Architects: dhk Architects
- Year: 2018
Manufacturers: Afrisam, Blackwood, Chartwell, Cladcom, Dracon National, Ecosense, Infin8, Krost engineering, Magnet engineering, Prestige tiling, Restaurant shopfitting, Space Lift, Union Steel, Upfront Media and Jalite, WBHO, Wescape & Hensjen, White Head, World of decorative concrete
- Surveyor: Norval Wentzel Steinberg
- Acoustical Consultant: Subsonic Designs
- Lighting Consultant: Pamboukian Lightdesign
- Fire Advisor: Ekcon Engineering
- Main Contractor: WBHO
- Landscaping: Keith Kirsten Horticulture International (KKHI)
- Urban Planners: Planning Partners
- Ecologists Of Freshwater: Freshwater Consulting
- Environmentalists: Ecosense
- Electronic Engineers: Delportdupreez
- Electrical Engineers: Converge Consulting
- Civil Engineers: Ekcon Engineering
- Mechanical Engineers: Ekcon Engineering
- Structural Engineers: Ekcon Engineering
- Client: Village Trust
- Interior Designer / Restaurant And Bar: Reddeco
- Interior Designer / Store And Gallery: SpaceLIFT & Black Canvas
- City: Cape Town
- Country: South Africa
Text description provided by the architects. Norval Foundation is located in the Steenberg area on the slopes of the Constantiaberg Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, and is surrounded by vineyards. The project provided a unique opportunity for architecture studio dhk; a client brief with the aspiration to create a world-class art and cultural centre in an exceptional location that is be open to the public.
Norval Foundation was envisioned as a modern pavilion for art, set against a dramatic mountain and vineyard landscape. It is a pure expression of form; a bold rectangular mass, delineating its heavy walled enclosure and light over-sailing roof.
The building is constrained by the linear site, between a busy road and an existing wetland; turning its back to a neighbouring embassy compound. The linear circulation spine is positioned along this edge, with the galleries and public spaces facing the natural landscape, capturing framed views of the wetland, vineyards and mountains beyond.
The building sits in an elevated position, and shields the wetland, creating a private space for the sculpture park and forms an inhabited threshold between public and private zones. A triple-volume atrium establishes a deliberate visual connection between these zones; one urban, the other natural, and provides a physical transition between these contrasting environments.
Norval Foundation is experienced in a linear sequence. A curved wall that extends into the entrance court, draws visitors past the double-volume restaurant, gallery shop and into the generous reception which calmly directs guests to the central atrium that introduces the main galleries.
A terrace along the length of the building incorporates a timber deck serving the restaurant, and connects to walkways on either side that lead to the sculpture park. The grounds also include an amphitheatre, children’s playground, and picnic area.
The gallery spaces comprise a large environmentally-controlled special exhibitions space, and a series of six small galleries, culminating in a dramatic triple-volume sculpture gallery, a dramatic setting for large-scale pieces with Table Mountain as a backdrop. All the gallery spaces are column free, allowing maximum flexibility for display of all forms of art and they can be treated as separate experiences or to create a sequential journey as required.
The very specific technical requirements for the gallery spaces in terms of environment control take into account careful control of light, temperature and humidity, acoustics, and fire prevention. To create the minimal spaces required for the display of art, all services are concealed in the wall and ceiling cavities to create a seamless appearance.
The programme further dictates the building form, which is split vertically between the ground floor galleries and public spaces, and the first floor where the more private spaces are found; offices, library, bar, a further gallery space and artist’s residence. Art storage vaults are positioned below ground level, with the highest level of security as well as state of the art temperature and humidity control. In addition to 32 parking bays at grade, minibus drop off and a tour bus embayment, there are 124 parking bays below ground, with 8 bays set aside for electric car charging stations.
The site incorporates an incredibly sensitive existing wetland ecosystem that had been historically neglected. The wetland was completed rehabilitated, with alien species removed and its surrounding buffer zones have been revived and replanted with locally indigenous fynbos, enhanced by other indigenous plants and naturalised species, already attracting a multitude of insects and birds onto the site. The wetland is also one of the last known breeding sites of the Western Leopard Toad, an endangered species. In order to allow the toads’ safe passage, concrete culverts were constructed underneath the road, and the embankments and earth ramps were carefully designed to allow the toads to move easily across the site.
In addition to the rehabilitated wetland and indigenous landscaped sculpture park, sustainability features include solar photovoltaic panels on the roof, a building management system to optimise performance, water saving measures, grey water purification system, return of storm water to the wetland system, and energy efficient glazing and solar shading on the façade. Wherever possible, natural light to the internal spaces has been maximised, with large full height and clerestory windows throughout, except for certain galleries.
The materials palette is raw and honest, primarily precast concrete, natural timber, granite and glass, providing contrast with the natural landscape. Clerestory windows allow the roof to float above the heavy walls, like the lid of a box concealing treasures within and allowing soft indirect natural light to penetrate the interior spaces. Externally, the precast concrete is finished with a chamfered tartan grid, which draws the eye upwards and lengthways, and emphasises the scale of the building. Internally timber panelling is used to bring warmth to the spaces.
The architectural design strikes a balance between two motivations: to protect the artwork within, and maximise views to the natural landscape outside.