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Ocean Terminal
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

John HOOPER: Artist



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29°52'05.27" S 31°02'05.98" E

"Janusz Warunkiewicz moved to Durban in 1959 from Warsaw in Poland.

"He came by the Ocean terminal project because he had designed some sort of a trade building for Poland in 1957 or so that was in Jo’burg. His work was noticed and was offered the job of architect."

(His son Marek Warunkiewicz on Facts About Durban, accessed 2021 01 19)


Report back on the Heritage Forum debate over the proposed demolition of the Ocean Terminal Building:

For those who were not aware, the Ocean Terminal Building (PortNet offices) was under threat for demolition through a Transnet-Amafa application to reclaim space for car stacking. However, it was confirmed at the Forum that Transnet has withdrawn the application for demolition and are looking at another use for the building within the Port.

The building is protected by the Amafa Heritage Act by being 61years of age, but had never been surveyed or graded for inclusion in the Heritage Resources register. Amafa required that the building be graded for the purposes of assessing the application. The proposed grading was brought to the Heritage Forum for discussion last week, which sparked a lively debate about Modern movement buildings.

Below is an excerpt from the report for interest:

The Ocean Terminal comprises a well-proportioned double volume, concrete roofed public arrivals and departures hall. At either end of the hall are support facilities configured across two floors, which include double volume public entrance lobbies, restaurants and ablutions. The arrivals hall is the most technically intricate building element, and includes a folded concrete roof slab in a V-shaped configuration, viewed in its cross section. The roof is supported on three rows of shaped precast columns. These columns are faceted and tapered towards their ends with moulded gussets for the fixing of adjoining building elements, walkways, curtain walls and sun-shading.

The care assigned to these building elements contribute to the lightness in appearance of the main hall structure and exhibit a high level of sophistication to the structural design of the elements, with depth of members aligning with the imposed loads they carry. Few, if any buildings in Durban display this level of architectural and structural synergy and execution. The quality of the structural elements were realised with both steel and fibreglass shuttering and on-site precast operations. The building frame is stabilized by groups of three hi-tension steel diagonal bracing cords expressed on the interior, in lieu of mass concrete shear walls. This adds to the lightness and transparency of the concourse. The arrivals hall is completely glazed on all elevations. The building's SE facade onto the wharf has no sun-shading, while the NW facade facing the car park and public arrivals has segmented aluminium sun shading across the facade.

The restaurants had vertical fin sun-shading to the kitchen area on the first floor facade. These have since been removed, and replaced with horizontal aluminium louvres across parts of the NE facade.

The passenger halls were carefully configured to manage arrivals, departures and visitors movement patterns, with public access to the roof deck level, and passengers entering from the SE from a walkway which ran the length of the main building complex. The passenger hall has a baggage tunnel in the upper volume of the first floor M-shed storage spaces. This separated passenger and baggage routes and allowed baggage to enter behind separate counter areas within the arrivals hall.

The Durmarine building has office quality accommodation across eight stories, with a sculptural roof form and is elevated on cast insitu V shaped columns. The underside of the first floor slab over the arrivals foyer has a circular coffered configuration. The same segmented sun-shading from the Ocean Terminal Building covers the NE facade of the Durmarine office block.

Both buildings include sculptural art works attached to the public facades adding to the richness and local adaptation of the modernist built forms. The sculptures and internal mosaics were inspired by nautical and marine themes. There had been a fibreglass galleon on the NE approach to the complex on the Durmarine building, but it is now removed. The galleon was undertaken by Janusz Warunkiewicz who was both principal architect and co-ordinator of the building's art installations. On the NW facade of the Ocean terminal building is a large sculptural motif raised over a mosaic backdrop, both undertaken by John Hooper. The northern public arrival hall included extensive mosaic works.

The building served the purpose of an ocean terminal for less than fifteen years. In 1990 it was repurposed as offices for Transnet staff. A mezzanine level was introduced into the arrivals hall volume in a sympathetic configuration. A central double volume passage, allows the character of the original structure to remain visible to ceiling level. Office mezzanine decks were held short of the SE facade, maintaining the character of the multi volume wharf facing glazed facade. Original flooring of the arrivals hall was maintained, as were most of the building's decorative elements.

(Ref : Heritage Significance Statement 2021 : Napier and Dekker)

(Submitted by William Martinson, October 2021)

These notes were last edited on 2021 10 13

Writings about this entry

Fisher, Roger & Clarke, Nicholas. 2014. Architectural Guide : South Africa. Berlin: DOM Publishers. pg 62