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Ten on Lane
Polokwane (Pietersburg), Limpopo

studioMAS: Architect
Pierre SWANEPOEL: Design Architect
Type:Town Houses
2013SAIA L Award for Architecture
2014SAIA Award of Merit

Unfortunately we do not have photographs for this building.

Award of Merit citation

The landscape in the vicinity of Polokwane in Limpopo Province is relatively flat, without many memorable or distinctive features. The older part of Polokwane has a grid-iron layout, like many other South African cities and towns. As in many of the other examples, this grid layout is also closely aligned with the cardinal points, which naturally assists with orientation. This landscape results in the dominance of the sky dome which, together with the grid's orientation and the climate, forms the macro context for the complex. The immediate physical context of the project, Ten on Lane, is a typical South African suburban environment, largely characterised by a lack of positively defined urban space and placelessness.

The architect responsible for the design, Pierre Swanepoel of studioMAS, inverted this characteristic urban grain. The design creates a logical and interrelated series of distinctive gestalt units of space, through which the residents move in a logical progression from public to private space. Each of these units of well-defined urban space leaves a distinct impression on the user. The sequence of spaces also greatly assists with the spatial orientation within the larger whole of the immediate urban context, as well as within this residential complex.

The architect has created two major semi-public courtyards. The first and biggest is the entrance courtyard, used mainly for closed and open parking. However, the design of this space is such that cars do not dominate while the planting, when mature, will eventually be the distinguishing feature.The second courtyard, which is perpendicular to the first, is very different in its nature and in its constituent elements. Its height and width relationships create a relatively narrow space. Additionally, this space is partially covered with a pergola. This pergola structure will also eventually provide support for plants to mediate and soften the bright sunlight of this warm part of South Africa.The resulting dappled sunlight, together with the beautiful water fountain that is as long as the courtyard itself, creates a memorable green 'room'.This room, for the near exclusive use of the residents, is a wonderful surprise to the users and visitors alike. It evokes the feeling of an exotic and private world to be enjoyed every day, and to be shared with others in quiet dignity and urban civility.

Each residential unit enters directly from this space. Great care has been given to the design of the entry to each unit. A subtle and carefully articulated transition space has been created between the communal courtyard and the privacy of the unit. Shallow alcoves have been created by means of setbacks. Each of these has an outside built-in seat to foster impromptu social interaction, while also creating the possibility of the limited individualisation of each unit. The layout, on the scale of the whole complex and the on the level of each residential unit, is characterised by an enviable efficiency, enabling the maximisation of space. The construction of the building is relatively conventional. The detailing is exemplary in its directness and robustness. It is a building that is obviously designed to age gracefully; it does not require constant upkeep and maintenance. The finishes become increasingly smoother, more sophisticated and expensive with more attention having been paid to small details as the user moves from the semi-public to the private spaces. Once the user is beyond the front door of the individual unit, complete privacy within the unit - including its own individual courtyard - is assured. However, it remains easy to have visual surveillance from the unit to the communal courtyard, as well as to the streets adjacent to the complex from the upper levels of the units. Ten on Lane is a laudable and exemplary alternative to current and less-than-inspired models of higher-density living in South Africa. It draws richly and wisely from local and international typologies. It also reminds all that a denser-living environment can be highly rewarding and socially integrative, while ensuring privacy and a high-quality physical environment.These architectural principles and typologies, embodied in the design of Ten on Lane, are applicable to all residential designs, irrespective of whether it provides a home for the rich or for the poor.

(Paul Kotze - 2014)

Writings about this entry

South African Institute of Architects. 2014. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2013/2014. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pg 54-55