Pictured above: Bright Nokukhanya Zondi heads and runs the new Siyabaphephisa Educare Centre, Molweni, Durban
Yesterday, the Lead Architects (LA) team attended the official opening of a new Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD) in Molweni, a low income community outside the Durban metro.
Bright stated in front of the small, cheerful crowd that “Today our dream has been achieved … thanks to God … and our sponsors”
In 2016, Container World approached LA to assist with the design development of a container school. The NGO Focus on iThemba headed the project, with major sponsors such as Belgotex and Container World stepping up to provide the AstroTurf, floor finishes and container fit outs. But way before the architects came on board, Bright and her team of caregivers already had a vision for the piece of land (which had been generously donated by government). Their sketch is shown below.
The wonderful thing about this drawing is that it represents the brief in a very engaging and efficient format. After the usual rigorous site analysis process, it was time to design. Each member of the LA team designed their dream school based on the client brief. The architects then assessed the individual designs, and began the process of synthesizing them into one master plan. The final plan inherited the successful elements which were common to all the schemes, so I suppose one could call it a democratic design process.
Briefly, the key design principles are
- Acknowledge the street edge and adjacent sites. We wanted to create accessible and defensible public space. To achieve this, we located basketball court on the street edge along the boundary of the adjacent site (currently zoned General Commercial). However the contractor (who is passionate about plants and food gardens) has instead decided to create a seedling / demonstration nursery to meet the demand for seedlings in the local community and also offer an adult educational component to the Educare Centre.
- Buildings as the edge. The line of security can be hard, soft or something in between
- Make use of existing assets on site and work with existing vegetation. We had several beautiful trees and a couple of existing concrete slabs to work with
- Defensible space. The courtyard typology is perfect for this.
- Passive design. Natural light and ventilation, ample shading, and the use of screening vegetation on the east and west sides.
- Appropriate scales of built form and universal access. We are catering for very little people after all.
- Appropriate materials
- Future expansion
- Resource management. We are harvesting rain water for watering of gardens and for flushing toilets.
It’s wonderful to see how the builder and owners of the building have already started to make the space their own.