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A building containing new premises for the designing architects, together with five apartments and a high-end furniture and decor store, was constructed on the site of a 1950s church of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika. Although the initial design intention was to retain as much of the original structure as possible, the architects found it to be more cost-effective to demolish the bulk of the church and in the end only the concrete structural frame was retained. The building is located on a fairly flat expanse in the central bowl of Cape Town in an area that consists largely of Victorian houses, many of which have been converted into office spaces. The first thing one notices is that the building represents an elegant and stylish intervention in a rather cluttered and nondescript section of the street. It links well with distinguished architecture on the other side of the street - The South African National Gallery, the Jewish Museum, Gardens Commercial College and Cape Town High School. Although features of the facade appear to remain as yet unresolved, its scale, dimensions and materials comport well with the urban residential and mixed-use neighbourhood in which it is located. The ground floor is pedestrian-friendly, providing a canopy and a sheltering nook at the corner. The light and airy decor shop provides an element of brightness to a rather cheerless street.
The panel was taken through the interior of all three sections of the building and was impressed by the manner in which a common style permeated all the component parts. In addition, all the apartments and all the different floors of the studio have spectacular views. The day we visited was cloudy, so we were unable to gauge fully the extent to which the architects succeeded in maximising the views without allowing the spaces to be overheated through excessive sunlight. But the overall feeling was one of exuberance. Indeed, visitors to the practice are taken by lift to the reception area on the top floor where they are greeted by the most spectacular mountain and city view of all. Roof spaces have also been well managed to permit outdoor meetings and relaxation. The building itself has a quiet and composed character. Apart from views of Table Mountain and Lion's Head from the one side and Devils Peak and the CBD from the other, occupants of the building are granted an unusually interesting and evocative roofscape of the immediate neighbourhood.
This illustrates one of two special features of the building, the first being the manner in which it represents a stylish contemporary intervention in a relatively old neighbourhood - instead of appearing at war with that environment, it integrates itself well into it, adds in an harmonious way to its variety, and gives it a distinctive urban lift. The second feature is the organic manner in which the design provides for appropriate mixed use in a single urban structure. Impressive though the dramatic views are, they cannot in themselves justify a merit award. What we did feel to be meritorious and deserving of an excellence award, however, was the innovative and uplifting manner in which the architects succeeded in inserting a landmark mixed-use development which contributes positively to an important city street at an urban scale and achieves elegance through the robust yet restrained use of material and form.
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.
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