The new Hermanus Community Day Centre attempts to embrace its users with a humane and dignified architecture, developed closely with the Department of Transport and Public Works of the Western Cape Government. The design reflects references to its context and a hierarchy of comfortable, warm, friendly and pleasant spaces internally and externally, from the intensely public to the intimately private consulting rooms.
“The perception of our environment rests entirely on spatial clarity and the stimulation of our senses. Architecturally and urbanistically, it is important that we strive to create environments in which people can feel comfortable, protected and welcome so as to encourage positive interaction with these environments and spaces,” Lourens says.
The centre offers the full primary health care package including women’s health, child health, mental health, infectious diseases, oral health, rehabilitation services, curative and chronic care. It was commissioned to replace the Zwelihle, Mount Pleasant and Hermanus clinics as well as to provide a more comprehensive service conveniently accessible to the greater community.
The site is located adjacent to the Hermanus Industrial area, along Swartdam Road and opposite a partly formalised market.
The main entrance to the CDC faces this market, situated along the main pedestrian and public transport routes serving the community of Zwelihle. This first and most public interface acknowledges the market by beginning to form a civic place. From here, the clinic is ordered around a number of courtyards that become progressively more private and specific. The first courtyard, together with the roofed threshold, forms the pre-waiting area and which is opened to the public before the clinic opens in the mornings. The next courtyard is a relief space for the main waiting area. Four further courtyards have very specific functions, i.e. there’s a rehabilitation courtyard with associated obstacles, a play courtyard for children with associated equipment, a relief courtyard for those with infectious diseases and a courtyard dedicated to the staff.
The design concept relies heavily on the internal spaces, in particular the waiting areas, which have either direct or visual contact with these courtyard spaces. The main circulation spine runs along the one side of the courtyards and provides access to all the clinical areas whilst extending the inside/outside concept throughout the centre.
This spine, which also accommodates the generic functions, is intended as an extension of both the main waiting area and the outside courtyards. This allows for a clear progression from the public entrance to the more specific and private functions of each clinical department. These departments are organised in functional wings that can be extended individually as and when required.
The orientation of the building was considered very carefully to achieve maximum exposure to the warm northern sun in almost all of the treatment spaces, including consulting and counselling rooms. On the other hand, the heavily populated waiting spaces are generally south facing and open onto courtyard spaces with high level north-facing roof monitors to maximise sunlight during winter months.
The Centre’s architectural language makes abstract reference to the vernacular, with rectilinear buildings of bagged and plastered brick walls and either gabled or hipped metal roofs. The ubiquitous dormers are reflected in the roof monitors. Although humble and unpretentious, the building graciously addresses its neighbouring structures and its users, and subtly reflects the landscape.
According to Dr Arthur Barker, of the School of Architecture at the University of Pretoria, in the Hermanus Community Day Centre, GLA Architects have not only provided a facility that meets the complex health needs of the outlying and impoverished Hermanus community. They have also made a strong spatial and formal contribution in the monotony of suburban blight.
Says Lourens: “The building is firstly about the user and particularly how it presents and unfolds itself. Approach and clarity of progression, spatially and formally, are extensions of the context.”