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Restoration of 22 Landsdown Place
Richmond Hill, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape

MATRIX CC: Architect
2010SAIA Award of Merit

Award Citation

Having been involved in the restoration and redevelopment of several historical buildings during the seven years of its existence, the architectural practice decided to locate their own studio in a suitably adapted old building. The site chosen was Lodge Caledonia, built in 1899 for the Freemasons. The building was dominated by two adjacent halls. The first was originally used as a communal meeting and dining room, and was connected at the back through a passage screened by various thresholds from open admission to the second, a clandestine temple embodying highly decorated ceremonial spaces. The architectural response was to renovate the dining hall area to accommodate the firm's open-plan drawing offices, while the more sanctified second hall was adapted with relatively minimal intervention to become the boardroom and conference hall. An underutilised courtyard at the rear of the building was redefined as a pivot between the open-plan working area and the boardroom hall.

The panel was impressed by the manner in which the deliberately esoteric layout was maintained as the distinctive feature of the building. The processional element of delight at arriving at the illuminated second hall is powerfully retained. Indeed, it is highlighted by the playful disconnect between the deliberately functional modern interventions and the purposefully mysterious character of the old. Floors have been carefully preserved and new, proportionately sized windows appropriately located. Natural light is brought in through the roof, colour is well used throughout the building, and fittings and furniture are carefully and sensitively selected. Strong artwork from regional artists adds warmth and intensity.

A number of regional awards went to projects in which architectural practices had imaginatively converted existing buildings into studios. What made this project a successful contender for a national award was the extraordinary surprise and delight that awaits the visitor who enters the boardroom, coupled with the refined attention to detail in all the spaces along the journey to get there.

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.

Writings about this entry

South African Institute of Architects. 2010. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2009/2010. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pg 32-33, 74