Location: Windhoek, Namibia
Client: Mine Worker’s Union of Namibia
Positioned on the northern side of one of the major vehicular arteries into Katutura, the new head office of the Mineworker’s Union is located in a neighbourhood of poorly maintained and heterogeneous architectural typologies. The site is bordered on the western side by a small stream that drains in a southerly direction and separates it from the neighbouring residential precinct and its informal shanty additions.
The brief called for a two-phased development where the first was to deliver a prominent new workspace to serve the union’s permanent staff and which, as occasion demanded, could accommodate fairly large meetings in a well-equipped boardroom. In addition thereto, extra office space that could be rented out or utilised for training was to be provided, together with a small canteen and outdoor seating area.
Permanent staff offices, reception, boardroom and service spaces are clustered around a spacious lobby that is accessed directly from the main entrance off Mungunda Street. A triangulated tubular steel structure raises the roof off the concrete ring-beams to introduce clerestory light into this enclosed area while helping to define it as the primary organising space. In juxtaposition thereto the off-shutter concrete walls of the adjoining boardroom are raised off the floor on steel columns so that the low-level windows can introduce light that does not interfere with audio-visual presentations whilst excluding distracting views of the surroundings.
Office accommodation is all treated as modular, tiled boxes that are clipped onto the lobby and circulation spine, creating courtyards and service spaces between them. Red, glazed ceramic tiles were selected as an external cladding to reduce future maintenance requirements and as a reference to and acknowledgement of the labour union’s colour scheme and deep socialist roots. Off-shutter concrete similarly eliminates the maintenance requirement of plaster and paint.
Whilst the construction is conventional, simple and practical mechanisms have been utilised to minimise the building’s energy requirement: large office windows are deeply recessed and provided with steel louvers to shade them from direct solar gain. Orientation is such that the long facades face north/south and fenestration on the eastern and western facades is reduced to the minimum. Concrete roof slabs have been covered with polystyrene insulation and stone chippings to significantly reduce heat gain and to protect the waterproofing membranes. The landscaping is designed using mostly indigenous plants with a low water demand.
Future extensions are planned as an additional two floors over the parking area on the northern portion of the site, creating a building comprised of a series of modular, tiled rectangular boxes that will increase in height toward the back of the site.