Du Noon Temporary Community Day Clinic

Revel Fox & Partners

Revel Fox & Partners were requested by WCGTPW to develop an unconventional design solution utilising second-hand shipping containers within a warehouse to create a low-budget, fast-track temporary clinic that could be largely pre-fabricated off site, and then assembled and re-assembled on a number of sites. Making use of a ‘plug ‘n play’ concept, the building is an appropriate response to the brief which required a temporary ‘pop-up’ clinic conveniently close to a community, to be used whilst a more permanent clinic is being constructed.

The effectiveness of this strategy was clearly demonstrated to the panel of judges evaluating the submissions for the 2015 CIfA Awards. In the few months taken to visit the submissions, the temporary clinic which had initially been located in Du Noon, was disassembled, loaded onto a number of trucks, transported to Mfuleni and re-assembled there to create another ‘pop-up’ facility. This extra-ordinary mobility was one of the design drivers of this highly successful project. Within a short space of time there was visible proof that the building could function effectively in one place, and then efficiently move to another – thereby validating the main conceptual notion of relocation and re-use.

The organising structure consists of a large warehouse space which can then be flexibly furnished with a number of customised shipping containers which function variously as consulting rooms, storage, ablutions and admin offices. The containers are stacked to two storeys around a central double-volume waiting area accessed by clip-on steel stairs and ramps. A surrounding metre wide service passage allows for easy connection and maintenance.

When the pop-up clinic is no longer needed it can easily be moved elsewhere and the remaining warehouse can be used by the community as a sports facility, thus leaving them with much needed recreational infrastructure.

The use of adapted shipping containers as a low cost, fast track solution to creating a new facility is not unusual. However, in this case, both the overall planning, the fit-out of the individual containers and attention to detail distinguished this project as worthy of an award.

Each container is lined in metal clad insulation and fronted by a standard glazed sliding door. These are simply curtained off for privacy when required. Internal layouts accommodate admin offices, consulting rooms, stores and ablutions.

The containers are self-contained and can be individually disconnected from services and redeployed elsewhere in future. Similarly, the clip together steel stairs and walkways can be dismantled for future re-use.

The architectural strength of the project is the legible plan. From the central main waiting area it is easy to see where to go. The walkways and stairs around the main double volume activate the space.

A distinct language has been created through the careful assembly of ready-made elements – brightly coloured steel piping, mesh fencing and sheet-metal and glazing. The articulation of the main space is bold, whereas the detailing within the containers is finely wrought. Although the containers have been simply stacked alongside and on top of one another, the linkages and interior treatment are refined and elegant, affording dignity to clinic users. The project points to a new mode of architectural practice in a context of scarce resources and huge unmet immediate needs in many of Cape Town’s poorest communities.