Outreach Foundation Community Centre
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In recent years, Hillbrow has developed a reputation for being an area of danger and neglect. It has always been a part of town where many would find their first or second foothold in the city. Some have also lost their grip on a decent life here.
There has been little investment in social facilities in the suburb, as if the popular opinion was that relatively dense urban living could not be synonymous with a positive and sustainable lifestyle. However, much work has recently been done to upgrade, restore and recycle the building stock. This effort has been met with some success and the negative perceptions are slowly being turned around.
The Lutheran Community Outreach Foundation is one of the first social facilities in many years, undertaken in the area. The church has had a long presence on its site, dating back to when the land was handed over by the government in Pretoria. The Friedenkirche was designed by one of Johannesburg's early architects, Theophile SCHAERER, who arrived in the city from Switzerland. In the 1970s, the German Consulate provided funding for a community hall that remained unfinished. It was this building that was used by Local Studio as the base for the Outreach Foundation.
There was some urgency in procuring the building, as the team was in danger of losing the funding if they didn't proceed within a certain time frame. This reality necessitated a building method of mostly dry construction, with a light steel framework.
Functionally, the building houses social and computer facilities, as well as a dance studio. It is set in an environment of medium-rise residential buildings, meaning that it is mostly overlooked from above.
The team has been successful at creating an architectural presence on the site. This becomes more evident at night, when it is lit up and its facades reveal how it was made and exactly what happens inside.
Its design has brought about a positive visual interaction with the context, cleverly supported by public seating on the opposite sidewalk of the adjoining street. This building and the social programmes it offers show a brave and laudable attempt at ameliorating the harsh conditions of life in Hillbrow.
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