Steyn City is a 2 000 acre, visionary residential and lifestyle estate under construction along the Jukskei River in Johannesburg. Previously an abandoned quarry, the vacant and unused land between William Nicol Drive and Cedar Road is being transformed into a unique development inspired by the design philosophies of the old cities of Europe. Some of the features already well underway include the planting of 1,000 acres of indigenous wooded parkland, laying out of the 18-hole Nicklaus Design championship golf course and building of the clubhouse.
The clubhouse is a project by the award-winning Boogertman & Partners Architects, whose brief from the developers was to go to great lengths to move away from conventional clubhouse architecture. “We insisted that the architects alter the design of the clubhouse to enable the local community from Diepsloot and Cosmo City to get involved in the actual design and construction,” says Giuseppe Plumari, development director of Steyn City Properties. Hence the building has undergone massive design changes from the initial classical façade to a contemporary design that Boogertman & Partners’ Wessel van Dyk likes to describe as understated.
The clubhouse, comprising 3 000m² of occupied space, has been designed to ‘embrace the topography’, but its most striking feature is the grassed roof. “To our knowledge, this is the only clubhouse in the country with such a roof.” Grass roofs are either partially or completely covered by grass or vegetation. “Our intention with the grass roof was to allow the clubhouse to respond to the environment and to sink into the landscape and disappear,” says Wessel’s colleague Jean Grobler.
Notably, the clubhouse is not there to make a statement; it is neither commercial nor opulent. “The exterior has been designed to be functional and utilises green architecture principles,” Wessel explains. The focus on green has been drawn through the entire lifecycle of the Steyn City clubhouse from the design, to selecting the location, using natural building materials found on site, to construction.
A building with a social conscience
The clubhouse fulfils the requirements of a sustainable building, due to a minimal environmental impact and also for being a source of employment for the local communities of Diepsloot and Cosmo City. The clubhouse façade of gabion walls will be built with blasted rock salvaged from the site during the bulk earthworks phase. Local people have been employed to lend their skill and instil a rustic touch to the building, from the gathering and sorting of the granite rock through to the actual building of the gabion facades.
“There will be soil baskets planted with seeds that will be interspersed with the rock baskets in the gabion walls. When the plants have grown, it will look like nature taking over the clubhouse,” says Jean.
One of Steyn City’s internal bridges that is already complete was also co-designed and constructed by the local community. “The intention was to be able to use their basic skills and therefore the method of concrete shuttering was replaced by stone cladding, eliminating the need for technically skilled labour and giving the feature an authentic local flair,” says Plumari.
More green architecture Landscaping for the clubhouse and golf course will commence in July 2012 and where soil or plants have been taken away, green spaces will be added. ‘Rescued’ flora will be relocated or housed in the onsite nursery for future use. “In fact, all the landscaping around the clubhouse will be done with ‘rescued plants’,” says Jean. These include wild olive, wild plum and white stinkwood trees, as well as large wild iris, aloes and lion’s tail.
Wessel explains that the brief was to make the clubhouse look almost like a ruin and a crack in the landscape taken over by nature. On arrival, a visitor would almost not see the building until encountering the functional areas. The estate’s pedestrian pathways and green fingers all pull through to the pivotal point of clubhouse and then move on. In this way the rest of the estate is linked to the clubhouse, which encourages residents to stop, relax and enjoy the beautiful setting overlooking the river.
The location of the clubhouse was crucial – the clubhouse had to respond to the 9th and 18th greens, the river and also be positioned at the centre of the estate, creating a hub and a positive space. The clubhouse deck overlooks the scenic Jukskei River that runs through the estate while the building links with nature via panoramic views from the inside and large windows allow natural light to flood in. The contemporary interior is cellar-like with high arches, raw stone walls, varied textures, and a colour palette of earthy tones. “It’s a rich but neutral approach intended to reflect the different strata of excavated earth,” Wessel says. “Only natural materials have been used such as rock for cladding, stone for tiles and sustainable wood sources.”
Completion of the building is scheduled for the first quarter of 2013.