Architecture Fabrik

Architecture Fabrik

History, Culture and Identity

Universal access

Completed in 1910, the design of Durban’s City Hall was won in competition by Woollacott, Scott & Hudson. The building fronts Church Street adjacent to Francis Farewell Square. Both the City Hall and Francis Farewell Square are National Monuments.

There are three distinct sections to this building. The administrative offices of the City Manager, the Mayor and the council chamber, the Auditorium, and the Cultural block containing a library, natural science museum and art gallery. All three sections needed upgrading to provide for modern technology and legislation. Routing network cables through the building and gaining universal access were the two priorities of the project.

The philosophy of the Burra Charter, to achieve the outcome with the minimal impact on the heritage value was initially questioned given the history of the building has a different meaning for different people. For some, the Colonial façade represents pride and greatness, while for others it represents oppression and discrimination.

Those that are physically unable to walk up the steps, irrespective of the historic significance of the building, are disadvantaged.

Various proposals were made while considering the highly corrosive environment, the high levels of vandalism, and the difficulty in maintaining mechanical solutions.

The final solution includes a small hydraulic lift enclosed in an access-controlled glass box. The glass box is connected to the building with a delicate bridge, touching the top step lightly. Transparency and the use of materials different from the historic building separates the addition and is distinctly new.



Durban, South Africa