AHS High School New Campus for Music and Art
Mathews and Associates Architects - South Africa
Drawings, plans, elevations
The new centre contributes visually to the musical and artistic education in a dedicated, vibrant artistic precinct. The project comprises of a main hall for orchestral and choir practice, four acoustically sound classrooms, twenty individual practice rooms and offices/ admin facilities for staff. The complex is situated at the back of the school on a small, ‘leftover’ triangular portion of land between the existing school hall and the Gautrain (Speed train) rail tracks which run along the school’s south eastern boundary. It was the challenges of this site which led to the intricately connected design, with urban corridors and courtyards creating intimate public spaces and ‘outdoor rooms’ where students gather between classes. Special care was taken to design around existing trees to create an instantly established feel to the new addition. In respect to the existing historic Edwardian buildings, the new centre is built using the school’s traditional materials of red facebrick and corrugated roof sheeting. The various buildings of the centre are connected with an off shutter concrete peristyle which extends across the front facade of the complex while the main facade is clad in red corrugated roof sheeting. This use of traditional materials seamlessly blends the graphically strong contemporary building forms in with the established historical buildings. Poetic spaces and architectural metaphors are a trademark of this project. A cherished relationship with art becomes tangible in the users experience of the architecture of this Music centre, the design elements complement the functional aspects of the building: Rhythmically placed steel columns are reminiscent of a tune leading the user to the entrance of the Music centre while a wall of soldier course masonry mimics a choir, welcoming visitors and musicians alike. The new additions, together with the existing school hall, form a generous public square which boasts a focal interactive steel sculpture. An ensemble of 4 oversized circular trumpets. Music as playful activity is made manifest in the sculpture. Concentric circles radiate like sound waves from this artwork. A playful graphic screen of piano keys adorns the southern façade of the existing school hall, turning the previously unsightly ‘back of house’ wall of drainage pipes into a bright, inviting feature wall. The intangible and historic are celebrated with a laser cut steel screen placed on the landing of the main staircase to the first floor, a visual representation of the school’s first anthem in enlarged Braille, an embodiment of music, words and history as pattern. The dialogue between art and architecture produces memorable spaces of meaning which remains authentic in a globalising world. It is the hope of the architect that the building will resonate with the learners, encouraging a greater appreciation of the arts whether music or visual.