High quality, low maintenance sustainable school completes in Cape Town
The Western Cape Department of Public Works commissioned MEYER+VORSTER Architects, Urban Designers and Interior Designers to design a new Technical High School which includes a hall, library, administration block, laboratories and trade workshops located in Northpine, Cape Town, South Africa. The brief asked for a high quality, low maintenance, sustainable public building which can serve as beacon of educational excellence for a wide area. The intention is that this school will serve much wider poor communities addressing broader developmental objectives including adult education, vocational training and general economic improvement.
The complex was designed as a ‘citadel’ similar to an enclosed city with a single gated entry, to address security concerns from the client and to create a safe, defensible space which is also protected from the harsh South-Easterly summer winds. The senior classrooms were separated from the junior classrooms, as per clients’ requirements, in two double storey blocks on either side of the central court. Ablution facilities, vertical circulation and other ancillary functions were provided at the ends of the classroom blocks.
Wheelchair accessibility throughout the school complex is achieved by stepping the floor levels down the gentle slope of the site in a spiral fashion. This allows a disabled person to access the ground floor and the upper floor from the entrance area. The forum (hall) and the administration block were positioned within the perimeter of the classroom blocks to minimise circulation and to double up on building structure achieving a large cost saving. The forum, in its central location provides a focus to the entire complex and the interior can spill over into the courtyard spaces if and when required during large events.
The largest portions of the classrooms enjoy North/South orientation. The upper floors of the classroom blocks have been shifted over the lower floors to provide generous overhangs over the north facing windows, to cut out direct sunlight. Vertical fins screen the interior spaces from the harsh eastern and western sun exposure. Light shelves were introduced to stiffen the facades and to deflect indirect light deep into the interior spaces. Vertical sunscreens were introduced on the smaller eastern and western facades where overhangs are ineffective as passive climate controlling devices.
The distinct roofscape had its origin in the plan geometries of the design. Moreover it culminated from the idea to harvest rainwater from the roofs of the complex. The mono-pitched, bull nose roof shape allows rainwater to be discharged onto the concrete walkway roofs, which in turn will act as large gutters and allow the water to flow along its length and be discharged into water tanks at the end of walkways. From these points, water can be utilised to irrigate sports fields and food gardens.