Wolff Architects was selected to design a business hub incubator in a portion of an old Industrial shed, called Workshop 17 in the V&A Waterfront. The program aims to stimulate small business development.
The architects were asked to make a building and they made a street.
With this street as the primary organizing element, the architects were able to reconnect this previously isolated node of the waterfront with the rest of the built fabric.
The ground floor of this building is given over to an open-ended street with commercial activity on either side of it. The character and tectonic of the retail remains grounded in the notion of street, with a collection of timber kiosks, as well as an open market area directly beneath the first floor structure.
The kiosks are placed in a manner to create side streets and public squares. The section constantly reinforces the non-commercial urbanity of the building, by positioning the double volumes over the public squares and stepping up in volume over the collective market place.
A pulling back of the first floor plates marks the two entrance points. This release back to the scale of the exterior reminds us that this project is primarily focused on reinforcing the broader pedestrian network.
The series of upper level floor plates invite a variety of working options, from more intimate personal workspace to collective meeting space. The tiered section ensures that the overriding feeling of the building is one of vibrant connectivity.
A large social space of informal meeting rooms, an open exhibition area and canteen, positioned centrally over the street, facilitates the exchange of ideas and the opportunity of networking.
There is something about the collective nature of street that brings us firmly in relation to each other. A reminder that we have something in common, that we need each other. This is a crucial factor in a city still battling with the spatial issues of apartheid. This project beautifully demonstrates the possibility of a more integrated, diverse society.