Good restoration is time consuming and laborious work. It requires painstaking research, high levels of discernment and careful action to negotiate the line between excessively overt expression of the new, and nondescript replication of the old. In their work on the Cape Town City Hall, the core task that the architects were charged with, was to render a significant architectural landmark, built at the turn of the 20th century, thoroughly fit for purpose in the 21st.
Used to host performances and exhibitions, the architectural challenge in the project, entailed updating the old building by fitting it with contemporary equipment – installing up to date technologies that would improve overall environmental qualities, augment the practical usability of the space, and enhance the visceral quality of experience (for performer, audience and production facilitator alike). In the served main space of the great hall, this is quietly achieved with subtlety and finesse. State of the art technologies have been seamlessly incorporated, to improve ventilation, natural and artificial lighting and acoustic effects. Gestures such as the splaying of original openings to improve sightlines and the incorporation of speakers to improve sound are so subtly achieved as to appear as though they might have been an integral part of the original design. New servant space amenities have also been fluently added to served spaces, to improve stage management and broadcasting of events.
The large new air-handling plant has been accommodated in a new structure, built on the pavement outside the old building. Not able to be completed as intended, it was thought to be less successfully handled than the rest of the interventions. Nevertheless, for the astute and considered manner with which the old building has been restored to optimum use while integrally retaining its original character, the work is deemed worthy of a regional commendation.