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An Important Sensory Pathway

Part 2 Project 1998
George Boorsma
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg | South Africa
An Important Sensory Pathway
South Africa

The proposal is sited on a barren stretch of land that once functioned as a buffer zone. The zone separated the houses of white workers employed at the nearby Orlando Power Station from the surrounding black township of Soweto.

The proposal for a building school aims to free the site of its Apartheid legacy. It focus, an investigation into the poetics and shaping of place, as components rooted in the action of the building. The school takes its scale from the surrounding industrial buildings and explores a technology congruous with its context.

Public spaces are defined by a strategy that deals with path and edge. The strategy navigates a lifestyle in this context, creating backdrops to events on the street and the spaces between buildings.

The ground plane and peripheries of these spaces mediate indoor and outdoor, the event acting as the agent for their manipulation. The proposal explores an enabling, adaptable building fabric, capable of echoing the rhythms of these events. The building opens and closes, wakes and sleeps.

A mixed-use grouping of buildings however, provides the place with a more natural environment for human habitation. Living and working happen in the same place promoting a twenty four-hour use.

The roofs of the group of buildings simplify the complex sequence of events they oversail. They define cool spaces with the shadows they cast, articulate the spaces between buildings and provide the scheme with an overall imageability.

Their importance is expressed by the intensity with which they are explored at a technical level.

The school is a place where people can not only develop skills, but also acquire sensitivity to the built environment and research issues related to the act of habitation. The school integrates with the community. The first stage involves the school constructing its own buildings as part of its education. The second stage involves a scheme that is built by the school. The approach would build on experience, each project enriching the next.

The structures provide a framework with which people can engage. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic harmonise, overlapping when possible, adding to the energy of the place. The ground plane - a hive of activity.

George Boorsma

The course is run in accordance with the policy of the Department of Architecture. We work within our South African context in order to make our contribution to the understanding of the global condition of mankind in context. We encourage students to let their personal points of interest challenge the condition of life in our land. The South African context reciprocates the challenge with a minute of scrutiny of the students' perception and understanding of the matter in hand. In a process of both action and thought, the students explore their ideas in order to cultivate and nurture (culture) a rich intent.

We explore social behaviour and its relationship with contextual conditions. We explore the idea of making adjustments to place qualities and play with the understanding of what these design shifts would do for the behaviour potential of the place. Architects take elements from their context to make adjustments to that context in terms of the way that their spatio-structural changes contribute to the life of their context. We are interested in all aspects of the exploration and implementation of this creative process.

After all is said about right and left brain; divergent and convergent intelligence; romantic and classic thought, we realise that the key to creative process lies in the way that we EXPLORE and the way that we DECIDE. We have an exploratory intelligence and a decisive intelligence. We use them simultaneously. We do not explore first and then decide. We are decisive in our exploration. Even the final built design is exploratory. It is a decisive experiment. An elegant experiment based on a sensitive academy. An academy that is committed to an expansive care for the nature of what we are dealing with. We explore alternatives that challenge each other. We evolve new forms of space and structure. We use this innovation to challenge out traditions and we use our traditions to check the sense of the innovations. In this way we are able to participate in the evolution of a cultivated future.

It has been very difficult to choose two schemes from a class of very interesting designs.

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