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Aspen Pharmacare high containment suite
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

THEMBELA ARCHITECTS (PTY) LTD: Architect
DANIE BEKKER + ASSOCIATES (PTY) LTD: Architect

Date:c2017
Type:Laboratory
Status:Extant
2017SAIA EC Award for Architecture
2018SAIA Award of Merit
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Award of Merit Citation

The overriding impression that this building creates is the immense complexity of the functions that it accommodates: The complexity of controlling the internal environment where production takes place, the complexity of the services that keep the processes running and the complexities of a restricted site coupled to a time-pressured construction period. However, maybe what is most important is the apparent ease and professionalism with which the architects have handled this challenging project.

Aspen Pharmacare, the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in the southern hemisphere, needed this facility for the group's Oral Solid Dose manufacturing processes. This also had to be a high containment facility. The building actually accommodates two dedicated and separately serviced production facilities. Within these, there had to be manufacturing and services segregation, all operators had to be protected at all times while large throughput volumes were required. All facilities had to operate in a negative pressure environment.

The site itself also presented its own challenges. Limited space was available, while the existing buildings and services had to be retained. A new wastewater treatment plant had to be created, and delivery and dispatch of products had to be taken care of. A further aspect was the emphasis on the efficient use of energy.

When the building is viewed and analysed, it becomes obvious why the so-called industrial buildings have had such a huge influence in the architectural world. Here the aesthetics emanate from the tectonics and the exacting technical requirements. Everything that is seen is required and nothing is superfluous. It can only be hoped that the rest of the architectural profession in South Africa will take notice of the achievements embodied in this building.

The brilliance of the building is brought to the fore when the intricacy of the cutaway isometric drawings that the architects have prepared are considered in detail. The bewildering complexity of the building is beautifully and accurately illustrated here.

This production facility has received much praise from the local and international bodies that assess and certify this kind of factory. From this, it is important to mention that it is perceived to be above the international standards and requirements. In this way, this facility is re-writing the norms and expectations worldwide. For this alone it should receive recognition. However, it is the architects who deserve the final accolade in that they could visualise this extreme complexity and that they could remain in control of it to produce a building with a deep-seated elegance.


Writings about this entry

South African Institute of Architects. 2018. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2017/2018. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pg 26, 27 ill