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Watershed Ridge - a nine-story mixed use hotel building

Part 1 Project 2003
James Francis
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg South Africa
This project explores the idea of a 21st century Hotel.

The surrounding urban design suggests permeability both for the existing and the implied. Creating a through gate between perceived historically autonomous areas breaks down existing urban barriers.
The site sits on the end point of an axis that runs through the rigid grid of central Johannesburg out towards the weave of surrounding Northern suburbs. External and internal of the structure is reconfigured order to reinvent the urban strategy in and around the site. Visually and spatially translucent, the building reveals the twenty-four hour pulse to the inner city.

The exploded form of the building creates a permeable pivot point. A place of encounter is created where seemingly incompatible functions are merged. The spatial and functional requirements are organised in a heterogeneous array of cubes. Large flexible spaces facilitate a number of simultaneous functions. The system of circulation provides fluidity between the public and private.

The construction and materials remain very rudimentary throughout the structure. Simple steel compression and tension members are assembled on site forming equilibrium. Lightweight cladding is used for the 160 person auditorium that pivots on the hollow channel sections. The building sustains self-sufficiency though sensible energy saving systems relating to the surrounding environment. Created public activity forms functional sectors interlinked throughout the building. Working, sleeping, eating, meeting, exercising, reading and many more are encountered in this single building. Creating a city within a city.

James Francis

This project, for a nine-story mixed-use hotel, is located in Johannesburg on the ridge that marks the watershed of rain flowing either North to the Limpopo or South to the Cape. It overlooks the newly established Constitutional Hill site, itself a watershed between the political past and future, city and suburbs, residential and business. The student proposed a matrix of light double volume modules suspended by a tensegrity model, serviced by light walkways circum-navigating a central void. Rooms view the dense but decaying metropolis to the cooler South, or the sprawling suburbia to the warmer North. Vistas are magnificent from the strategic ridge location, but wind and climate can be exposed, hence the intelligent decision to create a contemporary, three-dimensional courtyard space for contemplation.


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