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RCL Food Offices
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal


2017SAIA KZN Award for Architecture
2018SAIA Award of Merit


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29°50'57.70" S 30°55'46.63" E Alt: 178m

Award of Merit Citation

Sometimes the architect is the 'knight in shining armour' who comes to the rescue of a project. In this instance, the construction of the semi-basement of the project as designed by another architect was already underway when the tenant made the choice that their new premises had to reflect their intended corporate culture. This decision brought the architects Elphi[c]k Proome to the project. The change from a generic to a specific design for this tenant necessitated the highest levels of teamwork from the professional team against the reality of a project already under construction.

Five previously independent businesses also had to be woven together into one and the architecture of the building had to perform this task. The company is also of the opinion that the quality of their workforce is fundamental to their business strategy and quality architecture had a fundamental role to play in this mission.

The site is in a business park in a hilly area overlooking the sea in the distance. The initial structure was not placed ideally in terms of orientation and much had to be done in the new design to ameliorate this.

To foster this new corporate culture in the company, direct physical interaction between workers was viewed as a key priority. Contemporary work practices in corporates require a certain level of spatial freedom to accommodate the fluid nature of work that ranges from individual activity to group activities of various formations and sizes. In this kind of work situation, there are also different requirements regarding privacy and publicness. Acoustic privacy also becomes important within the constant requirement that activity must mostly be visible at all times.

To achieve these requirements, the architects created a central atrium as their first and boldest move. This space concentrated vertical and horizontal movement as well as services. It runs the length of the building and the ends are enclosed by glass walls, creating contact with, and a focus on, the external environment and the views over the landscape. Other functions, such as test kitchens, enclosed meeting rooms and staff dining facilities adjoining this space, ensure that this dramatic area displays the corporate activity to its fullest. On the various floor plates, most of the individual, smaller workspaces and the few cellular offices can be found. One of the roof spaces, which affords a magnificent view of the distant sea, has facilities for larger corporate events.

The architects have used tried and tested design principles to create this change in corporate culture for RCL Foods. This has been achieved with great skill and finesse. It is also clear that the building has become the active and interactive 'home' that they required when they changed course on the initial design.

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 22, 23 ill