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The social realities of deprivation and inequality underpinning the reasons for LIV Village's existence present a sad accusation against South African society. The fact that this facility was initiated,and is currently maintained and managed by civil society, deepens the indictment. However, this story should be published elsewhere, as it is not the role of architects to solve social ills.
The Verulam area is set in the green hilly surroundings so typical of coastal KwaZulu-Natal. LIV Village is situated on the crest of a hill, affording spectacular views towards and away from it.
Programmatically, the institution has the size and complexity of a small settlement. The functional programme comprises similar elements - namely housing and administrative, educational, health and manufacturing facilities - all set within an agriculturally productive landscape.
The architects made a direct and logical design decision in how they have distributed these elements on the site. They placed the social and administrative facilities on the crest, while the residential units are cascaded down the hill. The image and reality created in this manner signify the stability and richness of the normal urbanity of village life. The creation of openness and privacy has been managed appropriately and along proven guidelines. The available land has been utilised in an efficient manner, while the movement systems follows a logical system. Orientation is easy, and this is supported by building grain and the slope of the land.
In creating LIV Village, there was no excess money to build anything more than the most basic of structures. This was a good discipline, ensuring that the structures built have been designed carefully without much elaboration. However, they should all last a considerable amount of time.
Despite these restrictions, the architects' thoughtful hand is to be seen everywhere. They understood when to place emphasis on architectural detail, and when to focus on the all-important space between the buildings. The climatic conditions have been taken care of throughout, and in a confident manner - pointing towards the architects' long experience of working in this part of South Africa.
The largest proportion LIV Village inhabitants have come from dire and possibly traumatic circumstances, before they were taken into the care of the facility. This reality was not lost on the designers. Throughout the buildings, architectural details, spaces, colours, textures and views have been incorporated to comfort and protect the children. It is thus evident throughout the project just how hard the architects have worked to respect and exalt the physically small individuals now living here, through no fault of their own.
The residential units have been designed to respect the children's privacy and individuality, balanced with incorporating them into a 'normal family' grouping. The architects achieved this through the use of architectural detailing, the manipulation of light and space-making.
The piece de resistance is clearly the large hall, where everybody in the village can come together, meet up and interact. Here, again, the architects have shown their sensibilities and concerns by dropping the bulk of the space below ground level. If they had not done this, the physical size of the building could have been totally overwhelming and intimidating to its occupants. When this roofed yet open space is entered now, it is obvious that the group and their togetherness is the most important consideration here.
Viewed holistically, evidence is abundant of just how careful, generous and lavish designworkshop sa has been with their time and collective talent at LIV Village. This group of buildings is also evidence of how good architects, acting within the parameters of the highest ethical standards, can make a substantial contribution towards ameliorating the most sad and dire human circumstances.
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