“Butterfly” building – icon of modern education

by Tania Wannenburg

Rheinzink angle-standing seam panels were selected to clad iconic building on the UJ campus.

In designing the new lecture building at the University of Johannesburg to accommodate the big intake of first-year students, GAPP Architects envisioned a piece of architecture that would relay the higher education institution’s vision and mission statement, which is to inspire its community to transform and serve humanity through innovation and the collaborative pursuit of knowledge.
The new structure forms part of a peripheral ring of buildings and is positioned centrally on one of the main buildings in the inner circle. Planned with two 750-seat auditoriums on either side of a courtyard, it also creates a connection from the main campus to the older building.

Contemporary facade cladding
“For the cladding of the building, we needed a material that would be durable and that was aesthetically appropriate in relation to the existing buildings on campus. Against the backdrop of the 1960’s brutalist, monolithic structures, the facade material had to appear strong enough to sit with them, while adding a level of elegance to the more organic sculptural form,” explains Simon Bird from GAPP Architects.

Rheinzink 0,8mm angle-standing seam panels were selected for the facade cladding because of their durability, colour fastness and sustainability. “Rheinzink is completely recyclable and the energy consumption in manufacturing the product is relatively low. It also doesn’t need to be maintained at all,” adds Bird.

The zinc also brings a certain lightness to the building. This, together with the building’s gracefully curved roof line consolidating the two mirrored wings, led the architects to suggest that it should be called “Ivemvane”, which is the isiZulu word for “butterfly”.

According to Stephen Wilkinson, business manager at Rheinzink South Africa, the angled standing seam is a popular solution for visible areas of metal roofing or cladding. “Whether running in the traditional vertical direction, diagonally or horizontally, the angled seam offers greater joint width than the double-standing seam and is an eye-catching feature even over large areas,” he says.

Another feature of the Rheinzink panels is that because of the thickness of the material, it expands and contracts as if it is breathing, which causes a rippling effect on the surface. “Since it is quite a novel material in South Africa, people expect it to look like a normal, flat roof sheet, which it isn’t. Especially on this installation it was intended to be tactile and the ripples add an organic feel to the building,” explains Bird.

In contrast with the futuristic facade cladding, Corobrik FBS country classic satin bricks were specified for the walls and 20mm FLAMBOR treated Saligna planks were used as soffit cladding. On the roof, a lighter roof sheeting, Safintra’s 0,55mm thick SAFLOK 700 Colorplus Slate, was specified.

Fire-rated materials
Apart from balancing the slickness of the Rheinzink panels with its natural varying colour qualities, the Saligna timber had to be fire-rated for it to be used on the ceiling. Bird points out that because the new building connects the existing one to the rest of the campus, the area in-between the two auditoriums effectively serves as a fire escape.

“We investigated an impregnation process normally used for thatch roofs and used the chemical compound to treat the Saligna, after we had it tested at the Fire Lab in Pretoria and it passed with flying colours – it just won’t burn,” he says.

Inside, grooved non-combustible, melamine faced, medium-density fibreboards were used for cladding.

Shaping the building
According to Bird, the curved roofline above the main entrance posed a challenge since the framework and lower edge is flat, but the wooden Saligna planks made it possible to slightly adjust the lines and gaps between the boards in order to form a slow bend.

In addition, the building wings that lean outward put the facade material in tension since it is required to curve at two different radiuses. Bird notes that for the installation of the Rheinzink panels, it is important to consult specialists with appropriate skills. The shape of these wings in plan was the result of achieving the optimal balance between acoustics and creating as wide a plane as possible to reduce visual depth to the lecturer, with the furthest student from the screen still being as close as possible.

Underneath each of the wings, the building kicks up to recreate Wi-fi outdoor study spaces furnished by wooden tables and benches made from timber that was reused after removing a large blue gum tree to make space for the construction.

Tel: 021 671 2600
Email: info@rheinzink.co.za
Website: www.rheinzink.co.za

Professional team:
•    Client: University of Johannesburg
•    Architect: GAPP Architects/Urban Designers
•    Project managers: Turner + Townsend
•    Structural and civil engineers: HBS Africa Consulting Engineers
•    Mechanical and electrical engineers: Spoormaker Consulting Engineers
•    Wet services: Izazi Consulting Engineers
•    Fire consultants: Chimera Fire Consultants
•    Landscape architects: New Town Landscape Architects

Contracting team:
•    Main contractor: Robenco Construction (Pty) Ltd
•    Sub-contractors:
–    Steelwork: TASS Engineering
–    Cladding: Rhode Roofing
–    Roofing: Tate + Nicholson
–    Electrical: Webbers Electrical
–    Mechanical: Climatron
–    Fire systems: Fire Tech
–    Acoustic panelling: Sub-Sonic
–    Partitions and ceilings: JA Kruger Projects
–    Joinery: NuHomes
–    Flooring: Peter Bates
–    Security: BidVest
–    Audio Visual: Shellard Media

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