Final Undergraduate Project.
Location: Corner of Gresham Place and Marine Parade Street (Durban Beach Front)
Architecture: Community Centre
Architect: Leeshanthi Govender
The final assigned design project in undergrad was a Community Centre. The design project challenged us to create a concept and implemented it into the building design which would address the social issues. The concept created would directly link to the location of the Centre and its surrounding social problems.
Critically analyzing the proposed site context provided clues to the social problems and highlighted the ideal concept for the Centre. The concept used was “Art and Crafts respecting Nature”. This concept posed as ideal as Durban Beach Front was a popular tourist destination for traditional art and craft souvenirs. The main social problem of the area was Homelessness among both adults and children.
The Centre was designed at providing the Homeless with an opportunity to generate an income through art and crafts skills. The concept highlighted what spaces the Centre should include to address the social issues.
The Coffee Shop (by day)/Soup Kitchen (by night), which was aided by a vegetable garden and employed Homeless locals drew the Homeless attention to the Centre. This Soup Kitchen provided the Homeless with a space to eat which did not allow them to feel belittled or disrespected. This allowed the Homeless to feel comfortable and allowed them to explore what the Centre was all about. The Centre’s corner, street level entrance was designed to create an all welcome entrance.
Art and Craft Studios were located on the ground floor further back of site, the Multipurpose Hall was along Marine Parade street creating a perimeter around the Outside Green Space and the Sculpture Garden was above the Art and Crafts Studio. The spaces were designed to focus views towards the outside of the building rather than inside. This was a design decision to encourage and direct the users towards the exterior green spaces, especially to take advantage of Durban’s tropical climate. The spaces were designed for the Homeless to learn a skill which they can generate an income for themselves. It provides a starting point for their economic empowerment.
The Centre had to be economically sustainable therefore spaces such as the Multipurpose Hall, Meeting Rooms, Coffee Shop and Vegetable Garden were used to generate an income for the Centre. A few sustainable strategies were used such as grey water harvesting, solar panels, passive solar design and environmentally friendly materials.
The main design decisions which allowed the Centre to relate to its users was the entrance being leveled to the street and the South African Flag on the outside of the building. This drew the users into the building and allowed them to feel welcomed. The flag direction was placed in the opposite direction from the exterior on purpose. This was done to illustrate the important benefits of being inside the building where you see the flag waving in the right direction. Focus of the building was from inside rather than from outside.
This design project was a starting point to my Masters research topic. I enjoyed designing this project and learning more about the social issues within Durban Beach Front.