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Hoërskool Waterkloof : School Hub and Student Accommodation
Pretoria, Gauteng

Angus TAYLOR: Sculptor "Stick Lady on a Donkey"



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25°49'08.25" S 28°15'26.66" E

This project was the eventual realization of a dream that the Hoërskool Waterkloof has had for many years. Having previously had to make use of the surrounding neighbourhood's flats and guest houses to accommodate their boarding students, this project needed to fulfill a long overdue need for student accommodation as well as a dining hall 'Hub' building which could double up as student aftercare, snoopy tuck shop and function venue.

Mathews & Associates Architects were commissioned by the school to design this project in such a way that the school could be the owner builder and the construction could take place in two phases.

The site is higher than street level and is positioned very prominently with the building already visible from the busy interchange of Solomon Mahlangu and Boeing streets from where the Hub building stands proudly as a visually arresting testament to this school's modern attitude and aspirations. The buildings are also highly visible from the school sports fields, providing an inspirational backdrop to sporting events as well as panoramic views over the sports fields from the hostels and function venue.

As a relatively young school with an impeccable record for sporting, cultural and academic excellence (achieving the best matric (final year high school) results in the province in 2013) the school board brief was for a modern and contemporary low cost structure with a design that had to reflect the spirit of its time. The school's building committee also included an architect who acted as the project manager (this also helped greatly with the school's open minded attitude to modern design).

The dining hall, or 'hub' as it is more aptly called by the client, had to be iconic in shape as it is not only the new public face of the school but also had to generate income from function hire. It stands confidently facing the school's main arrival parking area with a large central staircase leading up to the main entrance which is framed in an off-shutter concrete wrap. This modern concrete entrance structure also serves as external function space, with the entire bold southern façade forming an exciting gateway to the new development. The Afrikaans school anthem has been cast into the concrete at the entrance to assert the feelings of belonging and pride in the achievements of the school, while to the east of the entrance an exaggerated coat of arms in the form of a light box on a blue background radiates the schools credo of excellence.

In the interior of the hub the roof and ceiling slant up to the northern side, opening up the space to allow for additional height and natural light while leading the eye to the central external courtyard and sport fields in the distance. The hub has been equipped with a new state of the art industrial kitchen to serve the school's requirements and allow great flexibility for function hire. The internal space opens up completely to a public courtyard space which overlooks the sports fields. The tuck shop also serves this courtyard and parents and visitors can use this public space. Some of the large rocks which were unearthed during the construction process have been retained as a natural sculptural central focal point in this space.

The overall design consists of a series of courtyards and moving northwards from this public courtyard is the smaller more private informal student gathering space which has been formed between the hostel buildings. This courtyard has been formed by the arrangement of the two hostel blocks linked by the hostel masters' accommodation in the centre. This plan layout creates a natural courtyard with a raised lectern popping out of the upper level circulation walkways, a perfect raised position to address the students from. The courtyard space formed on the eastern side of the hostel masters' block is the most private courtyard space for the students, with barbeque facilities allowing them to relax in their own space.

The dorms consist of one block for boys and one for girls with 22 rooms - 40 beds - in each block. Fitted out with Wi-Fi, the rooms accommodate 2 children, with single rooms only for senior students, each floor and wing has its own bathrooms and living room, kitchenette and communal ablution facilities.

School building typologies so often suffer from a bland sameness and lack of imagination, forgetting that a school is a place where imaginative design can nurture and encourage the creativity of the next generation. This was the aim of this new face for Hoërskool Waterkloof, proving that inspiring design can also be affordable. To crown the whole design the sculptor Angus Taylor donated "Stick Lady on a Donkey"; this sculpture activates the entire development and completes the intention to expose school children to great art, sculpture, design and architecture for generations to come.

Hoërskool Waterkloof – Project team

Architects:Mathews & Associates Architects cc
Architectural team:Pieter J Mathews, Liam Purnell, Anton Smit, Heinz KR Janz
Engineers:Royal HaskoningDHV
Contractor:Owner builder, with Pieter Knoesen as Project Manager
Photos:Courtesy Mathews & Associates Architects cc

(Mathews & Associates Architects, 2014)