So, this is dull. The northern edge doesn’t address the street in any meaningful way. The western edge flat-out ignores it. It ignores the sun too! I’m not sure how the wavy bit relates to the rest of the scheme. Materials have been applied to surfaces in what must be a desperate attempt to distract us from the fact that the building’s really a plastered lump, painted a smoggy grey-blue. And the red? Really?
The southern elevation tries a little harder. But becomes an essay in the disparities between the vision sold and the cynical, developer-trodden reality.
Seriously!? It’s usually pretty difficult to knock buildings in the Umhlanga New Town / Gateway precinct. They generally have their urban hearts in the right place. There’s a decent mix of residential and commercial, with retail along the street. Parking is concealed in a way that doesn’t leave the pavement lined with carbon-monoxide-exhaling ventilation and little else. Indeed, this scheme – although still under construction – looks as if it might just tick all those boxes.
But, I guess this is what happens when the major contextual indicator is a shopping mall of Disney proportions. The building borrows liberally from the City Beautiful movement of the 1890s and 1900s in Chicago. Which in turn borrowed from the French Beaux-Arts that preceded it. How is this relevant to an African town centre in the tropics? In 2009? It isn’t. Not even a little bit.
And it has the audacity to tout itself as an environmentally appropriate response. I don’t see any sun control.
Let’s start with the obvious. It’s Tuscan. It’s gated. It’s god-awful! It sits on top of a hill overlooking the M13. If it had arms it’d be throwing stones at the passing traffic. It’s the essence of all that’s wrong with current South African urban design, planning and architecture.
I’ve tried to find the parties responsible for this. Unsurprisingly, I can’t.
Edit: It seems as though Owen Kemp for the eLan Group and Brent Buchanan of Nsika Architects are largely responsible. Correct me if I’m wrong.