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Hilton Windhoek, Windhoek, Namibia

Monday 30 Apr 2012

A Landmark for Windhoek

Dr. Jaco Wasserfall 
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A beacon of urban nightlife in a digital age, celebrating local culture with art and imagery 

The Hilton forms the first phase of the Freedom Plaza mixed-use precinct planned in the heart of the capital. Prominently situated as the CBD is approached from the airport, the hotel enjoys views of the city and surrounding mountains, and has a commanding view down the tree-lined pedestrian spine of the new Plaza.

Legibility and transparency were important considerations. Clarity of public circulation, both horizontally and vertically, is ensured by means of strong circulation access and visual links. A glass and steel entrance drum announces the hotel to the arriving guest, marks the entrance and leads to an atrium from where public functions on the various levels are visible. Wrapped in a glazed façade, these areas spill out onto garden terraces. Located in an eight-storey box floated on pilotis, guest rooms have punched fenestration; garden terrace cutouts allowing natural light into the heart of the building.

Conceptually, the Hilton was perceived as a beacon of urban nightlife in a digital age, celebrating arrival and local culture with art and imagery, thus providing Windhoek with a distinctive landmark building. Its grace lies as much in the interplay of understatement and decoration, of excitement and relaxation, of technology and nature, as in the distinction between day and night time appearances. Daytime restraint dictated a restricted palette of colours and finishes that reflect the natural shades of the local landscape: earthy hues of granite cladding set against shades of blue-greys and soft yellows imitating the colours of distant mountains and dry grassland. At night the hotel turns into an urban stage: mimicking the transience of theatre, the inventive use of LED lighting makes for a rich and animated building interior and exterior. Starting at the front door and continued throughout the building, the interior theme of water is conveyed architecturally through illuminated glass boxes with varying degrees of transparency reflecting differing levels of privacy. The atrium with its gentle crispness and natural light acquires a richer glow as darkness approaches. Here too, as with other public spaces, vivid graphic qualities create a heightened sense of life, movement and energy, thus drawing attention to the building's transient character.

Sustainability and climatic responsiveness were critical considerations with green roofs, passive solar control, ventilated walls, intelligent lighting, and thermal glass all incorporated into the design.

This project is in collaboration with Martin Kruger Associates.

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Wasserfall Munting Architects

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