The Refurbishment of Esselen Clinic
Ntsika Architects - South Africa
Drawings, plans, elevations
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Esselen Street Clinic – ‘Restoring an important part of Hillbrow’. Situated on the corner of Esselen and King George Street, along an inner city Rea Vaya bus route, and on the fringe of the Hillbrow Health Precinct (HHP), the existing clinic was a prime location to create a cornerstone primary health care facility, as part of the Corridors of Freedom initiative. Ntsika Architects, together with Herbert Prins Architects as heritage consultant, were commissioned for the refurbishment of the ground and first floors of the existing clinic. Designed and erected by Willem Pabst, between 1943 and 1951, the building is a heritage site, as so according to Section 34, constitutes as a heritage building in South Africa. Originally the building was designed as the Colin Gordon Nursing Home. The purpose of the refurbishment of the existing building was four-fold: 1. To highlight and celebrate the building’s heritage value while maximising its durability and functionality. 2. To create greater cohesion between the clinic and the neighbouring building 3. To create a more functional, durable and efficient health care facility 4. To enhance the building’s relationship with the neighbouring HHP facilities, to create an active street edge. To celebrate the heritage of the exiting building, great care was taken to maintain as much of the existing structure and materiality as possible. This is demonstrated in the restored structural staircase, which was conceived as a light well through the building. An original internal door was reproduced and reinstated in areas which had been discarded through numerous renovations over the years. To pay homage to the original aesthetic of the space, all major additions and alternation made to the building were done in aluminium and glass, in order to mark the change of era. They ‘touch’ the old building ‘lightly’, retaining the integrity of both old structure and new intervention. A shared courtyard between the Pabst and an older structure adjoining it, becomes a celebrated and accessible space for both buildings. Generous doors opened from the now lower waiting area onto the courtyard as well as from the secondary waiting area in the adjacent building, onto the same space. The programme of the clinic functions across the two buildings and the accessibility and coherence between the two structures was addressed in the redesign, with generous ramps linking the two and open waiting areas on ground floor. Hillbrow is a volatile environment. With the upgrade of the Esselen Street Clinic it was important to address the street edge to create a more active facade. This was achieved through widening the entry way of the existing building, and proposing outdoor furniture and landscaping to be implemented along the harsh building edge. The unmistakable curved canopy over the entrance remains and the building has a presence on the street once more.
3 word address features
robust.light.longevity Robust: breathing new life into a part of the city that is gritty, hostile and unfriendly. The clinic is a critical component in the urban landscape of Hillbrow. Refurbished with robust materiality and intention, the building creates a more generous public interface with the street and re-inserts itself with a sense of civic presence. Light: the floor plates have been opened to the envelop of the building, allowing natural light to flood the public waiting areas. These waiting areas open up onto a shared courtyard which becomes a secondary outdoor waiting area, which helps control the spread of infectious diseases. Longevity: built between 1943-1951, the building has been declared a heritage site. The project aims to enhance this status and to ensure that it will be revered 100 years from now, through good, considered intervention.
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