Herrwood Skye Apartments in South Africa by Elphick Proome Architects features a Sculptural Facade of Undulating Balconies

Project Title
Herrwood Skye Apartments
Herrwood Drive, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
6 750 sqm
Trapezoid Investments
Elphick Proome Architects
Project Team
Greg Gordge (project Architect), Mahomed Vawda, Karl Fischer, Vahin Parmananda, Ashik Mallgee

Herwood Skye – a multi storey apartment building situated on the last remaining panoramic site along Herwood Drive on Umhlanga Ridge – is an exclusive development designed by South African Architecture Practice Elphick Proome Architects.

The site offered a consolidation of two of the four remaining plots within the area (between Autumn Drive and Summer View Roads), and the brief sought a solution which would maximise the available bulk permitted for the site. As such, the conceptual underpinning of the project was generated from the following observations:

  1. Durban offers an annual outdoor lifestyle environment due to its sub tropical latitude; as such, historically, a particular architectural typology evolved into what is now described in terms of the Traditional Natal Verandah House. This example presents internal accommodation which is wrapped with covered outdoor space offering protection from both the solar aspect and general inclement weather,while providing maximum interaction with the surrounding environment.
  2. Due to developmental economies, most contemporary apartment buildings offer generic units within controlled, economically efficient building envelopes resulting in a ‘one size fits all’ scenario.

With these two considerations in mind, the intention was firstly, to blur the boundary between internal and external environment in order to accentuate interactivity to the favourable environmental locale and secondly, to create individual and differential unit typologies which would represent the individuality of each of the tenancies. The initial high level programmatic arrangement provided a unit typology designed around a linear distribution of the primary program where all living functions have access to views and external balconies. Unfortunately, this configuration did not support the maximum bulk appended to the site and, consequently, some ‘conventional’ unit typologies were designed and accommodated within the layouts. The project offers a variety of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom apartments, with 3 double storey spatially volumetric duplexes, and a high level pent-house, all of which are positioned to ensure privacy and access to ocean views.

Due to a required economic efficiency, the units are all prescribed in a similar fashion; though undulating balconies and the units extrude variously, back and forth, presenting a dynamic spacial typology that offers individuality and differential spatial qualities to all units and experiences. The interiors engage with the outdoor spaces via expansive glazed frontages, allowing extensive interaction with the views, thus offering integrated living environments. All spaces are carefully planned to promote ocean views from almost all vantage points.

This project offered an opportunity to extrapolate residential unit typologies in an alternative way – not the typical up-down approach. This was achieved by abstracting the natal veranda vernacular in a contemporary way. Although the internal unit layouts are similar, the undulating position of units and balconies, provides a situation where each unit becomes unique. In an abstract way this acknowledges the individuality of each of the users. This was a successful opportunity to differentiate within the market for an otherwise usually conservative product offering.

Greg Gordge (project Architect) in conversation with pelican systems

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