Engineered for Excellence

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University of Stellenbosch’s Civil Engineering Department

Re-energising the environment in which the engineers of the future are moulded, Stellenbosch University’s Engineering Department embarked on a structural journey of transformation alongside the architectural expertise of KMH Architects. With one phase already under their belt, it was time to take the project to the next level.

Phase 1 of the Civil Engineering Department building refurbishment project was completed in the form of the new Pavement and Geotechnical Research Laboratory. The laboratory became the new home for all the harsh crushing, vibrating, and testing of large-scale concrete, bitumen, and asphalt, along with their academic staff and students. The building sits on the north-east corner of the site, which formerly served as on-campus student parking. This side of the engineering campus not only has spectacular views of the Jonkershoek and Stellenbosch mountain ranges, but is also the side of the campus where most pedestrians from student housing enter the building complex and filter through to the rest of university campus. The building has provided a successful new space for the faculty and activated the previously deserted ‘rear end’ of the site whilst denoting it as a major gateway to the complex and broader pedestrian ground-level thoroughfare.

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An edge of refinement
The building’s hard-wearing industrial style has been skillfully incorporated into the construction and finish while simultaneously maintaining an edge of refinement and detail which are essential parts of a considered and thoughtful architectural intervention. Phase 1 sets the scene perfectly for the expansion of the project into Phase 2. The remainder of the Civil Engineering Department temporarily relocated following the first phase, moving into the Decanting Building to allow the commencement of Phase 2. The aim of Phase 2 is to reconfigure the freed-up space in the existing building with six new state-of-the-art
lecture theatres of different capacities, as well as new teaching, research, student, and administrative facilities. The services integrated align with the current technology and climate change impact, but can adapt over the life cycle of the building. The new sun screening applied to the existing elevations adds to energy efficiency while giving the building a strong new identity.

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Fostering bright potential
The considered and detailed design approach used in Phase 1 is diligently continued throughout Phase 2, complemented by the interior finishes which bring colour, identity, and freshness to the new spaces. While the exterior may seem simple, the interior’s structured use of pattern and repetition reflect the intellectual atmosphere of the building. As a bright space that fosters even brighter potential, this project by KMH is another addition to the firm’s incredible trajectory of housing the genius of our upcoming generations.

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