Client: Springfield Convent School
Contractor: Habitat Decorators
QS: Simpson Heath Quantity Surveyors
Landscape Architect: TKLA
Structural Engineer: Meny-Gibbert and Associates
Electrical Engineer: B2A Consulting Engineers
Context and Brief:
The Dominican Sisters chose to create their place of retirement at Springfield Convent and School in Wynberg, started by them almost 150 years ago in 1871.
The section of the grounds selected had once been home to the Carmelite Sisters, a silent order who had over the years built up a series of inward-looking buildings. The Dominican Sisters are teachers, so are by definition connected with community.
A key informant of the design process was the desire to peel away much of this existing enclosing infrastructure. This facilitated the reconnection of the existing and new buildings with the rich historic buildings and landscape characterising the property, as well as with the vibrant day to day culture of the School. At the core of this decision was the intention to create a strong physical and psychological connection for the Sisters with their broader home.
We worked closely with Tarna Klitzner Landscape Architects (TKLA) – something that has now become the norm for the two practices
The siting and character of the new buildings that make up the home was equally informed by the location of established avocado pear trees, historic tree groves and the panoramic vistas up onto the slopes of table Mountain. The new buildings have a seamless relationship with the resultant gardens, with their character and scale linking back into the existing nature and fabric of the older school buildings.
The harvesting and salvaging of existing vegetation as well as building materials were implemented prior to site establishment.
An existing stone cottage situated to the fore of the site became the core from which a spine was created that climbs up the slope to an existing forested garden at the top, with ramps and stairs moving through three buildings on the way up. The first was adapted from the existing and the second two are new. The arrangement forms a series of u- shaped courts which open out towards the School.
A small chapel is positioned at the Western end of the lower existing building, and is given prominence through changing heights and rhythms of walls, signalling it as the fulcrum between the home and the School.Coloured cast glass windows designed by the artist Abraham Leroux further ground the character of this as the home of a religious order.
Internally, the spine acts as a kind of internal street off which all public through to private aspects of the home are attached. A clear spatial logic was an essential aspect of a home caring for an aging community.
Heating is via pellet fireplaces, ducted to all frail care rooms, north facing windows and clerestories ensure high levels of natural daylight and good cross-ventilation.