Gallery on Leviseur featured in the April issue of Leading Architecture & Design

Some of the Q&A that lead to the article as printed in the April issue of Leading Architecture & Design

Can you give us a short background on yourself and your practice?

I completed my studies in architecture at the University of the Free State at the end of 2003, and went on to complete 2 years of internship at local firm Jan Ras Architects CC where I was exposed to a wide variety of projects, and gained the necessary skills required to start my own practice, which I did in 2006. Since then I have completed various small scale commercial, residential and interior design projects, mostly in the Free State and Gauteng.

What was the brief?

The brief was to create a commercial exhibition space for contemporary art that would be flexible and could accommodate both sculpture as well as canvases, as well as a cafe / restaurant area. Beyond that the client left the brief relatively open.

What was the full scope of work?As per brief

What was the site formerly?The site was formerly a relatively uninspiring house on a corner site on a busy road in Bloemfontein.

Were there any issues/problems on site?

Once construction got underway, it was discovered that the structure of the existing building was too poor to use meaningfully, and although the design relied heavily on using as much of it as possible due to budget constraints, most of it had to be demolished. Soil conditions were also not as favourable as expected, and the foundations had to be re-designed in order to accommodate this.

What would you say is the most noticeable feature of the building?

The main gallery space that address the corner of the site. It is very sculptural and acts as a beacon for the rest of the building.

How did the environment influence your design?

The buildings in the immediate area are generally nondescript single storey, single family homes with plaster and/or face brick walls, and corrugated metal roofs. I decided to restrict the height of the building to single storey, and to use the materials in a way that would blend with the surrounding context, while still being able to let the building be expressive in terms of its volumes and forms. The roof folds down on the northern side to become an angled second skin in response to concerns from that neighbour regarding noise and privacy. The orientation of the site made it tricky to allow sufficient natural lighting into the gallery spaces. This was achieved by raising the roof over the entrance foyer and allowing clerestory lighting to fill the space form roughly the middle of the building. Windows were also placed close to the floor to allow hanging space on walls while allowing light to reflect of the whit floor into the space.

How would you describe the style/theme/concept of the project?

If I had to identify an underlying theme to the building, I would say that it was the exercise in creating interesting and dynamic forms and spaces, while still attempting to be “of the place”. I wanted the volumes to be interesting spaces that visitors would want to walk through while viewing the art on exhibition. I tried to achieve this by juxtaposing strong static vertical elements against light and angled elements in order to lend a sense of dynamism to the building and its volumes.

What sustainable initiatives were implemented in the design?

Attention was paid to percentages of glazing and fenestration in order to rely as much as possible on natural lighting, without massive solar gains (this was tricky due to the orientation of the site, but the building seems to be performing ok in this regard) The building makes use of solar heated water, and all the landscaping elements have a low water demand and are indigenous.

Looking back at the completed project, what are your thoughts?

Looking back on the project I am extremely please with the results, both in terms of the building and the team of people who made it happen.

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