St. Cyprian’s School Multi-Purpose Hall and Aquatic Centre

Meyer and Associates Architects; Urban Designers

The new Aquatic Centre at St Cyprian’s school is a polite and elegantly unobtrusive addition to a densely occupied school campus in the heart of the Cape Town city bowl. Meyer & Associates have managed to insert a vast structure between heritage buildings, existing trees and public spaces on the campus in such a way that one is surprised by the generosity of the internal volumes. Access to the building is a continuation of the vaulted red facebrick arcade framing the adjoining building, so that, similar to the arcades of Bologna, it is the urban space that carries the identity of the campus and receives precedent over the potentially utilitarian sports hall. In a similar vein, the roof has been articulated to offer a contextual response to the adjoining buildings, cleverly detailed so that services are rendered unobtrusive:

“The new building is partially submerged into the ground, against the slope, to reduce its scale and massing of nearly six storeys in height. All existing trees were retained up against the building footprint which provided the building with an immediate leafy setting after construction. (Architect’s submission)”

Internally, a double-layered sports hall is revealed, with a swimming pool below and a multi-purpose court above. Here the engineering becomes visible in the large spans and complex roof structure. A lightwell has been ingeniously created by utilising the underside of the raked pavilion seating of the sports hall to allow natural light into the pool area. This counters the submersion of the building and contributes to evenly dispersed natural light which is also enabled from the front of the building.

In a poetic and subtle articulation of the building’s engineering qualities, the corners of the sports hall have been glazed. This architectural gesture playfully reminds the viewer that, despite the respectful acknowledgement of its historical context, the building is not a load-bearing brick edifice. Similarly, the window rhythm of the upper storey serves as a gentle reminder of the inherited architectural language while simultaneously resolving the functional requirements of the space.

Architects and Urban Designers: Meyer and Associate Architects, Urban Designers

Structural Engineer: De Villiers & Hulme Consulting Structural and Civil Engineers

Quantity Surveyor: Smith & Co Quantity Surveyors

Electrical Engineer: WSP Consulting Engineers

Civil Engineer: De Villiers & Hulme Consulting Structural and Civil Engineers

Main Contractor: Bruce Dundas Master Builders

Mechanical Engineer: WSP Consulting Engineers

Wet Services: Ekcon Consulting Engineers

Photographer:Johann Lourens