Cape Town Society for the Blind

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The new building is part of a long term re-development plan envisaged by the Cape Town Society for the Blind (CTSB) to expand their existing skills training facilities for the visually impaired and promote a public image that is more accessible to visitors and facilitates interaction between the crafters and public. Alterations, additions and selective demolition were integral to the brief.

The new building is located within the existing premises of the Society, occupying a central courtyard which was previously populated by a group of single-storey buildings, built at a 45 degree orientation to the perimeter Administration and Training wings. The old central structures proved to be complex and difficult in terms of navigation for the visually impaired users and had limited user capacity.

The courtyard was subsequently cleared to give way to a new building, a water feature (for cane soaking) and staff parking area. To further facilitate and ease navigation within the building, a clear spatial order was crucial. A straight-forward and continuous circulation path is differentiated from working areas through surface treatments and allows for quick access to and from the surrounding existing buildings.

The double-volume, shed-like structure is reminiscent of the industrial fabric of Salt River and its acoustic quality indicates a place of production and trade, a reference to the traditional enclosed market place. Individual workshop spaces are arranged in a clear and regular grid and allow for individual creative space. The space is flexible – adapting to the seasons with two sides opening up to the courtyards and giving access to the cane-soaking water through.

Portions of the remaining existing buildings were adapted to accommodate amongst others, the improved vehicular access onto the site, additional ablutions required due to the increased user population, and the rationalization of under-used office space to provide adequate and larger storage space for finished goods.

Future work will seek to focus on improving the building interface to Salt River Road, a major vehicular and pedestrian route within Salt River. Subsequent piecemeal upgrades have allowed the CTSB to further rationalize the reception zone and introduce a new coffee-shop into the mix.

Budget - R 5 million
Client - cape town society for the blind
Team - jakupa architects & urban designers
Project Type – institutional
Status - completed