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Malamulele Council Building
Limpopo, South Africa
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The undulating green setting of the Malamulele Township in South Africa is the site for a new council building, housing the local government for the surrounding community. The proposed design intervention takes inspiration from both the immediate landscape and urban condition, while the programmatic design response strives to rescript the dialogue between governing council and the local community they serve. Conceptually, the rational design response is inspired by the urban grid. Rational office blocks define municipal departments, which are staggered to encourage a relationship with outdoor spaces and public functions. To heighten contrast, organic forms define the public and community functions- inspired by the natural landscape and local topography. These define the council chamber, public meeting spaces and public library. The boundary between rational and organic spaces is blurred, creating internal/ external interstitial spaces. Within this realm, a biophilic design approach is explored through the inclusion of indigenous scented courtyard gardens, educating the community about indigenous flora and water-saving strategies, and encouraging views of the surrounding natural context. Permeability of the building’s screens allows south-easterly summer breezes to carry the aroma of the scented gardens through the building’s breezeways. Just as local elders would historically meet in the shade of a tree, the single roof element shelters the council functions beneath it. Voids in the roof structure illuminate the communal aromatic gardens and gathering spaces, while encouraging stack ventilation. Boundaries are further blurred by the use of semi-transparent and semi-permeable screens, layered to create a multiplicity of internal spaces with varying degrees of permeability. Semi-transparent polycarbonate screens encourage visibility of the council chamber- permitting views of those who govern within. Semi-permeable screens create a dialogue with the surrounding context, encouraging views, cross-ventilation and functioning as brise-soleil for western sun. Public access is encouraged from the south, creating a link through a future retail development to a nearby taxi rank. Outdoor shaded planted waiting spaces receive visitors.The natural topography allows for the inclusion of basement staff parking and allowing for separate staff access from the north. Materials employed in the design are cost-effective. Locally available low-maintenance brickwork is used for the rational office blocks. Brick screens on the southern façade allow filtered light into the interior office spaces. Local granite is dry-packed to create the winding stone wall that forms seating along the western façade. Polycarbonate screens are internally lit at night, with a secondary skin of composite timber that separates from the polycarbonate screen in parts to define the internal breezeways. The design intention is to represent, and simultaneously inspire, the local community. The Malamulele Council Building strives to serve as a bridge between formal programme and place-driven informal contextual identity through the realisation of a prominent civic space for the community.
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