BACKGROUND TO PROJECT
The Fordsburg Charge Office was built in approximately 1926 subsequent to the Miners Strikes of 1922. It consisted of 2 parts, the double storied Charge Office and a single storied cell block, separated by a courtyard.
The double storied building was planned in a symmetrical U-shaped configuration with the two arms facing north and a centrally positioned stair, with a single loaded open veranda on the inner two sides of the U provides access to all the rooms. The Southern entrance point is positioned centrally off a feeder road between High and Burghersdorp Streets. To the north of the complex is an open court connecting the Detention Cells. Two pairs of wooden swing gates provide vehicle access from the west and east sides into the courtyard.
The building is a face brick, load bearing masonry structure with concrete floors and a corrugated metal roof on timber trusses. The northern courtyard had a single storied lean-to structure on cast-iron columns erected sometime later for a ‘carport’ and was generally out of character with the original structure. The general condition of the existing structure was reasonably sound but with services (electrical, water, sewers and rain water goods) in need of being upgraded. The building had not been maintained for some time and was in use by a company of undertakers.
The building was obtained by the Johannesburg Housing Company when they acquired the undeveloped piece of land behind the complex as part of a Provincial Housing Proposal Call. The land was to be developed as a housing project and the building be conserved and re-used as a community facility supportive to the housing.
CONSERVATION APPROACH TO THE RENOVATIONS
The proposal was to conserve the building fabric, restore certain features that had deteriorated with age and insert certain new elements into the courtyard.
A brief was developed to convert the eastern ground floor wing into a children’s Créche for use by the Carr Gardens residents. Most new housing developments lack social amenities, particularly children’s play areas, even though a large proportion of residents are single mothers with children. The balance of the accommodation on the ground and first floor was to be converted into Single Room Rental Accommodation with shared ablutions. This is also a popular option for many who seek affordable accommodation in the city close to job opportunities.
A search was undertaken of the council, DPW, and Justice archives, which revealed that no drawings and very little information were available on the buildings. The building was therefore measured up, photographed and a set of measured drawing produced. Certain elements that required attention such as the eaves, windows, balustrade handrail (which was stolen) were detailed.
The approach taken was to restore the exterior of the building, by stripping off paint on the facebrick, restoring the eaves and sliding sash windows.
The interior of the building was in poor condition particularly with regard to services and paintwork. The approach was to insert as few new walls as possible, to re-use existing services, respect historical detailing and clearly define new insertions with bright colour or in the case of new electric conduiting, surface mount as part of a process of ‘ visible interventions’ made to the existing building.
The proposed change of use, the Crèche, required that additional ablutions be provided according to the number of children accommodated. These were provided in the existing ground floor bathroom. Likewise, a dedicated kitchen facility was provided for use by the Crèche in the existing ground floor kitchen.
The remainder of the existing rooms, on ground and first floor, were either left as before, and the larger ones be sub-divided into two rooms. Where division walls were proposed they follow beam lines or ceiling pattern lines. No additional ablution facilities were provided in any of the Single Room Accommodation. The existing toilets and wash hand basins were left with an additional shower provided into the room configuration. An additional stainless steel sink (one per wing) is provided in the corridor/verandah spaces for wash-up facilities (cooking is done in the rooms) for the use by each accommodation wing.
INSERTING THE NEW WORK
The new recreational facilities provided in the northern Courtyard are for the principle use by the Crèche. They are designed as insertions into the old building fabric, consciously new, using modern materials. They consist of a translucent pergola roof structure with seating below and an adjacent roofed sandpit. The courtyard is divided into paved and grassed areas delineated by keeping the former surface drainage channel. Play equipment is placed in the former “driveway” at right angles to the roof structure.The geometry used does not allude to the historical symmetry of the existing building, and prefers to adopt an ‘assymmetrical design attitude’. However the insertions respect the old building in terms of height and proportions relationships to the archways.