University of Pretoria, Faculty of Law Building
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The new facilities for the Faculty of Law are the result of an architectural competition initiated by the client, the University of Pretoria. At the heart of the building is a circulatory spine, expressed as a multi-storeyed walkway or gallery under a light steel canopy seemingly detaching itself from the main structure. Trees screen the fully glazed Oliver Tambo Law Library, which claims most of the south façade. To the east it is flanked by the entrance - aligned with an existing avenue - and an administrative block dressed in deliberate white walls that are carefully punctured, a pattern expressing similar functions elsewhere. Wings housing office and seminar spaces are formally grouped around two courtyards open to the walkway. Circulation towers - suggestive of their function - and auditoria protrude from the main body of the complex.
As an urban intervention the building remedies the previously frayed edge on the north-eastern periphery of the institution’s main campus. Purposefully but sensitively wedged into its context, the building embodies some of the higher ideals associated with the legal fraternity – gravitas and transparency – by contrasting visually weighted solids to lighter steel components and glazing. The innovative use of natural light throughout appropriately strengthens this concept.
The design competently addresses pragmatic concerns through a legible, rational structure and with spatial clarity, best expressed through the interconnecting walkway. This element eloquently integrates light, rhythm and natural ventilation throughout the building. The designers’, mindful of Pretoria’s moderate climate, have skilfully managed the comfort of traversing external and internal spaces.
While procuring a design by competition does not always guarantee success this approach has surely contributed to the success of the project.
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