Breaking the Mould 

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National Ceramic Industries Headquarters 

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Size: 1500 m² 

Completed: 2022 

Location: Vereeniging, Gauteng 

From unstable soil to the Vaal’s scenic surrounds, this industrial plant is made from the very materials it manufactures. Read along to find out why this project by Local Studio has us singing, ‘Clay Sera, Sera!’  

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Site context 

The National Ceramic Industries South Africa (NCISA) industrial plant is located in Vereeniging, within a cultivated nature reserve on the eastern portion of the site. However, this picturesque site had highly unstable soil conditions, made worse by an adjacent dam. Therefore, the new building replaced a previous building that was condemned due to excessive structural cracking.  

Building brief 

NCISA is the largest ceramic tile manufacturer in South Africa and one of the largest in the world, forming part of Italtile Ltd. (which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange). The brief called for a new exhibition area to display the various products that are produced at the factory, as well as new offices and meeting rooms for administrative and executive personnel.  

The client required that the building should incorporate as many products as possible that were produced or supplied by the broader Italtile Ltd. Group, which includes CTM, Italtile, U-Light, Eezeetile, and Easylife Kitchens. The brief also called for an extensive landscape design, including a new meandering footpath connecting a series of pause spaces around the perimeter of the building. 

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Overcoming obstacles 

The most challenging aspect of the project by far was the requirement to grant local business forums important finishing packages, such as tiling and paving. Local labour procurement remains the biggest challenge we face on building sites in South Africa.  


Material selection 

Most material specifications happened collaboratively with the client. The most striking aspect of this collaboration is the porcelain tile cladding on the southern wall of the building, which was produced in a factory on site.  

The site was an important design informant in the project, allowing us to orient the building to maximise the best natural light and ventilation while optimising views of the dam and mountains beyond. The client allowed for a substantial landscaping budget, which we made use of to create a number of paths and pause areas around the building. The new pathways also function as stormwater channels to take water away from the building and to protect the structural foundations.  


Laying the landscape 

The outdoor space is broken into geometric pockets, all interlinked by walkways to create a collective whole. The pathways were intentionally designed to offer employees and visitors a space to walk and stretch their legs between tea and lunch breaks and to enjoy the beautiful view of the dam and surrounding landscape.  

Silver birch (Betula alba) trees were added as a vertical visual element, but were kept intentionally close to the building as not to block the view. Frost-resistant and drought-tolerant plants were specifically chosen, as down in the Vaal temperatures can plummet down to -3°C in winter mornings (with severe black frost), and rise to 38°C in summer. 

A focal water feature central to the design of the garden was strategically placed just outside the main showroom to be enjoyed by visitors. Additionally, benches, a wooden deck area, and tables and chairs were added to sit down, catch a quick bite, or enjoy a cup of coffee.   



Architect: Local Studio  

Quantity surveyor: Kaofela 

Structural engineer: Frik Steynberg 

Electrical engineer: Parima  

Landscape designer: Rabia Saloojee 

Main contractor:  Tristar Construction 

Landscape designer: RS Interiors & Exteriors 

Landscape contractor: Albert Hoof 

Photographer: Dirk Jacobs 


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