A.L.M.

____________________________

Architect's notes by THOMASHOFF: 2021

Boukunde 2017-2019: A Living Laboratory

The initial brief started out from Prof. Chrisna DU PLESSIS’ concept of a Living Laboratory, and developed into Thomashoff & partner Architects’ approach to create an interactive learning environment where students will have an opportunity to learn directly from their own building. The interactive learning moments can be grouped into three main categories: history, sustainability and textbook/ learning essentials. The tools of communicating important information about the building itself or about building, designing and construction as a technology, range from exposing parts of the existing building to applying new layers of information that describe and label the old and new. Construction methods and materials are exposed and labelled as part of the interactive learning experience. The Building can therefore be described as a live interactive textbook with its own murals and annotations painted on the walls, floors and soffits.

Serious budget constraints forced the architects to make creative and innovative decisions, such as the reuse of many materials, which gave them the opportunity to demonstrate to the students how reusing and recycling can be incorporated into a refurbishment without hindering the creativity.

All the new services are exposed, allowing the accommodation and reticulation of more and newer services and technologies. The exposed services and structure are not only used as the basis of the new aesthetic language of the building, but simultaneously serve as pedagogical instruments to teach students, with the completely refurbished Resource Centre serving as the Mecca of pedagogical instruments. Tying into this is a sustainable approach to lighting, ventilation, use of materials, and new technology, in an attempt to minimise the energy footprint. Examples of these interventions include motion sensors in the lighting systems, the new displacement ventilation HVAC system, and a new ecologically responsible chilled beam HVAC system. Inclusive design was addressed with the installation of a passenger lift, platform lift, compliant ramps and accessible toilets. These were incorporated in such a way that it does not deviate from the historical fabric, but rather complements it. Studios and other parts of the building were made lighter, decluttered, opened up and improved in order to be used as inspiring social learning spaces. It is also the first building on UP campus with gender neutral toilet facilities.

Giving the building a new life without compromising its respected identity was of utmost importance. This involved respecting the building’s heritage, and not challenging or deviating from the original design, but rather complementing it. The existing structure was therefore exposed and glorified in a new light. As the building was being uncovered and stripped, new ideas evolved as new aspects of the building were discovered and tied into the main concept. One could say that the design actually designed itself through discovery.

BOUKUNDE LIVING LAB - A MACHINE FOR LEARNING IN

The main purpose of the Department of Architecture is to train students and future architects. The almost completed renovations at the Boukunde building on the campus of the University of Pretoria was the ideal opportunity to integrate the core role of the Department of Architecture and utilise the project and physical building itself as an interactive learning tool - hence the term Boukunde Living Lab.

The original Boukunde building was designed by Meiring, Wepener, Brink and the personnel of the Architecture school in 1958. Additions to Boukunde were designed by Danie de Beer in 1970. The building has remained unchanged since.

In 2016, Thomashoff+partner Architects was appointed as architects to design and oversee the planned refurbishment of the building. The main objective was to ensure that the building complies with national building regulations. The focus areas were mainly fire compliance, accessibility, and the upgrading of core services in the building - climate control, water and sewer upgrades, and electrical services. Originally, the building accommodated students in studios designed to house drawing boards, but due to the rapid development of the internet, teaching methods and drawing methods changed. One of the challenges was to fit out the studios to provide digital access and sufficient electrical points. Apart from these factors, the physical condition of the building was in a state of deterioration due to a lack of proper maintenance.

The Department of Architecture had a very specific vision that they planned to incorporate in the refurbishment project. Their objective was to actively implement their ethos and use the building itself as a learning tool.

The Department supports the principles of environmentally and socially responsive design - this includes, amongst other, climate control, sustainable design and physical and psychological health. In specifying materials and systems, the basic principles of ecologically responsible design remained the principle of all decisions. Due to budget constraints, a variety of materials had to be re-used in new and creative applications. We saw this as an opportunity to teach students about the advantages and potential of the re-use of existing materials.

The building lacked accessible facilities, and considerable effort went into ensuring that all the studios, lecture halls and floor levels are accessible. New ramps were installed, and a passenger and platform lift were installed to ensure unhindered access to all levels, studios and lecture halls.

It was important to ensure that newly introduced elements (ramps and lifts) were seamlessly integrated in the historical fabric of the building. Care was taken to ensure that historically sensitive elements were treated with respect. Furthermore, we had to future proof the building to ensure that it will serve its purpose for the years to come.

Flexible learning spaces were created to inspire both lecturers and students - to encourage social interaction, discussion, engagement and debate. Most of the ceilings and surface mount services were removed, exposing the bare concrete structure, systems and services of the building. Various interesting discoveries (historical and technical) were made during the process - all of these will be accentuated and pointed out to the future occupants by means of notes and markings on the walls.

The building has become a clean canvas for experimentation and research, and an environment for research and interactive teaching was created. Construction processes were documented by means of photographs and videos, and the aim is to use the visual material is future lectures to demonstrate to the students how their own building took shape. Various experimental interventions were implemented in the building. Students will have the opportunity to study, document and comment on these interventions - the results and recommendations will then be used to improve and analyse again.

Ceilings were removed, and due to a lack of funds, we decided to leave the concrete structure bare. This created the opportunity to demonstrate to students what the structure of the building is, creating opportunities for students to study the building itself. Acoustic measurements were taken before the renovations commenced. The idea is to offer students the opportunity to measure acoustic levels of various spaces, document, analyse and propose solutions. Solutions will then be implemented, and students will have the opportunity to actively measure the interventions and report on the results. In this way, students will learn by studying physical examples around them, and experience and report on real results.

Various examples of construction methodologies were included in the new fabric. Sections through walls, examples of exposed rebar, conduits and services - to name a few. There is even a viewing panel offering the students visual access to the service duct behind the ablution block - pipes, service stacks etc. are marked to teach students about plumbing. Learning by mistakes are sometimes more informative, therefore we instructed the contractor to build certain faults into areas, specifically to demonstrate to students how work should not be executed.

During a Vertical Studio session in July 2016, the students had the opportunity to make design proposals for various areas in the building. Information gathered from students was implemented in the final design. There were even opportunities for colleagues to give their input during the Boukunde party, held in July 2017.

One of the most exciting interventions was the design of the new Resource Centre. The aim was to create a learning environment that would attract students and inspire them to use the space more often. The research space was expanded by incorporating the Archive into the Resource Centre, offering more direct access to archival material. The Resource Centre project was made possible with contributions by Polyflor (sponsored all the vinyl floors), Ecophon (sponsored acoustic ceiling and wall panels), and PG Bison (sponsored all materials for carpentry). It turned into an exciting collaboration between the sponsors, and various interactive digital mediums were incorporated to actively engage students in learning about the products used in the space.

The objective of the project is to inspire both lecturer and student, to create an interactive, positive and inspiring learning environment that encourages discussion, engagement and debate, and to shape the architects of the future. We sincerely hope this vision became a reality in the project that we will hand over soon.

(Karlien Thomashoff, June 2021)

These notes were last edited on 2021 06 29


Writings about this entry

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pg 203