St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children
Major Upgrade to St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children
Cape Institute Commendation Award for Architecture 2017
Client: St Joseph’s Home
Contractor: Habitat Decorators
QS: Simpson Heath Quantity Surveyors
Landscape Architect: Tarna Klitzner Landscape Architect
Structural Engineer: Meny-Gibert and Associates
Electrical Engineer: ACJ Consulting Engineers
Context and Brief:
The property is owned by the Pallotine Sisters who began the Home to care for children during the 1950’s. The Home continues to offer step down care to 150 of our society’s most vulnerable children.
The existing buildings were designed and built in the 1960’s in the height of Apartheid. The Sisters purchased land in a racially undesignated area in order to look after children from all races. However 5 wards were built in order to keep the children apart, in line with the laws of the country, resulting in a building with the overriding spatial paradigm of separation
The new project attempts to shift the emphasis from that of Institution to Home by reconnecting on as many levels as possible, with the existing endless passages now populated with therapeutic program and parent/children meeting spaces, previously housed elsewhere.
The main intention of the project is to create a safe and happy ‘container’ for the children, and was made possible by a private donation. After the presentation of the idea that happy Staff is the most important container of the children, therefore caring for the Carers in order to care for the children was the key, the donation went from R7 million to R40 million.
Primarily, the project started with placing Therapeutic program at the heart of the complex with the view that this is the place where all the carers of the child inter relate – the parent, the nursing staff, the administrators and the therapists. The position chosen was previously a left over set of service yards, which are now interconnected through a series of landscaped courts and carefully scaled openings.
There was also a major upgrade of the existing five wards, which were previously just banks of beds and cots against the outer walls. In each case, the Carer is brought onto the wards, in a position where she can see the children and they can see her. Smaller groupings of beds are created – each with a thickened wall to accommodate a sense of one’s own place to put things. Roofs were lifted so that if a child has to remain in his bed, he can see the clouds or stars. These high level windows also assist with naturally ventilating the wards as well as ensuring a high level of light. Thick walled bays were added with low ledges, scaled around the child and with large sliding windows that open onto garden.
The project was a complex exercise in reusing, repairing and shifting systems (electricity, water etc.) to leave the Home with an efficient and robust environment. This has involved an enormous effort by the Quantity Surveyors