The building became available as a result of corporate shift out of the inner city in the decades either side of the millennium. Decades later, population migration into the Inner City reached a threshold where, provided rentals remained affordable, there was sufficient demand for residential stock from around 20 sqm studios to 60 sqm two-bedroom apartments.
In response to this demand, the open floor-plates surrounding the central atrium were converted to their new use at the lowest possible cost for the greatest functional and experiential amenity and rental value. This implied the most direct construction technologies and materials, most efficient services infrastructure, and most effective apartment layout and fit-out.
Inspired by these parameters, apartments were inserted between the raw concrete floors and ribbed soffits as independent buildings slid in-between two slabs. The ground floor entrance lobby, stairs and lifts are as elegant as they always were. Circulation space around the central atrium is a raw carcass. Apartment interiors are intimate, personal, and private cocoons.
To ensure cross-ventilation in the city’s hot humid climate, internal space divisions are concrete breeze-blocks. All services are surface-mounted for cost and speed of delivery.
On the outside, the original soft coastal Art Deco colour pallet was replaced with the black, gold and chrome iconography of the urban expression of the period – Manhattan’s Radiator Building, radiograms and automobiles – giving affordable housing the level of confident dignity, status and symbolism in the urban landscape ordinarily reserved for important civic buildings.
Pixley ka Seme Street, Durban Inner City, KwaZulu-Natal
SAIA-KZN Award (2017)