New Hall and Classrooms
Somerset House School, Somerset West

The Heritage and Urban Design Framework was used to identify two sites for new buildings required by the School, namely, a performance space in the form of multi-functional hall and a new classroom block.

Sited at the edge of the historic werf precinct, the new Multi-function Hall helps to reactivate the western side of school and places new emphasis on the historic avenue. It now serves as a 'knuckle' between the main campus and the north-western cluster of nursery school buildings. It is visible and accessible from the historic core without dominating and the paved forecourt integrates with the footpaths of the werf precinct.

The building repeats the scale, proportions and simple gabled barn form of the historic Stables and Cellar, typical of Cape farms, in a contemporary architectural language of crisp walls, large openings and timber details. The additional width required for functionality is achieved by lean-to additions, with clerestory windows articulating this connection and maximizing natural light. Service spaces are accommodated at one end of the barn form and in a small basement so as not to detract from the functional and visual simplicity of the single large space. Sound and lighting infrastructure in the ceiling; movable timber screens; and acoustic treatment ensure a high-quality performance space that has the flexibility to accommodate various school functions, events and day-to-day operations.

Similarly, the new Classroom Block refers to the form, scale and proportions of the existing buildings, in a contemporary architectural language. The classrooms have more modest detailing than the new hall, reflecting their more everyday nature. The building sits beyond a historic werf wall, tying in with adjacent classrooms and helping to hold the central garden space and shelter it from the adjacent road. The generous covered walkway incorporates lockers and built-in seating, and acts not only as a circulation route, but also a space for play and social interaction. The historic werf wall has been cleared of vegetation and repaired to give it more prominence as a visual feature.

Education, heritage, architecture

Somerset House Preparatory School

Somerset West, Western Cape


Urban Concepts - architecture
Van Gysen Consulting Engineers - structural engineering
Kim Strong - quantity surveying
Safe Work Practice - occupational health and safety

Completed by GVK Construction

Image credits                   
Drawings and graphics by Urban Concepts
Completed project photographs by Andrea van der Spuy Photography and Urban Concepts


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