The new Military Health Base Depot in Thaba Tshwane integrates historic buildings with modern facilities in a timeless, coherent space.

When  architect Jeremie Malan started working on the refurbishment of the Military Health Base Depot on the corner of Patriot and Balsamini Street in Thaba Tshwane, the site featured a variety of old buildings, some which had significant historical value and had to be retained.

The challenges faced were multiple, but the biggest was coordinating a wide range of extremes into one central understandable context.

“We set out to design and coordinate a wide range of specialist industrial buildings by searching for a way to create a sense of place with an architecturally driven approach,” comments Malan. “The original heritage core of existing storage-type buildings was re-imagined as a coherent space not only for reuse, but also for re-definition of a military campus. It took seven years for the dream to come true, but it was worthwhile.”

Guided by an adaptive re-use heritage strategy, practical new buildings were integrated with historic ones, but without imitating the existing architecture. The new buildings are simple and modern, providing a timeless solution.

During the restoration process, old cladding was removed to expose original brick walls, which were blasted to create a modern industrial aesthetic. Structures that were not retained were dismantled and re-used elsewhere, while existing hazardous materials were removed.
Creating a sense of place
One of the objectives, according to Malan, was to incorporate military security with sensitive people-orientated spaces. Local artists were commissioned to produce artworks that portray the role of the Military Health Service, and these were installed to add character and enhance a sense of place.

Energy efficiency
Designed for a four-star Green Star rating, the project addresses sustainability on various levels. The greening of lighting and HVAC installations was a priority, and energy-efficient equipment was specified by the mechanical and electrical engineers.

Other interventions include a heat-pump system, rainwater harvesting, stormwater run-off that is directed to the gardens and water-saving sanitary fittings.

Passive design
The buildings are orientated north, with large aluminium filigree overhangs and low emissivity glass or reflective low-E glass to regulate heat flow. Special care was taken to provide good insulation to all the buildings, especially the pharmaceutical warehouse, which is air-conditioned to maintain a temperature of 22°C.

The project recently won awards of excellence in the public buildings and heritage categories of the Pretoria Institute for Architecture (PIA) Awards, and was also honoured with the WALLS & ROOFS and FLOORS Stand-out Project of the Year Award.

“The awards are testament to our concerted efforts in providing relevant architecture. We are therefore extremely proud to be associated with the Institute, which recognises our architectural contribution in improving the urban landscape,” he says.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Jeremie Malan Architects and Interiors and the PIA for the information given to write this article.

Heritage buildings restored:
–    Railway-type platform building.
–    Bellman-type steel aircraft hangar.
–    Hangar with a brick gable end.