Location: Windhoek, Namibia
Client: Univerity of Namibia
Main Contractor: New Era Investments
As a result of unprecedented and exponential growth in student numbers the University of Namibia has embarked on a concerted and focused investment in teaching and learning infrastructure. This lecture room project was one of the first schemes under this initiative and was conceptualised as an infill development on the site of the old swimming pool, which was earmarked for demolition.
The two 350-seat lecture theatres called for in the client’s brief were positioned inside the original pool in order to reduce the extent of demolitions and backfilling and thereby lower the associated costs of the raked floors. The lecture rooms are simple rectangular spaces enclosed by a concrete framed structure with cavity walls and a light steel roof. Decisions around the envelope construction and interior finishing were to a large part driven by the need to balance the acoustic requirements of the teaching spaces with the budget whilst delivering a building with minimal maintenance requirements and robust finishes. The choice of exterior finishes was also guided by a desire to create a dialogue with the natural materials and colours of the surrounding veld, visible from most places around the building, and to break from the uniform and institutional qualities of the rest of the campus architecture.
The basement pump room of the old pool was converted to a twenty-four hour study centre for the students and a series of public outdoor spaces were created around the buildings to serve as lobby and holding spaces for users between classes. This was necessary, as the relatively constrained budget did not allow for these spaces to be accommodated within the building envelope. Expanded steel mesh canopies over these outdoor spaces create a shaded microclimate in the buildings’ immediate vicinity and were landscaped with both hard and soft elements in an effort to create pleasant and user-friendly areas around the perimeter.
A large public circulation quadrangle is located to the south and east of the two buildings and is extensively planted with evergreen trees and furnished with outdoor seating. This space serves to secure the development within the spatial fabric of the surrounding buildings whilst accommodating the circulation of large numbers of pedestrians throughout the day.
Cavity walls and a relatively well-insulated envelope meet both the thermal and acoustic insulation requirements of the programme and reduce the energy demand for cooling by limiting heat gain. Timber interior paneling was selected to match the moulded plywood seats, worktops and ceiling reflectors and protect the wall-mounted acoustic absorbers whilst providing a measure of decorative articulation to the large internal surfaces.
This building, with its relatively simple programme, essentially derives multiple layers of complexity from the highly constrained nature of the site and the manner in which the structural, acoustic, social and technological demands are met in an affordable manner that accommodates and compliments the existing campus.