Part 2. The new head office project for the Department of Environmental Affairs, designed by Boogertman + Partners, celebrates urban rhythm, African-ness and design excellence.
The new Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) head office in Pretoria is a testament to green design. Created by Boogertman + Partners, the building has been awarded a six-star Green Star South African Office Design V1 rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa.
In the previous issue of Walls & Roofs Magazine, we focused on material selection and green features of the building. In this issue, we are zoning in on the thought process and design considerations that form part of creating the first six-star rated green building in the country’s capital. The building is the first government building in South Africa to achieve this rating.
Boogertman + Partners set out to design the 30 654m², R653 million building in July 2012. The project was completed in May 2014 and the rest of the team included consulting engineers PD Naidoo and Associates, quantity surveyor Pentad and project developers Imvelo Concession Company.
The architects were asked to design a facility that showcased the DEA’s location as a gateway to the Tshwane inner city to both local and international visitors. The building also needed to communicate an architectural language that reflects the Department’s environmental and sustainable ideologies.
“In the design of the building, the key considerations were to respond to the spatial and organisational brief of the client, to provide environmentally sensitive and sustainable architecture, and to design a functional yet memorable and beautiful building to inspire generations to come,” says Lood Welgemoed from Boogertman + Partners.
Building forms and urban fabric
The main access to the site falls in the natural ground level in South Arcadia, Pretoria, and the surrounding buildings are predominantly three to four storeys in height. The rights for this particular site allow a building of maximum four storeys in height.
“The building footprint was strongly influenced by the urban fabric and spatial organisation of the context. The proposed building enhances and preserves the linear, north-facing character of the surrounding building forms, and respects the height restrictions by having mostly three storeys,” says Welgemoed.
This spatial and urban rhythm was deliberately disrupted during the design process by creating a central “nautilus” shaped reception wing of the building in order to emphasise the importance of the entrance and signify the approach in a subconscious architectural language. The primeval nautilus shell shape, based on naturally occurring fractal geometry, speaks of birth and origin, growth and progression, which also reflects the African-ness of the project.
The architects considered a number of previous building forms before arriving at the final building form of the DEA head office. While the linear approach for the “wing” building was chosen for functionality, Boogertman + Partners chose a golden section spiral shape for the reception building. This colour and shape were derived from natural references as well as a democratic approach.
“As opposed to dominating and intimidating, the golden section spiral shape of the reception has strong symbolic references to origin or birth, growth and aspiration. This then provides for an evocative exploration route into the heart of the building,” says Welgemoed.
Where masculine, feminine and organic buildings intertwine
The building is conceived as three distinct elements, consisting of the masculine or utilitarian machine-like office wings, the feminine and organic central reception building, and finally the “bridge structure” thread that links all of the elements together.
The main office wings (male) were inspired from industrial and machine design, with the roofs of each wing being rigorously rectangular with simplistic but elegant detailing. In contrast to the office wings, the central arrival space and ministerial wing (female) are organic in shape.
“The nautilus shell shape, inspired by nature, retains the powerful archetype of the Fibonacci number sequence and golden section. The asymmetry of the shape creates a dynamic form, which is enhancing the concept of movement or progression,” says Welgemoed.
The bridge, which is the common feature that ties the discrepant male and female elements together, is the central circulation corridor which also houses meeting rooms and break-out areas.
Besides all the well thought out design considerations that were expertly executed, the architects also incorporated a number of environmental and green aspects, including natural light, efficient building orientation, rainwater and greywater collection aspects, state-of-the-art sustainable ventilation and solar energy features.
“The design aim was to make this a distinct building element in its own right and to create consistency in appearance to make it recognisable. This is done by confining the shape and width of the bridge by strong parallel lines and by utilising cladding with a strong horizontal emphasis,” explains Welgemoed.
“The architectural design represents a coherent response to a host of complicated requirements by the client team, including spatial, cost, environmental, operational and security considerations. “The architectural team believes that they have not only met but exceeded the requirements and simultaneously created a beautiful building which will inspire all who work and visit there,” concludes Welgemoed.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Boogertman + Partners for the information given to write this article.