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Masibambabe Secondary School - Additions
Bloekombos, Kraaifontein, Western Cape


2011CIfA Award for Architecture


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33°50'34.12" S 18°44'52.38" E

New Administration and Classroom Building

Award citation

Situated in one of the fastest growing areas in Cape Town the development of Masibambane Secondary School in Bloekombos was a protracted one occurring over many years. Starting from an abandoned PWD work camp of prefabricated buildings and sheds the school has developed into a clearly identifiable and handsomely scaled series of buildings arranged around a well apportioned courtyard.

The scale and tectonics of the buildings and walkways recall the industrial origins of the school but in a well considered and poetic way. Attention is given to detailing which is "just right", not overly fussy but sufficiently present to tie the whole assemblage together. Whilst some of the robustness of the construction may be questioned it is clear that the users of the building are sufficiently proud of their school to ensure it will be maintained.

The inventive sections through the main spaces provide light and air into the internal corridors in interesting ways and the jury felt that the school was a meritorious demonstration of architecture thriving on constraint, be it site conditions, programme or budgetary constraints.

(PrArch - The Cape Institute for Architecture. Vol 13 October 2011)

Project description - by the architect

At the outset, the school was established through the endeavours of the Bloekombos community who took over an abandoned Provincial Government work camp in 1999 and motivated that the township urgently needed a secondary school in one of the fastest growing areas of Cape Town. The school facilities and environment were derelict with the classrooms provided within an existing prefabricated building and a portal frame shed that was in disrepair yet housed approximately 100 learners of different grades in a general teaching space.

The programme to build the Masibambane School was initiated in July 2002 with the Thuba Makote Programme led by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria which identified the school as a national pilot project. In the subsequent 10 years the school has gone through four phases of incremental development which has seen the initial classroom provision tested by conditions of platooning, classrooms altered into administration areas, mobile classrooms, passages to absorb computer areas for teachers and many ad hoc spatial revisions so as to adapt to need and very immediate demands to accommodate the growing numbers for secondary education learners and staff.

In 2008 the Western Cape Education Department provided funding to allow the Masibambane School Governing Body to build the much needed administration facilities, library, specialist hospitality area and an additional nine classrooms. The demolition of the original prefabricated building had been identified by the school and community in 2002 as key to providing an identity and establishing a 'front door' and public reception that would support their aspirations as a public facility that performed in the qualitative improvement of learners' education, support as a study and play area throughout the day and year, as well as a place for community functions and interaction. The school has always been a 'buzz' of activity and the new building was workshopped and envisaged to respond to these many potentials.

Throughout the development of the school importance was placed on a sense of unity achieved by the relationship of each building to the centralised School Court. The new building allowed the opportunity to provide a spatial legibility and scale through the presence of the double storey structure that had addresses the road. The north facade facing the court is defined by a heavy modulated concrete and steel portal structure that mirrored that of the hall. The foyer, library, principal's office and classroom access is orientated to the court with the provision of informal seating areas and soft landscaped edges to this north facade interface that provide opportunity for informal discussion and play. This is in contrast to the shaded covered walkways that frame the edge for the remainder of the Court and serves to shelter the various classrooms and hall entrances and provide access to the secondary court spaces and the sports field to the north.

The foyer is seen as an important bridging space with the first floor public entrance exhibiting display cabinets, pinboards and onto which the library opens up to be accessible to after-hour discussions and provide a formal reception space. The ground level foyer is a space that absorbs daily learner and staff activities. It is directly associated with the staff area where pivot exhibition screens can provide an audio-visual space as well as the hospitality classroom that opens up with the possibility that it can serve for catering for large school events, open days and exhibitions.

The re-use of the two stripped steel portal structures that were originally on the site established the opportunity of making spatially generous and well lit and ventilated classrooms and a simple structural ordering with concrete block infill and steel window panels. This simple rigour has been maintained and adapted for the double storey administration building which is altered to respond to orientation. A simple system of metal screens has been used to deal with sun control and provide security. Entrance areas have been marked by brightly painted blue plastered walls. Emphasis in maintaining the garden areas and sports field has been of great benefit to the qualitative environment that the school has provided.