The Matrix Urban Designers and Architects
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Helenvale Multipurpose Community Centre

The existing community centre is an isolated event on a barren, rocky site in the heart of the Helenvale Community. It is too small, in a severe state of disrepair and does not serve the needs of the local community. The initial brief called for renovations to the building and the design of additional facilities. However, after a thorough analysis of the site and brief, and through intense consultation with the client and the community, it was realised that the full civic potential of the site could only be achieved by demolishing the building and providing a more legible and coherent new complex. Key to the design of this new complex is the creation of a Community Plaza that compliments a proposed adjacent urban park and modal interchange (part of the Helenvale Precinct Plan in which The Matrix… is also involved). This relationship really connects the new complex with the community it serves. From this plaza, the public is ferried, beneath a welcoming pergola, into an enclosed Community Street, which is the dominant, mono-pitched form along which the various community functions (including Community Offices, subdividable Community Hall and a large Multi-use Sports Hall) are organised. As this street is the most special place in the building, it has high ceilings (with clerestories that allow shaded natural light to beam in) and elegantly detailed laminated timbers roof support columns and bracing. For the Public, waiting is often the most arduous part of consultation with Community Services… The waiting area, which is incorporated into the community street, to facilitate public interaction, is given a more intimate scale by the inclusion of partially transparent seating “pods”. Active and passive environmentally conservative measures, such as automatic electric light management, heat pumps, rainwater harvesting and wall and roof super-insulation, play an integral role in the design.

Project Facts

Value:R38 million
Client:Mandela Bay Development Agency
Location:Port Elizabeth
Awards:SAIA Award of Merit 2014
Date of Project:2014
Design Team:Albrecht Herholdt, Miles Hollins, Neal Fisher, Henning Liebenberg