The design approach followed a ‘building-as-document’ attitude with the retention and restoration of the irregular layering over the past 200 years as part of the historic narrative while the newly added contemporary layer of fabric reflects the future use of the building, specifically in reference to the important role the tenants played in South Africa’s transition to democracy.
Very few interventions in the historical core of the building were made, other than painting and restoration. This was driven by one of the universal guiding principles of old building restoration – to do as little as possible, but as much as is required. Exceptions were the introduction of a lift and external walkway for universal access and fire regulations. These have been expressed clearly as ‘contemporary’ to separate old and new. Larger scale internal remodelling and limited demolition of less significant buildings within the complex was done to meet functional requirements.
The modest accommodation needs provided an opportunity to remove some of the more intrusive later additions while staying within the existing envelope. A ‘loose fit’ approach to tenant fit-out was followed which made it easy to meet the heritage design indicators. The concept of two internal courtyards with a ‘figure of eight’ perimeter circulation route proved successful in integrating the later buildings with the historic core.
Using consistent design language and meticulous detailing of transparent architectural interventions as neutral expressions of the functional requirements, the previously fragmented elements were blended into a cohesive complex. The result is an extraordinary home for the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.