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Dunkirk All Suites Hotel - Dash Apartments
Salt Rock, KwaZulu-Natal

DESIGNWORKSHOP : SA: Architect

Date:2013?
Client:Dunkirk Estate Homeowners' Association
Type:Hotel
Status:Extant
2013Transvaal Institute of Architects Award of Merit
2014SAIA Award of Merit
2014SAIA Award for Excellence

 


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Coordinates:
29°29'20.95" S 31°14'09.28" E

Award for Excellence citation

Dunkirk Estate is situated approximately 50km north of Durban. The topography and the richly green landscape are characterised by frequent watercourses and rounded hills. In this subtropical climate, the plant growth is lush and it usually overwhelms the viewer with its density and height. A multitude of shades of green is interspersed with the bright colours of the flowering plants. These intensely green and fertile hills and valleys adjacent to the Indian Ocean form the dominant impression of this proverbial paradise.

The Dunkirk All Suites Hotel is situated in this natural condition, while it also overlooks the ocean. It is impressive to observe how inspired and brilliant the architects were in placing this building, in order to maximise the positive qualities of the site.

A minimalist spirit is in evidence at the Dunkirk All Suites Hotel. The accommodation has been divided into three separate buildings, where the administration, gymnasium and residential component respectively have each been assigned. These buildings are arranged to form a triangular courtyard.

Internally, the residential units are arranged into served and serving spaces.The 'served' spaces are the social spaces, while the 'serving' spaces are the kitchen and the more private bedrooms and bathrooms.The social spaces of each unit stretch the entire width of the building. These units are served by three sets of staircases. These staircases face into the courtyard - ensuring its animation and surveillance by the constant movement of people. The way in which the vertical circulation has been arranged allows each unit complete privacy, on both sides of the building. This arrangement, coupled with the internal design of the individual units, also allows for the free-flow of air through the building when the sliding doors are open - again, without any compromise to privacy.The balconies on the courtyard side of the building are enclosed in finely grained, vertically spaced wooden screens. Despite their delicate nature, these screens are the most important and memorable element of the facades of the building.

The architecture of the All Suites Hotel is crisp in its detailing and confident in its form. There is an intriguing interplay between these bold, confident and singular forms and the thinness of some of the elements that have been used. For example, some windows are set into metal surrounds, where the thinness of these surrounds contrasts with the flat surface of the wall, and where the shadows formed emphasise this contrast further.

Other elements, like the steel staircases, have also been designed in terms of a play between line and plane/ surface. The wooden, slatted screens are reminiscent of a culture of screens found in many countries on the Indian Ocean rim. They allow for privacy, while at the same time for glimpses of life to be seen on both sides of the screen. The crispness and machine-like precision of the building also forms a positive contrast to the apparent wildness of the luxuriant surrounding vegetation. It is as if the architects, with each of their site-making actions, attempted to cut open a 'room' within this forest. In design, the buildings are a logical and innovative response to the exacting realities of the local climate.

The minimalism displayed in the architecture is rich in its associative depth.This building has all the hallmarks of a highly confident, sensitive, thoughtful and talented architect's hand. It displays a rare maturity of approach that does not seek its meaning in what is seen to be 'current and new', but rather seeks renewal by respectfully reinterpreting what is known, accepted and loved. The evolutionary journey that Designworkshop : SA has embarked on, in this and other buildings, will always renew itself, will always be intrinsically part of its place and time, while never failing to inspire current and future users and architects alike.

(Paul Kotze - 2014)


Writings about this entry

South African Institute of Architects. 2014. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2013/2014. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pg 22-23