10 Years + 100 Buildings

Bell Roberts Book 10 Years + 100 Buildings - Architecture in a Democratic South Africa
2009 Bell-Roberts
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[Text from the book]

Contributor: Prof Paul Kotze School of Architecture & Planning, University of the Witwatersrand


Activate Architects

Client: Definite Properties • Architectural team: Edward Brooks (BArch Wits) + Michael Magner (BArch Wits) + Reon van der Wiel (BArch Wits) • Quantity surveyors: Brian Heineburg & Associates .civil & structural engineers: Pure Consulting • Electrical engineers: BFBA •Hydrological engineers & environmental consultants: Sivest • Contractor: Interkor Construction • Landscape designers GREENinc Landscape Architects • Erika van den berg Landscape Architects • Interiors designers: Activate Space

The Forum Homini Hotel is located south-west of Tshwane and north-west of Johannesburg within the Cradle of Humankind Precinct. It is a small hotel consisting of 14 luxury suites. The public facilities include a restaurant, lounge and art gallery with amenities also for functions and day visitors.

Viewed superficial it is not a remarkable landscape. However, it is the result of a cataclysmic event in geological history when a meteorite struck the earth’s crust some 120 kilometers to the south. The weathering of the landscape over millennia has resulted in a unique vertical incision – the source of the region’s mineral wealth. The nearby Sterkfontein Caves are a World Heritage Site, where ample archaeological evidence has been found to unravel the origin of human kind. It is within this celebrated and significant context that the Forum Homini Hotel is situated - delicate terrain that would be unforgiving to an insensitive architectural approach.

The hotel is located in a shallow valley created by the Bloubank watercourse that has been retained as a small dam. Additional bodies of water have been created and the buildings are placed around them to create an enclosure. The architects were at pains not to disturb the low horizon, consisting of savannah vegetation with occasional rocky outcrops. The residential component is burrowed into the landscape and their flat concrete roofs are covered entirely by grass.

On arrival, cars are left behind and visitors are taken on a cumbersome, descending journey through the landscape to a forecourt with small amphitheatre and then past the public facilities to the water’s edge. This dramatic descent into the core of the hotel evokes the concept of a canyon created by a watercourse over millennia. The route is defined by sculptures portraying the evolution of mankind – a recurring theme of the locally commissioned art pervading the complex.

The play of heaviness versus lightness is acute. The cave-like quality of the complex is counted by delicate timber structure and decking, creating a gentle transition between building and landscape. The starkness of the exterior is further contrasted with the warmth and softness of the interiors. The architects also exploited the duality inherent in enclosed versus unlimited space resulting in a psychological sense of ownership of both the constructed and nature, even if experienced only as transitory visitors.

Early man often made incisions in the landscape. Without resort to clinches; the architects have done the same. They have imbued the Forum Homini Hotel with an enduring, primordial sense of authenticity, creating the impression of having been there.

Contributor: Prof Paul Kotze School of Architecture & Planning, University of the Witwatersrand.

Selected bibliography

Bader J. A natural meeting place - Forum Homini, Leading Architecture & Design (Randburg) Jan/Feb. 2006: 4-16
Nel, D. Welcome home: boutique hotel offers a rare mix of contemporary style and robust earthiness,
Built (Saxonwold) Jan/Feb. 2006: 9-13. Low, I. (ed.)
Forum Homini Boutique Hotel Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng, Digest of South African Architecture (Cape Town)
2006/2007: 152-153. Bremmer, L & Subiros, P . (eds) Forum Homini Boutique Hotel, Johannesburg: emerging / dividing metropolis (Italy: Mendrisio Academy Press) 2007: 124-125


Silver Loerie Award for Architecture and Interior Design, 2006

Photographers: David Braun. Anton Comrie. Christoph Hoffmann (Leading Architecture & Design)

[Visuals from the book]

Forum Homini in 10 yeras and 100 buildings Forum Homini in 10 yeras and 100 buildings

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