The landscape is a powerful presence. Within the landscape there lies unborn potential to create space and sustain livelihood.
KUBE architecture was recently approached to conceptualize an education centre with a sharp focus on didactic and sustainable strategies. The main intention was to conceptualize buildings with intentions and functions that optimize both educational and sustainable practices. The individual identities of the different buildings and their functions should therefore gravitate towards regional green building techniques, that stimulate and influence the doing and thinking of young pupils and visitors.
The site lies within the mountainous landscape of Stellenbosch. The mountains of the Boland are a perpetual presence, a looming background that reaches above and through the envisioned structures. The endearing solidity of these giants provide a sense of comfort and reliability that no man-made object could ever equal. While we introduce new life and purpose on to the site, the manner in which we construct these follies are mindful of the cultural vernacular, as well as the regenerative potential within the environment in which we place them.
Each building intervention introduces its program and identity in a unique way, much like the finer complexities of nature that work together to produce a tree. In this analogy we can identify natural principles that influence this architectural thinking of space making. As the facility will operate within a very large spectrum of ages, kindergarten to high school, careful deliberation is placed on appropriate scale and form that introduces different functions.
Upon arrival to the site, you are welcomed to a pavilion, where the story of the School and its inhabitants are told in a didactic exhibition. This space offers potential for multi-media installations by the young artists or scientists, and meanders through a sculpture garden before entering the Great Hall, where the rest of the tale will unfold.
The Great Hall has many guises. A thousand faces stare at each other across a central stage where two gentlemen of fair Verona have just concluded a dialogue. On Thursday eve the side stage will showcase the kindergarten ballet recital, while at the same time preparations are underway for the open-air concert next weekend. The flexibility of this space offers a vast array of both public and private opportunity.
The landscape breaks down as it enters the building, becoming raked seating then the base on which the activities take place. Heavy stone elements guide the visitor while a lightweight timber structure supports the roof which floats lightly over the landscape. Not sure whether it wants to be an internal or external space the introduction of large glazed areas bridges the gap between.
The exposed rafters and tie-members form the structure from which curtains and lighting celebrate the young artists. Sliding screens, absorptive to one side, reflective to the other, are used to tailor the acoustic environment to the needs of the users. The same screens block the light when a subdued atmosphere and a slightly cooler climate is required.
The structure that houses the cafeteria, kitchen and media centers, find itself in the nucleus of the site, to the south east of the Pavilion.
The Nurture Hall and its facilities utilizes the harmonious form of the golden ratio. This building seeks to encompass a strong and nurturing presence within the landscape and to those who’ll find knowledge and sustenance within its walls. The architecture introduces controlled spins outward to the landscape, and back inward towards itself. This trajectory aims to engage the user into an ephemeral dance with nature.
The classroom typologies centers itself around the careful composition and deconstruction of typical Cape-Dutch architecture. These building are of a more intimate and intricate shape than those of the Pavilion and Nurture Centre, but similarly weaves and undulates into the landscape to allow for culturally conscious and energy efficient designs.
The structures are thoughtful of their hosts, and take up a scale that is reminiscent of the Cape Dutch barn proportion. Thick stone walls from within the building stretch outwards towards the landscape and serve as undulating outdoor furniture. The form and material of this element speaks directly to the solidity of the surrounding mountains, delving the building into the landscape with a playful nature.
The form, function and material of these new buildings aim to create a contextual architectural language that speak universal words to everyone, visitor, teacher and pupil alike. These words are: adapt, sustain and prosper.